Emston Media LTD recently contacted me to solicit my services for ghostwriting. I read through their letter and their specifications for hiring, and was happy to reply. One of those specifications as that their ghostwriters sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) prohibiting them from claiming any of the projects. The letter specified that the ghostwriter’s name would not appear anywhere within the published document, nor would the ghostwriter be acknowledged in any way by the author or the publisher beyond having received payment for the work.

I’m good with that. I don’t need to see my name on the published work, although it’s nice to be recognized for my contribution. When someone asks me what I’m working on and/or if I’ve got similar experience, I may refer to the project in very general terms: for example, I’m working on a young adult trilogy based on the Mahabharata. (I actually am. And there’s no way anyone could figure out what the story is or who hired me to write it from that general description.)

In my reply to Emston Media, I stated that upon completion of the project, I retain the right to claim it in my resume and portfolio and, after it’s published, to link to the work in my resume and portfolio.

I received a request to provide evidence of my having written content in the genre for which they would hire me. I directed them to an example, House Secrets by Perry Freeman. My name appears nowhere in that book. I receive no royalties on book sales. I do not own the copyright. And that’s OK. He hired me to write it and I did. It was a terrific project for a wonderful client. I would gladly write for him again.

I pointed out the hypocrisy of the NDA to the Emston Media representative: They wanted me to point to work I’d ghostwritten for someone else to show my experience, but would not allow me to point to work I’d produced for them to show a potential future client my experience. Emston didn’t like that and withdrew the offer.

Well, that didn’t last long.

When explaining my rationale for retaining the right to claim work-for-hire in ghostwriting project, I state that readers will not ask who wrote the book. They will assume the author wrote the book. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Not mentioning the ghostwriter gives a suspicious reader no clue as to whether a ghostwriter did write the book and, if so, which writer. Basically, no one is going to see House Secrets, suspect Perry didn’t write the story, and then pester him to reveal who really did write it. No one is going to download Riding Lessons by Dawn Coyote (yes, I was hired to write that, too) and look for the “real” author.

Expecting a ghostwriter to provide evidence of related experience on past projects without allowing that same writer to use more recent work for you is selfish. It’s akin to requiring a ghostwriter to sign a non-compete agreement, because it stifles the writer’s ability to find more work in that area. 

If you want a ghostwriter to bring your story to life, then let’s talk. I won’t ask for your royalties or to share the copyright. I will require that you allow me to claim the finished project in my resume and portfolio for future clients, just as you want to see evidence of my past work for other clients. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Fair’s fair.

Every word counts.

#henhousepublishing #freelancewriting #ghostwriting