Need advise: Crediting a ghostwriter as a co-author

by motley
27 replies
Hello Warriors,

I'm going to publish my first fiction book serial in late July and I'm really excited about that. The story idea is mine, but I hired a plotter and a ghostwriter to help me out. I like the result and want to pay a good bonus to the ghostwriter, however I'm thinking how else I could reward her. I know she has a few novels on Zon that don't have a good sales rank. That's not because of pure quality, but pure marketing. If I mentioned the ghostwriter as a co-author or a contributor, my readers could find her books too. I'm not going to type her name on the cover as there must be only my pen name for branding purpose, but I could provide her author bio at the back matter with a link to her Author page on Amazon or to her website.

Is that a good or bad idea? Any pros and cons? I know we should sigh a writer agreement to protect my copyrights and royalties, but what about other possible disadvantages?
#advise #coauthor #crediting #ghostwriter
  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    One thing that comes to mind is "Okay, who actually wrote the book, and if it's this ghostwriter, why should I buy any of the others in the series? What if Nom D. Plume changes ghostwriters?"

    If it was purely a work-for-hire, skip the author credit. Since your writer has books of her own, add an "Acknowledgement" page thanking her for "assistance and inspiration" or something, and list a link to her author page or profile listing her books.

    I could be totally wrong on this, but I doubt it...
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    • Profile picture of the author motley
      Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

      One thing that comes to mind is "Okay, who actually wrote the book, and if it's this ghostwriter, why should I buy any of the others in the series? What if Nom D. Plume changes ghostwriters?"

      If it was purely a work-for-hire, skip the author credit. Since your writer has books of her own, add an "Acknowledgement" page thanking her for "assistance and inspiration" or something, and list a link to her author page or profile listing her books.

      I could be totally wrong on this, but I doubt it...
      Hi John, thanks for replying. Sure I won't tell that the book has been ghostwritten. But I saw a lot of books with multiple author names and some with co-author name many times on Amazon. I also thought if I changed a ghostwriter the writing style would change as well. In this case another name of a co-author or an editor may explain such change to a reader? Is that wrong opinion.

      Yes, that was a work-for-hire and I like your idea to add an acknowledgement page.
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      • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
        Have you discussed this with your ghostwriter? If her own books are in a different genre, any links you provide in your book could actually harm her branding attempts. Personally, I'd give her a monetary bonus (or a long-term contract) and leave it at that.


        Originally Posted by motley View Post

        I also thought if I changed a ghostwriter the writing style would change as well. In this case another name of a co-author or an editor may explain such change to a reader? Is that wrong opinion.
        I think that's a bad idea. If your intention is to build a brand over a series of books, it's up to you to maintain a consistent writing style; you shouldn't expect your readers to make allowances for any variations.

        Without a consistent, recognizable style, I fear you'd find it difficult, if not impossible, to grow a loyal following.


        Frank
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        • Profile picture of the author motley
          Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

          Have you discussed this with your ghostwriter? If her own books are in a different genre, any links you provide in your book could actually harm her branding attempts. Personally, I'd give her a monetary bonus (or a long-term contract) and leave it at that.

          I think that's a bad idea. If your intention is to build a brand over a series of books, it's up to you to maintain a consistent writing style; you shouldn't expect your readers to make allowances for any variations.

          Without a consistent, recognizable style, I fear you'd find it difficult, if not impossible, to grow a loyal following.

          Frank
          Thank you Frank. I have not discussed it with a ghostwriter. I clearly stated that no credit goes to the ghostwriter after completed job. She agreed.

          So far, the monetary bonus would be the best one. Let's wait for more opinions.
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      • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
        There's a difference between collaborations (multiple co-authors) and crediting a ghostwriter, especially with fiction.

        With biographies and tell-alls, it's not uncommon to see bylines like "Ima Celeb with Joe Ghost". It's clear and above board that the story is Ima's and the actual words are Joe's.
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        • Profile picture of the author motley
          Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

          There's a difference between collaborations (multiple co-authors) and crediting a ghostwriter, especially with fiction.

          With biographies and tell-alls, it's not uncommon to see bylines like "Ima Celeb with Joe Ghost". It's clear and above board that the story is Ima's and the actual words are Joe's.
          I've got an idea to credit my ghostwriter by mention her as a collaborator after reading an article about ghostwriting in Huffington post.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rainee
    Originally Posted by motley View Post

    Hello Warriors,

    I'm going to publish my first fiction book serial in late July and I'm really excited about that. The story idea is mine, but I hired a plotter and a ghostwriter to help me out. I like the result and want to pay a good bonus to the ghostwriter, however I'm thinking how else I could reward her. I know she has a few novels on Zon that don't have a good sales rank. That's not because of pure quality, but pure marketing. If I mentioned the ghostwriter as a co-author or a contributor, my readers could find her books too. I'm not going to type her name on the cover as there must be only my pen name for branding purpose, but I could provide her author bio at the back matter with a link to her Author page on Amazon or to her website.

    Is that a good or bad idea? Any pros and cons? I know we should sigh a writer agreement to protect my copyrights and royalties, but what about other possible disadvantages?
    If the book is all your idea. It's your intellectual property.

    Hiring someone to help you communicate your idea effectively, does not raise that person to the same level of yourself as a co-creator of the book.

    When Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple Computers, released a product, it was Apple's name being promoted, not the tech guys who did the development to make it happen.

    Rainee
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    • Profile picture of the author motley
      Originally Posted by Rainee View Post

      If the book is all your idea. It's your intellectual property.

      Hiring someone to help you communicate your idea effectively, does not raise that person to the same level of yourself as a co-creator of the book.

      When Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple Computers, released a product, it was Apple's name being promoted, not the tech guys who did the development to make it happen.

      Rainee
      Hi Rainee, I agree that it's my intellectual property. I just want to reward the ghostwriter for her involvement to the creative process with something different than money.
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    You could credit the ghostwriter as an editor if you want to do it that way. Then you're acknowledged as the writer but she helped.
    However, as she accepted the work for hire, the bonus is probably the best way to go and recommend her to others you may know and perhaps offer to write a testimonial for her.
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    • Profile picture of the author motley
      Originally Posted by laurencewins View Post

      You could credit the ghostwriter as an editor if you want to do it that way. Then you're acknowledged as the writer but she helped.
      However, as she accepted the work for hire, the bonus is probably the best way to go and recommend her to others you may know and perhaps offer to write a testimonial for her.
      Hi Laurence,
      I thought about crediting her as an editor, but I have an editor and it's not her.

      Yeah, a good bonus and a glowing testimonial would be the best solution. Thank you.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        with something different than money
        I would not recommend her services to others exactly because of reasons you explained in your post.
        As a writer who has ghost written several books - I totally disagree with you. You found a writer new to the freelance site and thus willing to work for a reasonable fee.

        She did a great job so REWARD HER APPROPRIATELY:

        1. Pay her a bonus for the work. She took the job for money - she charged less because she is new to elance...reward her with money!

        2. Give her an outstanding 5 star rating on elance with complimentary comments in her profile. That means you ARE recommending her to others and it will help her get more jobs...and better paying jobs, too.

        The idea that you would NOT give her a recommendation in order to keep her to yourself is so wrongheaded I can't wrap my mind around it. That's selfish and self defeating approach to outsourcing and a mindset that will keep you from succeeding in IM.

        A paid ghostwriter doesn't spend hours writing your book to be your "partner" - she does it to earn a living. If she's new on a freelance site she NEEDS a good review and sounds like she fully deserves it, too, along with a cash bonus.


        Kay
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        • Profile picture of the author Joe Stewart
          Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

          As a writer who has ghost written several books - I totally disagree with you. You found a writer new to the freelance site and thus willing to work for a reasonable fee.

          She did a great job so REWARD HER APPROPRIATELY:

          1. Pay her a bonus for the work. She took the job for money - she charged less because she is new to elance...reward her with money!

          2. Give her an outstanding 5 star rating on elance with complimentary comments in her profile. That means you ARE recommending her to others and it will help her get more jobs...and better paying jobs, too.

          The idea that you would NOT give her a recommendation in order to keep her to yourself is so wrongheaded I can't wrap my mind around it. That's selfish and self defeating approach to outsourcing and a mindset that will keep you from succeeding in IM.

          A paid ghostwriter doesn't spend hours writing your book to be your "partner" - she does it to earn a living. If she's new on a freelance site she NEEDS a good review and sounds like she fully deserves it, too, along with a cash bonus.


          Kay

          I want to clarify that I always gave excellent reviews to deserving writers on Elance. If they did an excellent job I gave them 5 stars and wrote up a 1-2 paragragh review praising them and pointing out their strengths. Since I only hired new writers, this helped them immensely. I also had them doing the smallest projects possible so I could test their work and train them to do things the way I wanted them done. This resulted in them getting even more excellent reviews, if they deserved it.

          My point is that once that's been done, it's over. You're under no obligation to promote their services on products or articles they've written.

          Regarding bonuses, yes, if a project is well written, is delivered in a timely manner, etc then if the buyer "feels like" offering a bonus, or if they can afford it, by all means, do so.

          On the other hand, if a buyer is just getting started in business or is just getting started on a new project where they have no idea of the outcome and need to watch their budget, I don't see the need to give a bonus. An agreement was in place for a certain amount of payment and that should be honored by both parties. If the work becomes profitable, then the first thing I'd do is offer more work. If it continued to be profitable, then I'd begin to offer bonuses.

          The buyer needs to get as much work done as possible while working on a budget. Many buyers have no idea whether the project will be successful or not. There's no way that they can until it's tested. Product reviews, ebooks, etc have to have to be tested to see if they convert into profit streams. In the meantime, the buyer needs to get these things written for as little as possible, but still maintain quality. It's just part of doing business.

          That being said, always give the writer their due. If they've worked for me before and do great work consistently then of course they'll receive more money over time, but to just give away money because writers think it's good ettiquette isn't a good enough reason. It doesn't make sense from a business standpoint.

          There are two different mindsets going on here. This argument has been made multiple times in the past and everyone is going to have their own opinion. You just have to agree to disagree.
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        • Profile picture of the author motley
          Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

          The idea that you would NOT give her a recommendation in order to keep her to yourself is so wrongheaded I can't wrap my mind around it. That's selfish and self defeating approach to outsourcing and a mindset that will keep you from succeeding in IM.

          A paid ghostwriter doesn't spend hours writing your book to be your "partner" - she does it to earn a living. If she's new on a freelance site she NEEDS a good review and sounds like she fully deserves it, too, along with a cash bonus.


          Kay
          Hi Kay,

          I think you misunderstood me. I didn't say I was going to leave the ghostwriter without a feedback on a freelance website. Sure I will write a glowing review. She deserves all five stars.

          When I said I would not recommend her to anyone, that meant that if someone would ask me to share contacts of a good ghostwriter, I would keep silence. I have a reason for that. I've been waiting for another writer to become available for two month when I decided to post my job on Elance. Everyone who tried to find a good ghostwriter, especially for the very first project and being on a tight budget, knows how difficult it is.
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  • Profile picture of the author George Wright
    I forgot who said it but, "Nothing works like money where money works."

    The ghost writer is writing for money, not credit.

    Give her a bonus and or give her more business.

    That will make her happy.

    George Wright P.S.Also if she agrees you can recommend her to others but not in your book/eBook.Readers are not usually looking for writers to work for them. On the other hand a recommendation on your site or on forums etc. could go a long way to making her a success. P.P.S. You should be commended for caring enough to be concerned about this issue.
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    • Profile picture of the author Joe Stewart
      Originally Posted by George Wright View Post

      I forgot who said it but, "Nothing works like money where money works."

      The ghost writer is writing for money, not credit.

      Give her a bonus and or give her more business.

      That will make her happy.

      George Wright P.S.Also if she agrees you can recommend her to others but not in your book/eBook.Readers are not usually looking for writers to work for them. On the other hand a recommendation on your site or on forums etc. could go a long way to making her a success. P.P.S. You should be commended for caring enough to be concerned about this issue.

      I agree with George and others. You've paid her an agreed upon price to write a book based on "your" ideas. You agreed that you'll receive all rights to it. You're finished. Nothing else is required, nor would I recommend her services.

      Let me explain why, I've never outsourced a book or report, but I have outsourced many, many articles from multiple authors. If you value her work and intend to use her again in the future, giving her recommendations could actually HURT you. This is because it could lead to others wanting to hire her. Yes, it may be good for her and would be a nice gesture. However, it could also lead to her acquiring more writing clients, raising her rates and not being available for your future projects.

      I went through this years ago with a writer. She was very good from the beginning. I made her even better. She'd be the first to admit that, too. I gave her rave reviews and a LOT of work. As time went on she began to get better offers and higher pay. She continued to work for me for quite awhile out of a sense of obligation, but there came a point where I told her to start taking other work. If she didn't have anything going on and was willing to work for my rates, send me an email. Otherwise, she'd gone above and beyond for me. I'd created a monster with all of my fantastic reviews.

      I'd wait awhile until you see how your book performs. If it sells like crazy and gets great reviews you might consider giving her more on the next project - or not. I'd never, ever share your results with her! You'll be giving her leverage and asking for headaches if you do.

      HTH


      Joe
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      • Profile picture of the author juggernaught
        Its your intellectual property. You hired someone to work for you. Its yours.
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      • Profile picture of the author motley
        Originally Posted by Joe Stewart View Post

        I agree with George and others. You've paid her an agreed upon price to write a book based on "your" ideas. You agreed that you'll receive all rights to it. You're finished. Nothing else is required, nor would I recommend her services.

        Let me explain why, I've never outsourced a book or report, but I have outsourced many, many articles from multiple authors. If you value her work and intend to use her again in the future, giving her recommendations could actually HURT you. This is because it could lead to others wanting to hire her. Yes, it may be good for her and would be a nice gesture. However, it could also lead to her acquiring more writing clients, raising her rates and not being available for your future projects.

        I went through this years ago with a writer. She was very good from the beginning. I made her even better. She'd be the first to admit that, too. I gave her rave reviews and a LOT of work. As time went on she began to get better offers and higher pay. She continued to work for me for quite awhile out of a sense of obligation, but there came a point where I told her to start taking other work. If she didn't have anything going on and was willing to work for my rates, send me an email. Otherwise, she'd gone above and beyond for me. I'd created a monster with all of my fantastic reviews.

        I'd wait awhile until you see how your book performs. If it sells like crazy and gets great reviews you might consider giving her more on the next project - or not. I'd never, ever share your results with her! You'll be giving her leverage and asking for headaches if you do.

        HTH

        Joe
        Hi Joe, I appreciate your input.

        I would not recommend her services to others exactly because of reasons you explained in your post. I bet I was happy to hire this writer because it was her first contract on Elance. She started a few days before I posted my job. And this is why she was affordable, IMO. We've build good relationship during this project and I want to continue working with her. This is a main reason why I'm so eager to reward her as good as I can. I already decided to offer her more money for the next project just to keep her busy and away from other clients.
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  • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
    If you give her partial credit I'm guessing she might have legal rights to part of the proceeds. Of course, I'm not a lawyer but you might want to check with one.
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    • Profile picture of the author motley
      Originally Posted by travlinguy View Post

      If you give her partial credit I'm guessing she might have legal rights to part of the proceeds. Of course, I'm not a lawyer but you might want to check with one.
      That was biggest of my concerns when I started this thread.
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  • Profile picture of the author DeborahDera
    If you want to protect your brand and copyright, I wouldn't do that (and I say this AS a ghostwriter). Perhaps you could find another way to throw the writer some extra promotion - the gift of some ad space on FB, Twitter, etc. Mentions on your own social feeds. Merely a THANK YOU mention as a supporter of the book when you mention other people?

    Originally Posted by motley View Post

    Hello Warriors,

    I'm going to publish my first fiction book serial in late July and I'm really excited about that. The story idea is mine, but I hired a plotter and a ghostwriter to help me out. I like the result and want to pay a good bonus to the ghostwriter, however I'm thinking how else I could reward her. I know she has a few novels on Zon that don't have a good sales rank. That's not because of pure quality, but pure marketing. If I mentioned the ghostwriter as a co-author or a contributor, my readers could find her books too. I'm not going to type her name on the cover as there must be only my pen name for branding purpose, but I could provide her author bio at the back matter with a link to her Author page on Amazon or to her website.

    Is that a good or bad idea? Any pros and cons? I know we should sigh a writer agreement to protect my copyrights and royalties, but what about other possible disadvantages?
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    Hi,

    I'd make her a co-writer, and credit her, or ghostwriter and not credit her. If she's ghostwriting there is a conflict of interest, both with her mentioning she wrote some of the novel, and you, noting here. Hence, "ghost"writer.

    However, if you 2 decided to release a book together, simply co-author and credit both. If you're not keen on co-authoring, stick to keeping her ghost, and you can think of creative ways to give her ghostwriting business a boost.

    All the best.

    Ryan
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  • Profile picture of the author dgui123451
    If you have a good working relationship with your ghost writer and would like to show appreciation for work done I guess so but I believe a ghostwriter must remain invisible as the name says, you are not obligated to do anything but pay the monies as stipulated by the contract for the writing done.
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  • Profile picture of the author Reddy20
    Maybe a collaboration would be better. Like co writers or an agreement between you and the ghostwriter
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  • Profile picture of the author motley
    Thank you all, friends. I marked the contract completed and left a glowing review to the writer yesterday. Hope it helps her to get new orders. Also I paid a sweet bonus. We have great relationships and are looking forward to work together again as soon as I'm ready with a new plot.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ghoster
    That would be great, because it's often impossible for ghostwriters to show new prospects past work. I think if she can direct new customers to you, that would mean more than credit in the book itself.
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    • Profile picture of the author motley
      Originally Posted by Ghoster View Post

      That would be great, because it's often impossible for ghostwriters to show new prospects past work. I think if she can direct new customers to you, that would mean more than credit in the book itself.
      It would be great for a ghostwriter, not for a book author. The information that the book was ghostwritten could leak and affect the author branding efforts. Hopefully in my case, she has four novels published in print and kindle and can direct prospects to her own work, as she did when she applied to my job.
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  • Profile picture of the author David Hooper
    If you're paying a ghostwriter for the copyright, that's where the relationship would end. If a writer wants to take a chance on you and do something on spec, I'd consider giving credit/ownership.

    But don't let people have it both ways... One or the other.
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