Monday, September 7, 2009

Dear Kerrie: Ghost Writing

If you have a writing conundrum, leave your question for me in the comment section.

Dear Kerrie,

I have a question that I'm wondering if you can answer or point me in the right direction. I was recently the writer on a book project for a company, and one of the people involved has asked me to help her be a writer on her book. Do you know how such arrangements are usually handled in the industry as far as payment to the writer (by the hour, page, a set fee or a percentage of the royalties)? I would most likely be named as the writer on the book.


Dear Alexa, defines ghost writer as, "a person who writes one or numerous speeches, books, articles, etc., for another person who is named as or presumed to be the author." So, what you are being asked to do is ghost write this book.

There is an easy way to find out what the current industry standards are for different types of writing jobs. In the front portion of every Writers Market is a section called, "What Should I Charge." Here you will find a chart that explains low, medium and high averages of various jobs like copyediting, PR for businesses, newsletters, reviews...and ghost writing. It shows these with a per project, per hour and other rate.

In the 2009 Writer's Market, ghostwriting an as-told-to (which is what you are doing) ranges from $50-$100 per hour or $5,500-$51,000 per project. You are going to need to decide which approach is going to work best for you.

Some things to think about:
  • How much time do you anticipate spending on this? If this is your first ghostwriting project, it might be hard to tell. If that is the case, an hourly might be better. Then you will have to decide if you want to be paid as you go or when the whole project is complete.

  • Do you want to do the writing for a minimal charge, but then get royalties as well?

  • Is the book being published by a traditional publisher or being self published? If the person hiring you is going the traditional route, is there already a publisher interested? If not and the person still wants you to write it, then I would highly recommend going with an hourly or project payment (maybe even get it in portions as you finish different parts). That way if the book doesn't get picked up by a publisher, you still get paid for your time.

    If it is being self-published, is this a person who is a speaker and is able to get the book in front of many people each year. If so, then royalties might be a way to go if the person has a good book keeping system. If the person is not a speaker, then it might be more difficult to sell (therefore making a case for a per hour/project rate).
I know this is a lot to think about-but remember it is a business. As a writer, you need to be compensated for your time. Good Luck!


p.s. Are there any readers out there who are Ghost Writers? Do you have any additional advice for Alexa?



Alexa said...

Great information, Kerrie. Thank you for addressing my question in your blog!

Lissa A. Forbes said...

Just one comment/clarification: even speakers have trouble selling a sizable number of books.

Writing is only part of the picture. It's important to have a good marketing plan. So you might want to decide if you're willing to do the marketing piece or if you know someone in your network you can refer you client to. Of course, that will be more outlay for the client.

I can only assume here, but I'm guessing the ghostwriter who charges $50,000 is also offering some marketing expertise.

Lissa A. Forbes
Self-published author

Lissa A. Forbes said...


I too appreciate this post because as familiar I am with Writer's Market, I didn't know they had ghostwriter's fees in the front. Thank you for highlighting this.

Lissa A. Forbes
The Elemental Press

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