If you’re wondering how much to charge for ghostwriting, especially if you’re just getting started in the business; the good news is that there is an easy way to determine this. Much of it depends on your experience, of course, but even beginning writers can make a good living at ghostwriting if they are familiar with some of the basics.
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Some Basic Understandings About Ghostwriting
Ghostwriters can charge more if they are more specialized or more experienced, and the least expensive ghostwriters are usually found on some type of bidding site, which means you won’t have to pay much for their services. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for, and often you end up spending more later on to correct their mistakes.
There is also the problem of national ghostwriters versus ghostwriters from other countries. Ghostwriters who live in other countries are sometimes less expensive than Western writers, but you have to make sure they understand Western culture and vocabulary. If they don’t, it can directly affect the quality and content of their writing.
Ghostwriters who are reasonably priced – not cheap – include those who charge roughly $20,000 to $80,000 for a book that is 200-300 pages in length. In countries such as Canada, ghostwriters often charge a minimum of $25,000 for a book of the same length.
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It also depends on whether the ghostwriter you choose is with an agency or working solo. You can save yourself expensive fees by working with a ghostwriter not associated with an agency, and in most cases you can still get the same quality writing.
Ghostwriters take many things into consideration when determining what to charge their clients. These include how long the book will be, the complexity of the topic, and the proposed deadline, among others. These writers specialize in this type of work, and they are usually well read and culturally savvy, so they can write about many topics with authority and authenticity.
The experts, of course, cost a little more, but these ghostwriters are usually celebrity journalists or authors of already-published books who are very well known. Most expert ghostwriters are based out of New York and work with agencies, and they usually receive large advances with the expectation that the book will be finished in one year or less.
Expert ghostwriters usually receive advances of between $50,000 and $250,000, and they are expected to do all of the research, writing, and of course, editing. More often than not, these types of ghostwriters are used only by celebrities because their fees are quite high.
How Do Ghostwriters Charge?
If you are a ghostwriter and wish to learn how much to charge for ghostwriting, there are several basic ways to do this, including:
- By the word: from 50¢ to $3.00
- By the hour: from $50 to $150
- By the project: from $10,000 to $30,000 for 100-200 pages; $20,000 to $50,000 for 200-300 pages
- By the page: from $4 to $40
- A percentage of your profits
- A combination of any of the above
Stories that are ghostwritten and include the words “as told to” on the cover sometimes pay less than other ghostwriting projects, but you get a byline and some credit for your writing. If you receive no credit, many places will want to pay $30 to $150 per hour. As you can see, fees vary according to the experience of the writer, whether or not they work with an agency, and many other aspects.
When you decide to skip the byline and the credit, you can make more money initially, especially since you can usually charge up to 50% of the profits in addition to your regular fees. You also have to get specific about what is and isn’t included in the payments. “Research” can mean many different things, and if you visit the beach for some “research,” your subject may not want to pay you for that.
This is why a very detailed, agreed-upon contract must be written up, with both sides being happy about what’s in it. Fees can vary quite a bit between different projects and different companies and agencies, so as a ghostwriter, you have to decide what is most fair to you as the writer.
Some Standard Fees for Standard Projects
A lot of the rules for ghostwriting fees depend on the type of project you’ve been hired to do. Naturally, a book, an article, or any other item of writing is going to vary because of the project’s details. However, below are a few things to remember for each of these.
For books, there are several things you need to consider when trying to determine your fees. How long is the book projected to be? How much research will you have to do, based on your current experience? In many instances, you can estimate how many hours the project will likely take, which means your fee will boil down to how much money per hour you’d like to make. If you want $50 per hour, for example, multiply that number by the number of hours you think it will take to write the book, then add 10 hours to the total to give you some leeway for the unexpected.
Of course, when developing your bid, you can give the client a total dollar amount. If asked how you got the total, you can always explain it to the client. If you prefer, you can spell everything out and list the number of hours you have estimated times the dollar amount. The high end of a ghostwriting fee for a book is $50,000, while the low end is around $5,000, with most ghostwriters landing somewhere in between those two numbers.
Books usually take longer to write than the ghostwriter was expecting, so you need to be prepared for that. You also have to get along with your client, because the two of you will be spending a lot of time together during the process.
Figuring out how much to charge for ghostwriting when you’ve been tasked to write an article for a magazine or a blog offers many different options, including:
- Per word
- Per hour
- Per month
- Per project
If you charge per word, month, or hour you’ll have to keep track of your time or your exact word count, which many writers simply do not want to do. If you write for someone regularly – say, for a blog – you can even put them on retainer and charge a certain amount for a certain number of words and/or articles per month.
Things to Consider When Deciding Your Fees
Of course, if you’re new to ghostwriting and you need to determine what your fees are, there are things you need to consider before you decide for certain. Each of these things will directly affect your final number, so it is worthwhile to take these things into consideration. They include:
- Do you know everything about the project? This includes the length of the book, how much research you will need to conduct, the deadline, and how much you’ll have to work directly with the client.
- Miscellaneous factors, such as how many free revisions you’ll make before you charge the client and how involved those revisions might be.
- Consider your hourly rate and the best way to make that much money at the end. Again, it is only an estimate of the hours, but you need some way to determine a rate for yourself.
- Always create a Scope of Work for the client. This document spells out everything that each side is responsible for, and it includes every single detail so that nothing is misunderstood in the end.
- Don’t forget to have both parties sign the contract, then make sure each of you gets a copy of it.
Having everything spelled out in detail is the smartest choice to make whenever a contract is involved. A ghostwriter is essentially a freelance writer, and freelancers should be well paid for their services. Whether your fee ends up being per-hour or per-project, you have to factor in what you’d like to make per hour, which requires an accurate estimate of how many hours the project may take.
Choose Some Good Incentives
In addition to regular fees, there are some incentives that are sometimes used that make the fees more attractive for the writer. If you’re a ghostwriter, you can ask for one of the following incentives if you have the experience to back them up. These should never be used alone, unless you’re a student or someone with no experience, but instead should be added onto the regular fee that you charge.
- A percentage of the back-end profits: in other words, a percentage of the royalties from the book. In return, you should offer to help with promotion and marketing of the book.
- Credit on the cover of the book: either this or a mention in the front of the book. Although many clients want their ghostwriter to remain just that, some will be alright with this option.
With the latter option, it definitely benefits the ghostwriter, because nothing is stronger than a well-written testimonial. Both of these incentives are negotiable and not mandatory; however, the better you are at ghostwriting, the more likely you’ll be to get one of them written into the contract.
Answering Your Clients’ Questions
You need to determine how much to charge for ghostwriting before you get your first client, and as you’ll find out, the fees are still likely to be negotiable when all is said and done. Just like you, your clients will have questions, and you’ll need to know how to answer them before you proceed. Here are a few of the questions they might ask you:
- Do you expect royalties if the book becomes a movie? This question usually only comes up if the client is already talking to a movie producer. You can ask for a modest royalty if you like, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Remember, you are just the ghostwriter.
- What are your suggestions for getting me an agent? If you do have to hire an agent for the client, don’t forget to write a good book proposal because you’ll need one. A book proposal should include sample chapters and outlines, and you can charge $10,000 to $18,000 for it.
- Can you hire an entertainment lawyer for me? An intellectual property lawyer should be hired, but you need to be careful and make sure the lawyer comes highly recommended. Don’t hire a friend of a friend, unless you know that person has the expertise and reputation you need.
Just like the actual writing, ghostwriters should charge for any additional services provided to the client. You have to take every possibility into consideration and look at the project from all angles if you want to end up with a fee that’s fair, which is a lot easier once you know what to do.
Some Additional Considerations
The length of the book and the deadline are just two of the many considerations when you’re determining how much to charge for ghostwriting, and when you’re deciding if you should take this job in the first place. These considerations include:
- Make sure you write down the details while they’re still fresh in your mind. Every time you work with your client, immediately write down everything he or she said. Revising and editing can come later.
- Make sure it is easy to get ahold of your client. When you need him, he should be there, especially because you’re likely to have a lot of questions for him along the way.
- If your client is paying by retainer, make sure to send regular milestones so he knows the progress of the book. Make sure this information is in the quote you send to the client.
Ghostwriting is a lucrative way to make a living, especially with all of the social media outlets that need blog and article writers on a continuous basis. It isn’t difficult determining a fee for these services, but first you’ll need to make sure you have the experience to charge what you wish to charge, and always remember that everything is negotiable.
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