Everyone Wants a Book: What to Charge as a Ghostwriter

*Guest post by Jerry Nelson an American freelance writer living the expat life in Argentina. You can find him at any of hundreds of sidewalk cafes and hire him through Fiverr.

Originally published on Medium.


Everyone wants to write a book about their life. Many, who recognize writing is not in their skill set want to pay a professional writer to write the story for them.

A ghost has only a lay knowledge of the client/subject and can keep asking the same questions as the lay reader, and may open up the potential readership of the book to a much wider audience.

Setting the obvious benefit of a wider audience aside, most clients don’t have a clue what professional ghostwriters may charge.

Clients and Ghostwriters Can Both Get Confused

Clients are confused about ghostwriting rates. Writers also get befuddled and wonder if they should ask for payment during the writing, a deposit before beginning or just a share of the book royalties.

Clients can be forgiven for being confused. There is no excuse for professional writers though. Writer’s Weekly suggests a per-project low of $5000 and a high of $100,000. The average cost comes in at $36,000 and the cost per word tends to run as low as 50-cents to a high of $3.00.

The correct price? Whatever the market will bear. As part of the calculation, there are other things to consider by the freelancer who wants to add ghostwriting to the stable of skills.

Ghostwriting Can be Lucrative

An experienced ghostwriter commands a higher fee than someone just starting out. The length of the book, in terms of word count, the amount of research needed and the amount of material provided by the client are also factored into the witch’s brew of price setting.

If royalties, or credit, are added in, they can change the negotiation as well as the rates. Also affecting the rates if whether the book is going to be self-published or if the author secures a name publisher. If a name publisher is used, royalties will have a higher value.

Ghostwriting can be lucrative, but without a track record, it can be tough to quantify the value of royalties and credit. So make sure to be paid appropriately for your efforts. Fame doesn’t pay the mortgage.

Many clients for ghostwriting services don’t realize skilled ghosting is expensive and freelance ghostwriting rates often spook them. It goes without saying that beginners should have a contract reviewed by an experienced, intellectual property attorney.

Here is an email exchange I recently had with someone who wanted to know about my ghostwriting rates. Many potential clients are as clueless about the rates and process as this person. But there are many who are knowledgeable about what it costs, the work involved and what it takes to ghostwrite a quality book.