As much as ghostwriters ask, “What should I charge?,” prospective authors ask, “What should I pay for a ghostwriter?”
And, of course, the answer is, it depends. It depends on a lot of things, actually, and no one-size-ghostwriter fits all.
While there are plenty of ghostwriters and content creators in other parts of the world who will charge you something along the lines of $10 for 10,000 words, I can almost guarantee that 9,999 of those words are not in the order that you would like them to be. When you need quantity, not quality, you may be willing to pay less. But when you’re working on a book, setting a low budget puts at risk the quality of the book and, therefore, your reputation.
What is your reputation worth?
I’m not saying that price is not or should not be a consideration. Of course, it is. What I’m saying is that if you have high standards and want a book that sits proudly alongside books produced by major publishers, you’re going to need to invest some money to obtain a quality product. As with all things, you get what you pay for.
Based on what I’ve heard from professional ghostwriters, I would expect an author to pay a ghostwriter between $10,000 and $100,000 for a typical trade business book that is approximately 45,000-50,000 words long. That’s a big range, certainly. So where you want to fall on that range will, in large part, be determined by what you ask of your ghostwriter.
The fee your ghostwriter quotes you will take into account a number of factors. Some of the project particulars that impact the fee include:
- Length of your book, in terms of total words. The longer the book, the more work involved, the higher the fee. Conversely, the shorter the book, the lower the fee.
- Amount of research needed. The more research required for your book that you do not have available to hand over means more work for the ghostwriter. The more work, the higher the fee. The less work, the lower the fee. Are you seeing a pattern yet?
- Deadline. The speed with which you need your book completed will require a higher fee because the ghostwriter will have to decline other paying projects in order to devote him or herself to your work.
- Number of decision-makers. When decisions about the book and its contents will be made by committee, rather than a single client, the price goes up. That’s due to the fact that committees rarely agree and having to negotiate compromises and alternate solutions takes time, which costs money.
- Rounds of revisions. Most ghostwriters include one or two rounds of edits as part of their book-writing fee. If you require more, or want to leave the amount of editing open-ended – meaning until you are completely satisfied – be prepared to spend a lot. There is a point at which everyone needs to agree that the book is done. Putting that date off will be expensive.
- Travel expenses. Are you asking your ghostwriter to meet in person or to travel for interviews? The more time and money it will take to get to you, the higher the ghostwriter’s fee.
- Project management responsibilities. Depending on whether you’re working with a traditional publisher, hybrid publisher, or are self-publishing, there may be production activities that someone needs to manage. This might include finding and hiring an editor, proofreader, indexer, graphic designer, and printer, for example. If you expect the ghostwriter to provide this service, that will require an additional fee.
Those are project-related considerations, but the type of individual ghostwriter you seek can also impact the price you are quoted. Other factors include:
- Amount of experience. Are you looking for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter or would you be content with an author who has written a couple of books? The more experience you desire, generally, the higher the fee.
- Advanced degrees. Is it important for your ghostwriter to have a master’s degree, or an MD or PhD in your field? If so, they will likely expect to be paid a premium.
- Multilingual. Will your book need to be translated into another language, or do you prefer someone who speaks a language other than English? You may have to pay more for such skills.
- Geographic preference. Where a ghostwriter is located may have no bearing on the price you are quoted, but requiring that they hail from a particular part of the country, or from an international location, may make it more difficult to find qualified candidates. You may need to lower your standards in other areas if this is your number one priority.
- Writing experience in your field. Finding a ghostwriter who has written frequently on your subject, or in your general topic area, will often cost a bit more.
- Ghost or collaborator. If you want a quality ghostwriter who assists you and remains anonymous, the fee will be higher, typically, than if you gave cover credit for your ghostwriter’s work.
- Hired through an agency. The advantage of working with a publishing firm or agency is that you can frequently get all the book production services you need under one roof. It saves you considerable time and can save you money in the long run. However, the agency is a business that needs to receive a fee for vetting ghostwriters and helping you make your choice. That fee is a mark-up tacked on to the ghostwriter’s own fee for the writing.
As you evaluate what combination of skills and project parameters will net you a book that achieves all of your objectives, keep an eye out for factors that you can use as negotiating levers. Need a book that is 45,000-words but don’t have a particular deadline? Share that. A long due date helps hold costs down. Want a ghostwriter with experience but not necessarily a bestseller under their belt? That will keep costs down, just as agreeing to work virtually and designating a key contact will also hold the line on costs.
Don’t settle for a ghostwriter who isn’t the best match for your topic, timeline, style, and budget.