Monday, January 22, 2007

Can you say work-for-hire?

John McDonald was a long-time editor at Fortune and the ghostwriter of Alfred P. Sloan's My Years at General Motors. McDonald's posthumous book, A Ghost's Memoir, recounts his collaboration with Sloan and the story of how GM's lawyers, convinced that Sloan's memoir would hurt the company in its ongoing antitrust battle with the US government, tried to kill the book. Sloan agreed to bury it, but McDonald sued GM to force publication and won.

Notwithstanding the fact that McDonald's chutzpah in taking on the world's largest corporation resurrected what turned out to be a classic of the business genre, the story serves as an important cautionary tale for anyone thinking about hiring a ghostwriter. Make sure you own full rights to your book! It's called a work-for-hire contract and it ensures that the ghost can't force you to do anything with it that you don't want to do. There are couple of more tips on hiring and working with a ghost in this article I wrote for Chief Executive last year.

No comments: