Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Before You Ghost

A couple of folks have asked me to post any open submission WFH work I find out there, and I got a heads-up on this job today:

Reply to:
Date: 2006-07-17, 3:22PM EDT

Seeking talented and experienced ghostwriter to assist with a series of teen fiction/reality books. Interested candidate must write with an empathic, contemporary and youthful voice. Extremely confidential project deals with horror/demonic/dark side/theological with a world view – good v. evil theme. Theological background and local presence a plus. Reimburseable travel may be required if outside of New England area. Ghostwriter will work closely with collaborators and will receive no writing credit, but ghostwriting fees. Legally binding non-disclosure and confidentiality statement required.

Serious candidates only – must be available full time for 3-4 months work – first book in series to be released in Spring, 2007. Anticipated start date is August 1, 2006. Please submit resume and writing sample to

Job location is Mass/Conn
Compensation: To be discussed
no -- Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
no -- Please, no phone calls about this job!
no -- Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
yes -- Reposting this message elsewhere is OK.
yes -- OK to repost to Job Developers for Persons with Disabilities.

Some suggestions for the writers out there who are interested in auditioning for this and other WFH work:

1. Check out the client as thoroughly as possible. If they're legit, they're going to do the same thing to you, so don't lie to them about your experience.

2. Get all job terms, payment schedule and obligations put into a written contract that is signed by both you and the client.

3. Do not sign anything until you've gone over every single word with an agent or a lawyer and understand the agreement completely. Both signatures on the contract -- yours and the client's -- absolutely should be notarized.

4. The writing sample and resume requested in the above ad are pretty standard for WFH work. Occasionally you may also be required to do a short audition piece (writing a chapter according to the client's specs.) If a client says they won't hire you without seeing a full manuscript first, or wants you to write the manuscript on-spec to see if they can sell it, or wants you to help them develop the project from scratch with no payment, or asks anything else of you that puts an "if" into payment of your fee, they're not the real deal.

5. Payment should be made according to current industry standards: partial payment of your agreed-on fee upon signing, with the remainder due to you upon delivery and acceptance of the manuscript. Occasionally clients will ask for a third of your fee to be paid upon publication; it's up to you whether or not you want to sign for that.

I also strongly recommend getting an agent to represent you and to negotiate any WFH contracts. An agent will help you to get the best fee, the fairest terms, and should steer you away from scammers and dilettantes.


  1. Hi, PBW! Long-time reader, first-time poster, love the blog.

    I am doing WFH for WotC, and I was wondering a bit about two things:

    1) Why do you recommend notarized signatures on contracts, and

    2) Why do you recommend getting an agent? Most of my fellow WotC writers don't have agents, and most agents don't seem interested in repping what we do, anyway.

    Thanks for the help!


  2. Anonymous3:05 PM

    Marcy wrote: Why do you recommend notarized signatures on contracts

    That's advice straight from my attorney. A notarized signature helps in the event you have to take a client to court for not making payment or otherwise breaking contract terms. Publishers generally offer a witnessed signature, which is a reasonable substitute, but it's especially important to get a notary when there are private party clients involved.

    Why do you recommend getting an agent? Most of my fellow WotC writers don't have agents, and most agents don't seem interested in repping what we do, anyway.

    The main reasons are that contract terminology can be very difficult to understand, and an agent can work to improve the terms. Agents can also find work for you -- I've gotten all my WFH work via my agent.

    Plenty of agents will represent ghost writers but I think few advertise it, which may give the impression that they're not interested. Agents get 15% of whatever you earn; I don't think a smart agent would turn down a WFH. Often agents represent the estate of a deceased writer, too, and actively participate in finding ghost writers to carry on a series or line of books under the original author's name.

    There was one agency name I saw mentioned on a blog or industry site recently where they said they only represent ghost writers, but I forgot to bookmark it and I can't think of where it was. I'll hunt around and see if I can find it.

  3. Anonymous3:09 PM

    I found it -- it was in a PW SPAM:

    "Among the ironies of today's book industry is the fact that good writers struggle to get published, while celebrities who can't write get big book contracts. Lots of people complain about it. But not literary agent Madeleine Morel, who has figured out a way to exploit these facts—she represents no authors, only writers—ghostwriters, that is. Morel's clients have written seven New York Times bestsellers in the past two years, three of which have reached number one. Though Morel's tight-lipped when it comes to revealing specifics, she would let slip a few of her writers' recent hits: there's The Biggest Loser (Rodale), the TV tie-in diet book, which, according to PW , sold more than 150,000 copies in 2005; and numerous books by lifestyle guru and perennially bestselling author Dr. Phil (published by Free Press)." -- Publishers Weekly

  4. Thanks, PBW! I'll pass that along.



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