Always Have These 6 Recommended Contract Parts


I recently wrote about the importance of having a contract. That’s all well and good, but if you don’t know what to put in a contract, the importance won’t make sense.

Since a contract’s purpose is to record rights, duties, obligations, responsibilities, collaborations, agreements, and payment schedules, among many others; and since a contract should protect all parties, it should be fair and balanced. Each side should get some things and give away other things.

In my early days, my contracts were short, only two pages, written by me, because I thought that was all I needed. Over time, I came to realize I was wrong. People wanted stuff, and I came to realize I wanted some things, too, so they got added, and the contract grew. 

One time, a prospect said to me, “I don’t know how to write a book. I need you to show me how.” That became part of the contract.

Another time, a prospect demanded a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Since I didn’t have a problem with that (I’m interested in doing the work, not stealing an idea), that went into the contract.

A third example was when I gave the prospect a choice: pay a higher amount over seven equal payments or pay one discounted lump sum up front. He chose the seven payments, so into the contract it went.

Today, my contract is five pages, written by an attorney. I recommend the expense. It’s a wise investment.

From experience and online research, here are six contract parts I recommend:

Introduction. This also could be called “Purpose” or “Preamble.” It identifies the parties (that is, the client and ghostwriter), defines the relationship, and includes dates the contract becomes valid and when it is complete. It could include the book title if it has been determined.

Scope of work. This part defines the actual work to be done, the roles everyone will play in the work, and how long it is expected to take. In ghostwriting, that covers the process by which the sides will meet and exchange information so the book can be written. It also covers how long the project is expected to take and any deadlines, how the chapters will be disseminated, what kind of feedback will be given, and how will revisions be handled.

If the title hasn’t been finalized (and it often isn’t until later), this section might include who has final decision over the title. If the ghostwriter is to be named on the cover, this could mentioned here.

One paragraph I always include is that there is no guarantee that the work will be published. While I always tell clients I do my damnedest to write a high-quality, publishable manuscript because it benefits me, my brand, and my business to do so, I’m not in the publishing field, so I can’t promise. 

Payment terms. This covers how much will be paid. I include the total amount and sometimes give the client a choice of paying a discounted full amount up front or paying a larger amount broken down into several payments starting with a non-refundable deposit. The payments can be monthly, weekly, bimonthly, quarterly, or when certain agreed-upon benchmarks are met. If applicable, the payment due date is also included. There’s also language to cover what happens when payment becomes delinquent.

I include other non-financial terms as well: a free copy of the book, if published; the right to use the book’s title, cover, and summary in my marketing materials, and for the client to write a testimonial for my social media and website.

Cancellation/termination policy. This covers when payments don’t need to be made, and how to trigger the policy. For example, I give the clients the right to cancel the project within 30 days and they pay only the deposit. However, if they cancel after 30 days, I am entitled to the full fee.

Legal stuff. This is a sort of catch-all in which all legal aspects are covered. These include who holds rights, including copyrights (I never claim those); what legal remedies are there and the venue, confidentiality and NDAs, indemnifications, releases, assignments, waivers, integrations, and severability.

Signature line. All parties must sign and date the document. Electronic signatures are covered here, too.

These recommended parts do not have to be in the order presented. But they’re all important, and without any of them, the contract is incomplete. For more information, or to hire a ghostwriter, reach out to Lee Barnathan.

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