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Writing Books/Faction Profits


I am just to embark on writing my first book which I think will be `faction` based on the remarkable story of a rather elderly (87years)English gentleman who is moderately well known. It was only in July of this year that he asked me to do the writing and that came as a great surprise. I thought that he would have a bunch of people lining up to do the job.

Last Year he married for the 2nd time, his first wife having died many years ago.

The story will centre upon him, but will be set against a llargely historical fictionalised background. Whilst I have no concerns about him and his adult children, I am mindful of his wife who is almost 40 years his junior. I wish to write to him and discuss the financial side of our relationship. I do not wish to become embroiled in lengthy correspondence between lawyers. I wish to enshrine agreement in an exchange of letters at the very outset.

So my quetions are:
1 - what percentage of publication profits granted to me should I share with him?

2 what percentage share of the same should I share with his personal representatives in the event of his death?

3 in the event of his death what percentage  of the same should I share with his wife (of some two years standing)?

I await heaing from you and send greetings from Bangor, Northern Ireland. Many thanks in anticipation

Hi David

Greetings from Melbourne, Australia!

This is tricky and I'm afraid I don't have a clear answer. If you are contracted as author and your name goes on the book's cover I don't think you owe the gentleman anything, but if you are ghost-writing this is a different scenario. I think practices and policies differ between countries, too.

Personally, I'd take the advice of your publisher (who can act as a mediator and provide a contract), or if you don't have a publisher, then you need to ask the advice of a writing centre, such as:

They SHOULD be able to help - for free.

You will own the copyright (I assume) so relatives don't need to be paid. This is a bit cold-hearted, I know!

Sorry to be vague, but do get back to me if you need further information.


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Paul Watt


Advice on rewriting PhD dissertations into books; advice on sending manuscripts to scholarly publishers; how copyediting works; what to expect in the production process; explain what to do if a university press rejects your manuscript. I do NOT assess manuscripts


10 years publishing experience at Addison Wesley Longman, and Cambridge University Press Australia and the United Kingdom

Bachelor of Music; Master of Arts; PhD is almost finished! I also teach in editing and publishing courses at university level, both undergraduate and graduate

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