I am exploring engaging a Ghost writer to partner with me on the development of a non-fiction (well, mostly) business book.

What are the critical elements of the agreement that need to be included?

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    Just a reminder that while you may get some interesting answers, we are not lawyers here.
    – justkt
    Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 18:45
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    I'd recommend speaking with a lawyer who specializes in this type of thing and have them draw up a contract for it. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 19:40
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    Not looking for a legal opinion. A lawyer drafts the wording. But the content comes from me. I am looking for the critical elements from a writers perspective. Commented Aug 30, 2011 at 21:28

3 Answers 3


There are a lot of factors that come up and should be negotiated at the beginning.

You can structure your agreement for a flat fee (most common) or for a percentage of royalties (less common), or a combination.

Regardless of the payment arrangement, you'll also have to decide on certain legal/copyright and process issues:

  • name credit (you'll either have to specify that you be included as co-author, mentioned in the acknowledgments, or are waiving all rights);
  • royalties (waive or include);
  • who is doing the research (this is a big chunk of the work so be sure to sort that out before you start);
  • interview access (how many hours the client will be available for interviews/collaboration);
  • payment schedule (many ask for, say, 1/4 of the fee upfront, 1/4 upon completion of research/interviews/outline, 1/4 upon completion of first draft, 1/4 upon completion of final draft).

Hope this helps.


IANAL, but he is. This should be a good starting point.

If you also want to have a look at the ghostwriter side, visit some internet sites offering this service and read their conditions (e.g. the Penn Group; first Google hit, I know nothing about them).

(While looking up services, I stumbled over this link. I do not understand its content, but maybe it is useful to you.)

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    in case those links go away, can you summarize some of their content or provide pertinent quotes?
    – justkt
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 12:08

I think you should identify what your goals are and start from there. You should decide just what the ghost writer's responsibilities are and also identify a means of determining whether or not those responsibilities were met.

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