What Does a Ghostwriter Charge?

Since many business owners are too busy to write their own book, they want to explore the opportunity of working with a professional ghost writer. As a business book writing coach and project manager, it’s part of my job to interview ghost writers and find the best writer for the job. But before I even move to that stage, one of the first questions my client asks is, What does a ghostwriter charge?
Unfortunately, there’s no one answer to that question: writers’ fees are all over the map, and there are no fixed industry standards. A preliminary Google search turns up fees anywhere from $10,000 to $75,000 for an average-length book (300 printed pages or 60,000 words). Yet online job sites show writers accepting work for as low as $800 a book. Some employers offer even less; just today I saw a job paying $2.00 per 500-word article. Two dollars!
As an Independent Contractor, a writer has to pay taxes, maintain equipment, and pay a finder’s fee to a job site or agency.  Even at $3000 a book, a writer is working for less than minimum wage. Who’d work for less than minimum wage? Believe it or not, young writers just starting out are so gung-ho, they frequently do, which is unfortunate for the more experienced writers.  It’s common sense that a fledgling writer isn’t as skilled as one with a number of published books under her belt and 20 or 30 years of experience – and I don’t only mean experience with writing. A person who’s been around the block a few times is familiar with a wide variety of subjects, and probably has at least some passing knowledge of your field of business. You do get what you pay for in this world!
With so many writers working freelance, it can be confusing to decide who to hire, especially sight unseen.  Ideally, you’ll want to, at least, see some previous work to find out if you like someone’s writing. A legitimate writer is glad to provide samples, and on sites like Guru.com or Elance.com you can access them before you even contact the writer. These sites also post feedback on the writer’s performance from previous employers. Here you might even get an idea of the kind of pay the writer is accustomed to – frequently less than what she or he initially asks for. This doesn’t mean you should low-ball them. Hidden resentment from an underpaid writer can lead to conflict during the work process. On the other hand, a happy ghostwriter is a good ghostwriter, so paying well is in your best interest. Which brings us to:


How much does it cost to ghostwrite a book?

The fee for a 200-300 page manuscript to be completed in 3-6 months starts at around $10,000 and goes up to $20,000-plus. The more you provide in the way of extensive notes, outline, or rough draft, the lower the cost. Other variables include timeline, length, and publishing assistance. If the writer has to conduct research, for instance, the fee will be higher.
For subjects that require knowledge of specialized language, such as finance, law, or any other specialty, cost is normally higher: $25,000 – $40,000. If the client has a written draft, the price will be on the lower end; if more time is needed to produce a book based mainly on verbal communication, it will be higher.
What does the ghostwriter’s fee cover?
The fee to ghostwrite your book covers all interview time between writer, client, and any other participants necessary to obtain the required information. It includes all research time, writing, editing, rewriting, and it can include finding an agent to represent you, or even finding a publisher. The ghostwriter’s fee does not include travel or lodging, although travel time is included.

How are fees paid to the ghostwriter?

Most writers require an initial deposit of one-third the total to begin work, another third paid at the mid-point of the project, and the final third upon completion. Some writers prefer monthly payments after an initial deposit at the start.

How long does it take to complete a book?

A well-organized, average-length book usually takes from three to six months to complete.
A faster turn-around may be possible, but can also raise the fee. If you have a draft of your book, or extensive notes and sketches, the work can go faster. If a lot of research is involved, then more time is needed.
Does a ghostwriter use a contract?
The ghostwriter is an Independent Contractor who usually wants a signed contract with the first payment. The contract should include the working title of the book, amount and schedule of fees, copyright agreement, and confidentiality. Additionally, stipulations are usually included regarding termination of contract, arbitration in case of disagreement, and miscellaneous matters such as complimentary copies and deadlines for portions of the book, if any. If the writer does not have her own contract, one can be obtained from a writers’ organization like the National Writers Union or the Editorial Freelancer’s Association.

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