When you enter into a Ghostwriting Agreement you need to consider the subject of ‘Attribution’. What the hell is ‘Attribution’? I hear you cry.

If we look to the dictionary for a definition we can see:

Attribution (noun)

  • The action of regarding something as being caused by a person or thing. A relevant example of that would be: My book included an attribution to all those who edited the manuscript.
  • The action of ascribing a work or remark to a particular author, artist, or person: The study of Constable is fraught with problems of attribution.

  • The action of regarding a quality or feature as characteristic of or possessed by a person or thing. The attribution of human emotions to inanimate objects.

In the case of a ghostwriter agreement the ‘commissioner’ (that would be you, the person who wishes to hire the services of a ghostwriter) and the ghostwriter need to agree on the level of attribution for authorship on the cover and title page of the works. I’ll explain why this is important in a moment, but first consider Attribution as a sliding scale of credit (and associated cost/reimbursement).

On the cover and title page of your book you can have:

Level 1: Full Attribution (equal) on cover and inside

  • Your name (commissioner’s name) with Ghostwriter’s name
    Josephine Blogs with Evie McRae
  • Your name (commissioner’s name) and Ghostwriter’s name
    Josephine Blogs and Evie McRae
  • Your name (commissioner’s name). A memoir as told to Ghostwriter’s name – Josephine Blogs. A memoir as told to Evie McRae

Level 2: Partial Attribution

  • Your name (commissioner’s name) on front cover 
  • Ghostwriter’s name inside on Title Page

Level 3: No Attribution – credit given to Ghostwriter. The Commissioner assumes credit

  • Your name (commissioner’s name)

So you can see in all of these cases the relationship between the commissioner and the Ghostwriter is evident. The Ghostwriter receives credit for their role in actually writing the book. However, in the last instance where the commissioner’s name appears alone – this means the commissioner is taking the full credit for writing the book.

In this scenario, the commissioner pays the Ghostwriter a Fee over and above the agreed writing fee. Put bluntly, the Ghostwriter trades cash for credit, and the commissioner (particularly in the case of Full Attribution) will be required to pay this upfront.

The Fee varies between ghostwriters and each ghostwriter will view attribution differently. If your ghostwriter is a well-known award-winning writer and you (as the commissioner) have no writing credentials at all, you would expect to pay a high fee indeed if you wish to take full credit with your name on the cover. In actual fact, you’d probably get more sales by allowing your well know ghostwriter’s name to appear alongside yours in that scenario but that is your call.

Generally speaking you can expect to pay 10% fee on top of the cost to write your book for Level 2: Partial Attribution and 15%-20% surcharge for Level 3: No Attribution. There are other ‘trade-offs’ or deals that can be struck depending on the motivations on both sides but it is VITAL to discuss this upfront and include the details in the Ghostwriter Agreement.