How Much Should I Charge for Ghostwriting a Book?

I recently wrote this article for Demand Studios (dang, DS needs an affiliate program because I mention them 500 times a day!)

My Internet research tells me that a ghostwriter with nothing in their portfolio typically can charge $7,000 to $9,000 for writing a book. You don’t say! Geesh, I am shortchanging myself once again! I am ghostwriting a book right now and I am getting $100 plus royalties. Oh, and the right to market and sell the book myself for 50% of the retail. I took this one on because I believe in the book – How to Negotiate with Car Dealers. The book has all the dirty little secrets of car dealers in it. Watch for that to show up here by December!

Ahem. Sorry. I got sidetracked.

Anyway, what does an experienced ghostwriter get paid? $10,000 to $20,000 for writing a full length book says my Internet source.

Let’s take a peek at what the Writer’s Market says on the subject.

Under Book Publishing:

Ghostwriting, as told to: $50-$100 per hour (average $73) or $5,500-$51,000 per project (average $20,375)

Ghostwriting, no credit: $43-$100 per hour (average $30) or $1,500-$45,000 per project (average $18,850) or $1-$3 per word (average $1.63)

So, I should be charging at least $1,500 for my ghostwriting project. Maybe the royalties will work out that way. In that project, the buyer is feeding me info and I am basically vamping it up, so I don’t know how much of a ghostwrite that actually is.

What should you charge to ghostwrite a 200 page book when the buyer just gives you an idea and says run with it?

Considering that a 200 page book has approximately 300 words per page, Writer’s Market says to charge at least $1 per word. Which is a total of $60,000. Wow! Well, that is what Writer’s Market says! Don’t shoot the messenger! Even if we, for reality’s sake, cut that in half, you are still looking at $30,000! Or did I screw up the math? (Everyone knows I hate math!)

So, as a freelance writer who has never written for any celebrities (if I had, I darn well would charge 60 grand!), I am going to go with charging my clients roughly the same that I charge for articles, which is anywhere from .05 cents per word to .20 per word.

How do I determine who gets charged what? It depends on many factors.

  1. How desperate am I for some cash?
  2. How much research do I have to do?
  3. Is the client coming from an online venue or the real world?

Quite honestly, #1 plays a big factor. If my project board is empty, I may be more than willing to take on your project for the low end of the payscale. Especially if it is a project I can get excited about.

#2 is another biggy for me. If I am clueless about the subject you propose, I am going to charge way more for my research time. I shy away from these though because generally it is just not fun to write about topics that I cannot generate some passion about.

#3 is reality check time. Clients from online venues like Elance, Guru, etc. are looking for cheap outsourcing, not writers. Now, I don’t want to tick off my clients at Elance, but surely they will admit that the providers at Elance charge far far less than a real world writer. I get business from the real world, and I charge a much higher rate. And I must be doing okay with that because they keep coming back for more.

Next blog: You tell me. What do you want to know?

About Karen Y. Hamilton

Karen leads workshops in Creative Writing, Poetry and Journal Therapy, and Memoir Writing. She has studied genealogy and personal histories since 1987, lecturing and leading workshops on Memoir Writing and Journaling to the community since 1998. Karen holds a BA in English and has studied Literature, Business, and Education at the graduate level. She is a former college instructor of English Composition and Reading. In the past, Karen has worked as a high school & middle school teacher. She currently works as a Curriculum Specialist and is an MFA Creative Writing student at Florida Atlantic University.
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