Dan Baldwin spoke to the Society of Southwest Authors/Valley of the Sun Chapter on December 27 at the Tempe Library. Baldwin has ghostwritten over 50 books on many topics. The income from ghostwriting funds his real love of writing fiction—he’s published 5 Westerns, 3 mysteries, a political crime thriller, and a short story collection. His newest work is Bock’s Canyon, a vendetta-style Western.

Below are my rough notes of his presentation. Note that the “author” is the client who pays for someone to do the actual writing, the “writer.”

Why do people want to write a book that needs ghostwriting.
•Improve business, use book as business card
•Share a legacy
•Ego, see one name on a book

Why do ghostwriting
•Take on roles—1st black Playboy bunny
•Hang out with millionaires

Baldwin’s heart is in his novels of the West, which are financed by his ghost writing.

Basic points
•Author (not = ghostwriter) needs clear elevator pitch
•Voice in non-fiction ghostwriting is 8th grade standard/business writing, exception is rant
•Ghostwriter takes on many roles—Baldwin—Cajun, Cuban, African American, 1st black playboy bunny
•Author makes final editorial decisions, not ghostwriter
•Keep communication open with client/author
•Client/author provides information, facts

•Major publishers have software to detect
•Plagiarism can include stealing words and/or organization of another’s book
•To avoid, completely rewrite source material; reduce to bullet points and then rewrite to make it new
•If you quote, cite author’s name, the publication, the date; keep written record of author’s permission

•Baldwin’s usual plan is one third of total fee at start, one third at completion of first draft, one third when final draft done
•Baldwin doesn’t deal with royalties or residuals, too messy

•Submit your work in manuscript format; book designers will set it up for printing

•Client decides
•Can be anything from ghostwriter being mentioned in acknowledgment to being listed on cover
•Include in contract how credit will be handled

•Baldwin has developed his own contract
•Use King’s English, not legalese
•Define the book, may include word count
•List responsibilities, what author/client does and what writer does
•Specify compensation, the total and how paid; set deadlines of time and/or quantity of writing
•Include expenses, such as travel, food, lodging
•Include how credit to ghostwriter will be handled
•Sometimes exclusivity is required—can’t write about topic for certain period of time
•Nondisclosure sometimes asked for
•Copyright—author/client owns when completed, shared by author and writer until payment in full made
•Specify that when writer delivers manuscript to client, he/she has time limit within which to request additions or corrections
•Arbitration if disagree

AND—keep all correspondence, including emails


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