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Ghostwriters and Client Confidentiality


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Priests, doctors and lawyers all have something in common. . .

Insert punch line here: _.

Okay, now that's out of the way. . .

They have something else in common. Confidentiality. A priest can't rat you out to your neighbors if you confess to being the one who egged their houses on Halloween. A doctor can't tell everyone at the cocktail party about the nasty infection you have from doing _ and failing to _. Your lawyer can't call the DA's office and advise them of some potential weaknesses in your testimony a few days before the trial starts.

Maybe “can't" is a little strong. The law does carve out a few exceptions in very specific situations and more than one member of “Team Secret" has improperly spilled the beans, but none of those people are supposed to be sharing the details of your interactions.

You should have at least as much faith in your ghostwriter to keep things hush-hush. Anyone ghostwriting or doing writing on a “work for hire" basis should be just as tight-lipped as a priest, doctor or lawyer.

I was inspired to address this topic after noticing another writer mentioning where some of his/her work was appearing online, even though the materials were ghostwritten and (intentionally) didn't have a byline. Although the comments weren't the kind of thing that would be likely to crush a project and didn't necessarily represent a reason for the buyer to be annoyed with the writer, they did get me thinking about how writers should approach confidentiality concerns.

Personally, as a writer I know how to keep a secret. Here's what that means to my clients:

  • You can discuss your projects and plans, even before we reach an agreement, without worrying about having them shared with competitors and others. I will make sure that understanding is part of our written record of communication or will gladly sign a non-disclosure agreement or any other document assuring you that your secrets are safe.
  • You don't have to worry about me turning down an assignment, doing it for myself, and reaping the rewards.
  • You own the writing upon payment and that means more than reaping the financial rewards. It also means I won't be telling the rest of the world what I wrote and for whom.
  • The work won't end up as one of my portfolio samples without your expressed consent. If you do agree to let me use part of the work to hawk my wares, it will be provided to others in the form of a PDF file, not as another readily-accessible web page. I won't tell others where it appears, etc. It will also be given only to prospective clients who expressly agree to maintain an appropriate level of discretion.
There are a lot of things to consider when one outsources a key component of their online business to a writer. Confidentiality concerns might not be the first thing on the list that come to mind, but they can be important.

If you are buying “work for hire, " deal with someone who can keep a secret.

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