Recently, a writer I worked on a screenplay with hit it big. When I say “big”, I mean they sold their project for “upper six figures” a level of success that, when I heard it, blew me away. Yes, many previous there are stories of ghostwriting success with my clients. Some have sold their projects, some even for big money.
But “upper six figures”? I was floored.
This very scenario comes up quite often during ghostwriting interviews. Prospective clients usually want to know what happens when their project sells. They ask a lot of good questions like, are you entitled to any of those proceeds? Is there any more money owed once we’re done?
The way my contract is written, the client owns the work they hired me after we are done. That means I’m not entitled to receive any money beyond the final payment once our relationship surrounding that work has been completed.
Sure, I may want a copy of the book… but that doesn’t mean royalties.
The Goal Of Ghostwriting
I have spoken to a few ghostwriters over the years who have expressed bitterness when their client projects sell for big money. I remember the first time I heard such a thing while sharing a drink in a hotel bar. How did I feel? I was floored.
Let’s take a step back and acknowledge something. Most ghostwriters are either authors themselves (meaning they’re writing and publishing books under their own names concurrently while ghostwriting) or they have, at one time or another, tried their hand at becoming an author.
Does this mean that some ghostwriters are jealous of client success? I can’t say for sure, but it sounds like it.
Success is the goal of any writing project. A writer should always write, whether for our own work or for others, with an eye on reaching their target audience. A ghostwriter gets paid for their writing, but the best understand that they’re being paid for their best writing.
Ghostwriting success: The Risk Involved
In a standard ghostwriting situation, the client assumes a lion’s share of the risk upfront. They agree to pay good money to a writer, without any guarantee of project success in return. Many people overlook this, but it’s true.
However skilled and experienced a writer might be, there is no guarantee the project will sell.
Where does the risk come in for the ghostwriter?
Well, if the ghostwriter can be seen as taking any kind of risk (which is a dubious way of looking at the whole situation) it comes with the possibility of the project selling for big money. The writing that went out and made the client money could have been put toward our writing.
Why should this be an issue though? The truth is that this really shouldn’t be an issue.
In ghostwriting we create a piece of writing (or improve an existing piece of writing) that the client can sell. Taking this upside-down logic in a little different direction, it would be like a home remodeler harboring bitterness when a house they worked on sold for over asking price.
Why would you? That kind of success should go in your resume!
Success Is Difficult, So Celebrate It
Once I heard this good news, I reached out and contacted the client myself. I couldn’t simply hear the word without congratulating him.
After reaching my client (which took some doing because he’s a really busy guy) I said what I had to say. I told them I was happy about their success. I said I would celebrate tonight almost as if it was one of my screenplays that had sold.
Why did I say that? Because it was true. Because success in writing is really tough, however skilled or experienced you are.
Why not celebrate it?
I hope this addressed some of your interest in ghostwriting success. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.