When you begin to outsource areas of your business to another professional, it’s easy to sit back and let the other person drive the conversation. After all, they’re the expert in their field, so who are you to step in and suggest that’s something not quite right? If that’s the way you’re approaching hiring a ghostwriter, it’s time to tweak your point of view. Remember, this is a business relationship, and that relationship goes two ways. If there’s an area you don’t understand or that doesn’t specifically meet your needs, it’s up to you to jump in and make sure your interests are being served—before you sign a contract. Not quite sure where to start? Here are five questions to ask a ghostwriter you’re thinking about hiring.
What is your timeframe?
We all have different ideas about what’s fast, what’s slow, what’s timely, and what takes forever. It doesn’t matter what your ideal timeframe is, as long as you can find a ghostwriter who is willing and able (that “able” part is important) to work with you on establishing deadlines. Your working timeline for large, one-off projects and monthly projects should be clearly established in your contract. Remember, the contract is there to protect both you and the ghostwriter, so it should detail both sides’ deadlines, including when you need to provide resources or interview subjects; when your writer should send you a first draft or the first phase of the project, such as a book chapter; when you can expect the final draft; and the turn-around time for both your comments and suggest changes and your writer’s turn-around time for edits.
What’s included in the project price?
Some freelancers are fabulous at being as transparent about their billing as possible. Others, not so much. If you’re even the slightest bit fuzzy on the details of the quote your ghostwriter is giving you, ask for more information and get it in writing. You need to know if you’re going to be billed separately for phone calls, research, meetings, edits—anything else that could possibly come up. If that is part of your ghostwriter’s typical policy, ask about ways to build those add-ons into your project price.
What about edits?
Yeah, what about edits? When writers talk about edits, we mean anything from a few quick word replacements to complete overhauls of the draft in question. What kinds of edits and how many are included in your agreed-upon project price is something you need to discuss before the project is underway. Some writers will charge extra. Some will offer a few rounds of edits for free. And some (me included) have a policy of editing until you’re happy with the piece. Whatever you two agree upon, include it in your contract.
What rights do I receive?
Here’s where contracts can get complicated. There are a slew of rights up for grabs when anyone creates anything. Note that the more rights you purchase, the more you can expect to pay for your ghostwriter’s services. I recommend you visit HERE to read up on the differences between various rights, and then pick and choose which matter most to you, and make sure to discuss those with your ghostwriter and include them in the contract. If there’s ever any debate on your ability to publish X piece on Y websites or to reprint A article in B e-book, your contract is the only document that will tell you for sure if you’re in the right (or, uh, in the wrong). Most of my ghostwriting contracts use the term “work for hire,” which means that even though I’ll be working as an independent contractor, all rights to the work I’m creating with an expert or business go to that individual or company. My philosophy is that if it’s your name on it, it’s yours.
Are your services confidential?
Mine are, but I’ve heard stories about ghostwriters who ignore the entire topic, and then go on to share ghostwritten copy in their portfolios and on social sites like LinkedIn. If confidentiality is important to you, chances are that’s not what you have in mind when contracting with a ghostwriter. If your company has a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), it’s fine to request the ghostwriter sign it in addition to the contract. If you don’t have an NDA, you don’t need to go to a lawyer to have one drafted; just write the parameters that work for you into the contract.
You’re turn! If you’ve worked with a ghostwriter in the past and wish you would have popped a particular question before signing on the dotted line, leave me a comment below (or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org).