|Imagine this: You spent the past year planning, writing, and editing a book, and it just hit the bestseller list. Your creation is about to hit the national circuit and even Oprah is ecstatic to feature such a masterpiece. The problem? Nobody will ever know what you did because somebody else is about to take the credit for your hard work.
That sounds like a nightmare, doesn't it? Welcome to the scary world of ghostwriting. This is a place where one person does all the writing and then slinks back into the shadows so the person with the paycheck can reap the benefits. If it wasn't for that paycheck the ghostwriter signed away his or her rights for, ghostwriting would be a complete nightmare.
But the fact of the matter is that ghostwriting can be a lucrative career - as long as writers can keep their pride and egos at bay. When someone approaches a writer and says they want to do business, but in the most private of ways, it can seem a bit creepy. However, once the sordid topic of pay comes up, it can be hard to resist the temptation. Ego be damned, a paycheck is a paycheck. And in the world of ghostwriting, it is not uncommon for those paychecks to be upwards of six figures.
As rewarding as ghostwriting can be for writers who do not mind sitting in the background, every ghostwriter has experienced at least one horror story. Sometimes the scary part of ghostwriting is not sitting idly in the dark; it is the fact that a client can potentially take a writer's work and run.
For the up and coming ghostwriter, consider the following tips before agreeing to ghostwrite for someone:
Always sign a legal contract. This may seem like common sense, but if you are about to embark on a long literary journey, you want to work under a contract that you did not write. Have a lawyer draw up papers for you and your client to sign before you begin to do anything (and make sure your client pays for this part of the process while you're at it). Your contract should include a statement of confidentiality, a payment plan, and a full description of both parties' rights.
Look into the future and consider things like movie deals, television appearances, and even Broadway plays. If you plan to get royalties, every part of your upcoming payment must be laid out in the contract or you will have no legal right to your hard earned money.
Get a good deposit. Many ghostwriters go on blind faith that they will get paid. After all, if someone agrees to pay $50,000 for a book, they must have the money, right? Wrong. More than one ghostwriter has written a book for nothing and all that frustration could have been prevented by examining the deposit. Have your client pay you at least one-third of the payment up-front. If he or she cannot afford the deposit, chances are that he or she will not be able to afford the rest of the payment, either.
Only ghostwrite for people you like. Traditionally, you do not need to like the person who pays you. However, when you ghostwrite for someone, you will spend a lot of time talking on the phone, meeting in person, and communicating in every other way imaginable. If something about your client makes you feel off-center, follow your intuition and stay away. You may regret giving up potential money, but you'll regret that far less than having to spend every waking moment with someone you hate - especially if you end up seeing that hated person soak up your glory!
As long as you can follow those few simple tricks and you do not mind giving away the limelight, ghostwriting may be the perfect job for you. Just keep your guard up because ghostwriting is a scary business - and any business that starts with the word "ghost" should tell you that much!