Lately, we've been getting many questions about the difference between a ghostwriter, a co-writer, and a co-author. If you've read many celebrity books, chances are you are reading a co-written or ghostwritten book. So, what should authors expect when they choose to use a ghostwriter, a co-writer or co-author to get their idea into book form? Let's start with the definition of each.
A Ghostwriter is a behind-the-scenes author or writer hired to write workÂ officially credited to another person. And indeed, ghost means ghost. You will never know who the writer is behind the book.
A Co-Writer works with the author to write the book where both parties actively collaborate in the writing process, and each includes their ideas of what makes the work viable. A co-author will have their name on the cover and title page of the book along with that of the author.
A Co-Author is a collaboration partner. Both authors will write the book, often taking individual chapters and then collaborating to fine-tune the entire manuscript into a viable work.
Let's start with the Ghostwriter: This is often a work-for-hire contract where the author hires the writer under a non-disclosure agreement to develop and write their idea from the kernel of information given. The book is written under the author's name with no reference to the Ghostwriter. The contract has specifics such as the time it will take to develop the work into a cohesive book ready for publication. The cost can range anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000+ and includes contract clauses that say the ghostwriter relinquished all rights to the work for the fees paid and remain ghost. This is still an interactive process between the writer and the author to ensure the idea envisioned is delivered. Once the project is completed, the author approves the final draft, and it is now theirs to do whatever they want to do with it. There is no further payment to the Ghostwriter. No royalties, etc. Their job is done when they hand off the manuscript.
Co-Writer: This has many more contractual implications. Frequently, a publisher will sign an author and assign a co-writer to help them organize and structure their work beyond what an editor can do. Usually, the co-writer is in the same field as the writer and has as much knowledge and input to offer as the author. Although partnerships vary, a co-writer is a financial consideration to both the publisher and the author. If you have signed with a house that pays an advance, often the co-writer will get up to 40% of the advance (and don't forget your agent gets another 15%), and they also get royalties based on the negotiated contract. So as long as your book is in print, you will be paying your co-writer and your agent, depending on how you or your agent negotiate the contract. If you are hiring the co-writer yourself to prepare the work before it gets to the agent or publisher, expect to pay a hefty up-front sum, and they also share negotiated royalties.
Co-Author: Co-authorship is the collaboration between two or more people who share an interest in seeing their ideas in a book. They often write an outline together and divvy up the chapters based on experience. They will set writing schedules and often go back and forth on content to make sure their writing style meld, so the book doesn't seem to be written by two or more people. They share the risks and rewards and are fully credited on the book as a writer. If the book is sold to a house that pays an advance, both are on the contract, and the two or more co-authors will split the publisher's advance money, royalty money, and/or merchandise revenue garnered in perpetuity. Co-author partnerships also have their own contract stating who gets what and how things are split. Co-Authors are not paid upfront (unless publisher's advance). They don't get paid for the writing process; they get paid on the back end after the book is complete and published.
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