In the New York Times column “Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers,” Sunday, April 14, you’ll notice something that should interest you if you’re an author or writer-for-hire.
Six of the top twenty nonfiction books were written with the help of a professional writer. That’s a whopping thirty percent of this particular New York Times column.
The authors–the persons who are the copyright owners and whose names follow “by” on the book cover– recognized that they had experiences or ideas that would be of interest to readers but they lacked the time to write or needed help with their writing. None of these authors are career authors but they were savvy enough to team up with a professional writer.
Perhaps you or someone you know has at least one good non-fiction book in them—maybe even a prize-winning idea–but they are either too busy to write and/or simply don’t consider their writing skills equal to the task of pursuing publication. And they may be right!
In today’s highly competitive publishing world (traditional or digital), the author must not only win the reader over within the first few paragraphs but also show that his expertise and writing style are worthy of the reader’s long-term attention.
Here’s the kicker! As an aspiring author, you don’t have to quit your day-job to write the book yourself or kick start a career in writing in order to publish.
If you have a clear idea for a book, article, or blog series that relates to your business or personal life, but don’t have enough time, writing skill or confidence to turn your idea into a marketable manuscript, consider contracting with a writer-for-hire. A team approach allows both “creators”—author and writer-for-hire–to display their complementary strengths while collaborating on a written work.
That’s where a publishing consultant or literary attorney comes in. A good contract does more than just recite a price and time period for completing a literary work, including blogs or magazine articles. Similar to a good business plan, a writing contract should give both author and writer-for-hire, and this includes ghost writers (who do not get their names printed on the cover), the structure they need to reach their common goal.
You need an experienced publishing professional to ask the questions that lead to a satisfying contract for both parties. Whether the contract is complicated or simple and whether you’re the author or the writer,
• Do you have a production schedule for various phases of the writing process—e.g., a proposal, an outline, chapter segments and drafts?
• If you disagree with your writer (or the writer with the author), how will the two of you resolve the conflict?
• Will one of you need to travel in order to meet with the other or can you communicate by phone?
• What costs are associated with the project and who will pay them?
• There is particular language that the work-for-hire contract must include to make it clear that the author is the copyright owner—has it been included?
• Will the writer share credit for the book, be a “ghost” or only mentioned in the acknowledgements?
• Most important, what happens if the relationship doesn’t work out? Is there an escape clause for the writer as well as the author?
Writing “with” is a business, but there are personal considerations to keep in mind. If you’re the author, does the subject matter require that you give the writer access to private diaries, letters or emails? If so, include a contract provision requiring the writer to maintain your confidentiality except with regard to the passages you agree to include in your work. Most professional writers want this kind of provision in a contract because it protects them as well.
If you have a viable concept for a book, blog or magazine article, don’t let it fade away because of whatever writing talent, skills or confidence you believe you might lack. Stick with what you do best—telling your personal story, expressing your unique vision about your hobby or profession, or giving others a new take on life–and let a professional write it down.
And when it comes to creating a contract between author and writer, use a professional for that, too.