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About Collaboration Contracts

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If you will be collaborating with someone else on a book, the first issue to be resolved–as Tad Crawford points out in Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers–is how the copyright in the collaboration will be owned.

In every case, all details of the agreement should be spelled out. For example, the names of the parties and the names of their agents, if any, should be stated. The nature or subject of the work must be specified–autobiography, how-to book, child psychology, cookbook, etc. The tentative or working title should be named, and if there is an outline or synopsis of the work, it should be attached to the contract.

There are many different kinds of collaborations, but the agreements for each one must be in writing if you are to avoid some really sticky problems later on. Here are some specific pointers for avoiding trouble with two common kinds of collaborations.

Equal Partners

Collaborations often involve a joint work in which proceeds are to be equally shared. When this is the case, the agreement should set out each party’s responsibility in great detail and spell out how they will authorize and share expenses and who has rights to license the work under what conditions.

Equal partner collaborators also need to decide what will happen if the project is never completed. The issues might be what their individual rights will be in case the book project is never sold. When collaborators create different portions of a book, each would probably want to retain rights to those portions and be free to publish them by themselves or to include them in a longer work.

There are so many variables in any collaboration agreement that they can’t all be addressed here. But think of all the contingencies you can and detail them in the contract.

Some additional steps to take are:

● Specify a date by which time the work should be completed.

● Make out a work schedule with sequential deadlines.

● State whether the parties will self-publish if they do not receive a publishing contract.

● Allow for termination of the contract and state the conditions.

● Require that each partner receive a copy of the contract.

● Specify whose name goes first on the book.

● Decide what will happen in the event of the death or disability of either party.

● Discuss promotion, including the use of the parties’ names, photos, and bios.


A ghostwriter is one who writes for, and gives credit of authorship to, another person. Sometimes specialists in certain fields hire ghostwriters to explain esoteric concepts in a way that the lay public will understand. Sometimes celebrities, and others, hire them to write “autobiographies.” Whether you are hiring a ghostwriter for a book you intend to publish or being hired to ghostwrite a book, you need to know all the ramifications.

Before a contract is even considered, both parties should agree on two major issues–the author credit and the money split.

Guidelines from Writer’s Market distinguish between “Ghostwriting, as told to,” which is writing for a celebrity or expert, and “Ghostwriting, no credit,” which could be writing for an individual who is self-publishing or for an agent, a book packager, a publisher, or some other kind of company. The “as told to” ghostwriter often receives a “with” credit line: John Q. Public with Jane Doe. This appears on the cover of the book.

As attorney/author/publisher Tad Crawford notes, “It is important that the credits accurately reflect what the parties did. The credit could be ‘by A and B’ or ‘story by A and illustrations by B.’ ‘As told to’ indicates one person telling their story to another; while ‘with’ suggests that one person did some writing and the other person, usually a professional author, shaped and completed the book. It is against public policy for someone to take credit for writing a book which, in fact, was written by someone else.”

When a book publisher is involved, a typical deal might give the ghost the full advance plus 50 percent of royalties. When self-publishers hire ghostwriters, they might pay an hourly rate, which could range from $25 to $85, or a page rate, ranging from $125 to $175 per book page. The ghost might ask to be paid in four installments, one up front, one when the book is half-finished, one at the three-quarters mark, and the balance upon completion. Also, they may charge extra for researching, because that can be very time-consuming.

Ghostwriters who get no credit often contract for between $5,000 and $50,000, or more, per title, plus expenses.

The sample contract that follows [or whatever] comes from Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers, which also provides the form on CD-ROM so you can modify it and print it out. More information on collaboration contracts is also available in the Model Ghostwriting and Collaborations Contract that the National Writers Union offers members.


[sidebar title] Sample Collaboration Contract

AGREEMENT entered into as of this _____ day of ____________, 20___, between ______________________ (hereinafter referred to as the “Author”), located at ______________________________________________________________, and ______________________ (hereinafter referred to as the “Coauthor”), located at _________________________________________________________________ .

WHEREAS, each party is familiar with and respects the work of the other; and

WHEREAS, the parties hereto wish to collaborate on a book project tentatively titled _______________________ (hereinafter referred to as the “Work”); and WHEREAS, the parties wish to have the creation of the Work governed by the mutual obligations, covenants, and conditions herein;

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing premises and the mutual covenants hereinafter set forth and other valuable considerations, the parties hereto agree as follows:

    1. Description. The Work shall be approximately ___________ words on the subject of _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Materials other than text include ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A [ ] schedule [ ] outline [ ] synopsis is attached to and made part of this agreement.

    1. Responsibilities. The Author shall be responsible for writing approximately ________ words to serve as the following parts of the text _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Author shall also provide the following materials _________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Coauthor shall be responsible for writing approximately ______ words to serve as the following parts of the text ________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Coauthor shall also provide the following materials ______________________ ___________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    1. Due Date. Both Author and Coauthor shall complete their portions of the Work by ___________, 20 _____, or by the date for delivery of the manuscript as specified in a publishing contract entered into pursuant to Paragraph 4. If such a publishing contract requires sketches or other materials prior to the date for delivery of the manuscript, the party responsible for same shall provide it to the publisher. In the event either party fails to complete his or her portion of the Work by the due date for reasons other than death or disability, the parties may agree to an extension of the due date or agree to allow a nondefaulting party to complete the Work as if the other party were deceased or disabled. If no agreement can be reached, the arbitrator may award a nondefaulting party the right to complete the Work as if the other party were deceased or disabled or may convey to each party the rights of copyright in that party’s completed portion of the Work and specify how the parties shall contribute to any expenses incurred and repay any advances.

    1. Contracts and Licenses. If a contract for the Work has not already been entered into with a publisher, both Author and Coauthor agree to seek such a contract. Such publishing contract shall be entered into in the names of and signed by both the Author and the Coauthor, each of whom shall comply with and perform all required contractual obligations. If a mutually agreeable publishing contract for initial publication of the Work is not entered into with a Publisher by ______________, 20_____, then either party may terminate this agreement by giving written notice to the other party prior to such time as a mutually agreeable publishing contract for initial publication is entered into. Each party shall fully inform the other party of all negotiations for such a publishing contract or with respect to the negotiation of any other licenses or contracts pursuant to this Agreement. The disposition of any right, including the grant of any license, shall require written agreement between both parties hereto. Each party shall receive a copy of any contract, license, or other document relating to this Agreement.

    1. Copyright, Trademarks, and Other Proprietary Rights. Author and Coauthor agree that the Work shall be copyrighted in both their names, and that upon completion of the Work it is their intention that their respective contributions shall be merged into a joint work with a jointly owned copyright, unless provided to the contrary here: __________________________________________________________________. If either party does not complete their portion of the Work, the nature of copyright ownership shall be governed by Paragraph 3. It is further agreed that trademarks, rights in characters, titles, and similar ongoing rights shall be owned by both parties who shall both participate in any sequels under the terms of this Agreement, unless provided to the contrary here:___________________________________________. A sequel is defined as a work closely related to the Work in that it is derived from the subject matter of the Work, is similar in style and format to the Work, and is directed toward the same audience as that for the Work. Material of any and all kinds developed or obtained in the course of creating the work shall be [ ] jointly owned [ ] the property of the party who developed or obtained it.

    1. Income and Expenses. Net proceeds generated by the Work shall be divided as set forth in this Paragraph. Net proceeds are defined as gross proceeds from the sale or license of book rights throughout the world (including but not limited to serializations, condensations, and translations), including advances, minus reasonable expenses. Such expenses shall include agents’ fees and the parties’ expenses incurred in the creation of the Work, provided that the parties’ expenses shall be supported by appropriate verification and shall not exceed $_________ for the Author and $_________ for the Coauthor. Each party shall provide verification for expenses to the other party within 10 days of a written request. Unless otherwise provided, the parties’ expenses shall be reimbursed from first proceeds received, including but not limited to advances.

Net proceeds from the sale or license of nonelectronic publishing rights shall be divided _____ percent to the Author and _____ percent to the Coauthor.

Net proceeds from the sale or license of electronic publishing rights shall be divided ____ percent to the Author and ____ percent to the Coauthor. For purposes of this agreement, electronic rights are defined as rights in the digitized form of works that can be encoded, stored, and retrieved from such media as computer disks, CD-ROMs, computer databases, and network servers.

Net proceeds from the sale or license of nonpublishing rights in the Work (including but not limited to audio, merchandising, motion picture, stage play, or television rights to the Work), whether such sale or license occurs before or after initial publication of the Work, shall be divided _____ percent to the Author and _____ percent to the Coauthor, unless provided to the contrary here, in which case the following rights shall be treated with respect to division of net proceeds and control or disposition as follows: _______________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

If possible, net proceeds shall be paid directly to each party in accordance with the divisions set forth in this Paragraph. If either party is designated to collect such net proceeds, that party shall make immediate payment to the other party of such amounts as are due hereunder.

    1. Agent. If the parties have entered into an agency agreement with respect to the Work, it is with the following agent: ____________________________________. If a contract for the Work has not already been entered into with an agent, both Author and Coauthor agree [ ] to seek such a contract [ ] not to seek such a contract. Any agency contract shall be mutually acceptable to and entered into in the names of and signed by both the Author and the Coauthor, each of whom shall comply with and perform all required contractual obligations.

    1. Authorship Credit. The credit line for the Work shall be as follows wherever authorship credit is given in the Work or in promotion, advertising, or other ancillary uses: _____________________________________________________________ The color and type size for such authorship credit shall be the same for both authors unless provided to the contrary here: _____________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________

    1. Artistic Control. Each party shall have artistic control over his or her portion of the Work, unless provided to the contrary here in which case artistic control of the entire Work shall be exercised by _________________. The parties shall share ideas and make their work in progress available to the other party for discussion and coordination purposes. Except as provided in Paragraphs 3 and 12, neither party shall at any time make any changes in the portion of the Work created by the other party.

    1. Warranty and Indemnity. Author and Coauthor each warrant and represent to the other that the respective contributions of each to the Work are original (or that appropriate releases have been obtained and paid for) and do not libel or otherwise violate any right of any person or entity, including but not limited to rights of copyright or privacy. Author and Coauthor each indemnify and hold the other harmless from and against any and all claims, actions, liability, damages, costs, and expenses, including reasonable legal fees and expenses, incurred by the other as a result of the breach of such warranties, representations, and undertakings.

    1. Assignment. This Agreement shall not be assignable by either party hereto, provided, however, that after completion of the Work, either party may assign the right to receive money pursuant to Paragraph 6 by giving written notice to the other party.

    1. Death or Disability. In the event that either party dies or suffers a disability that will prevent completion of his or her respective portion of the Work, or of a revision thereof or a sequel thereto, the other party shall have the right to complete that portion or to hire a third party to complete that portion and shall adjust the authorship credit to reflect the revised authorship arrangements. The deceased or disabled party shall receive payments pursuant to Paragraph 6 pro rata to the proportion of his or her work completed or, in the case of a revision or sequel, shall receive payments pursuant to Paragraph 6 after deduction for the cost of revising or creating the sequel with respect to his or her portion of the Work. The active party shall have the sole power to license and contract with respect to the Work, and approval of the personal representative, heirs, or conservator of the deceased or disabled party shall not be required. If all parties are deceased, the respective heirs or personal representatives shall take the place of the parties for all purposes.

    1. Arbitration. All disputes arising under this Agreement shall be submitted to binding arbitration before _____________________________________________________ in the following location _________________________________ and shall be settled in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association. Judgment upon the arbitration award may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof.

    1. Term. The term for this Agreement shall be the duration of the copyright, plus any renewals or extensions thereof.

    1. Independent Parties. The parties to this Agreement are independent of one another, and nothing contained in this Agreement shall make a partnership or joint venture between them.

    1. Competitive Works. If the parties wish to restrict future activities to avoid competition with the Work, any such restrictions must be stated here: _____________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    1. Infringement. In the event of an infringement of the Work, the Author and Coauthor shall have the right to sue jointly for the infringement and, after deducting the expenses of bringing suit, to share in any recovery as follows: ________________ _____________________________. If either party chooses not to join in the suit, the other party may proceed and, after deducting all the expenses of bringing the suit, any recovery shall be shared between the parties as stated in the preceding sentence.

  1. Miscellany. This Agreement shall be binding upon the parties hereto, their heirs, successors, assigns, and personal representatives. This Agreement constitutes the entire understanding between the parties. Its terms can be modified only by an instrument in writing signed by both parties. Each party shall do all acts and sign all documents required to effectuate this Agreement. A waiver of any breach of any of the provisions of this Agreement shall not be construed as a continuing waiver of other breaches of the same or other provisions hereof. This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of _______________________.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have signed this Agreement as of the date first set forth above.

Author___________________________ Coauthor ___________________________

The Collaboration Agreement is published by permission from Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers by Tad Crawford. It is one of 20 ready-to-use forms in that book, which can be ordered for $22.95 from Allworth Press at 1-800/491-2808 or www.allworth.com.


This article was adapted from The Author’s Toolkit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Book, revised edition, by Mary Embree, also available from Allworth Press.

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