The Right Way to Think About What You’re Worth…

By Robert Bruce Woodcox

Talking about oneself is generally not the way to begin an article that enlightens others, but it is necessary to talk about why you should listen to me carefully as you read this.

Most of you ghostwriters are not charging enough for your talents, time, education, experience and the results of a job well done. But then, Marcia has had discussions about that and for good reason…it’s a fact! I know this from long experience.

I started my own international marketing and advertising agency in 1972 after graduation from college. I ran that for 25 years and had clients all over the globe at a young age, so I know a few things about customer relations, contracts, how to find new clients, how to charge properly and how to protect your professional interests and checking account. I also know a great deal about sales, not to mention, advertising, marketing and writing. After I sold that agency, I decided to become a professional ghostwriter (the word/title, sounded mysterious and kind of sexy). There were no classes or courses for such a calling, so being an entrepreneurial soul, I just jumped in with both feet and started.

 Since that day 27 years ago, I’ve written three of my own books, one of which was a Los Angeles Times Bestseller (2000) and is still selling well on Amazon to this day, albeit either as used, or ripped off by others due to the expiration of my copyright rights. I also was a Pulitzer Prize nominee for fiction in 2012 (though they did not give out the prize that year for the first time in history. They said there wasn’t any fiction good enough for them to consider.) Don’t believe me? Google it. (Also had something to do with Oprah shutting down her book club.)

During my tenure as a ghost and editor and coach and book doctor, and mentor to other ghosts (for the business side of ghosting), I have also written 50 other books for clients; from fiction, to business, to legacies and life stories, etc.

So, there you have it. I might sound boastful and arrogant, but you have to know—I know what I’m talking about, and I want to share that wisdom and experience with you both with respect to how to price your services fairly and equitably and how to fill yourself with confidence.

My first ghostwriting client was a WWII veteran and was 92. He chain smoked for eight hours a day while I interviewed him in his kitchen with all the windows closed. It took four months and I charged him $7,500 (remember this was a long time ago), but still! After that experience, I decided I wasn’t charging enough for obvious and not so obvious reasons. So, my next book, I charged $10,000 for a memoir for another elderly man, another WWII vet—he didn’t blink at the price, so the year after that, I raised it to $15,000 and so on and so forth as I gained more courage and realized my value, meaning just how long it took, how difficult it sometimes was/is, and the value my clients were deriving from my collaboration with them.

To make a long story short, about 20 years ago, I joined a group of well known, high powered, very personalized group of top notch ghostwriters who were charging an average of $150,000 per book, all about my age. I couldn’t believe they were getting that much, but they convinced me to raise my then, $45,000 fee to $100,000. I was reluctant, but did it anyway. The amazing thing was that, my business began to flourish not languish. The more I charged, the more clients I got, and the better the jobs and clients were. (I’ve also worked for several well known celebrities). I’d raised the bar on my own expectations and it worked. Now, I charge about $150k and up to $250k for some of the more complex jobs and I get it. I’m still amazed in many ways. In many ways, clients “assume” that if you’re charging that much, you must be worth it. And this happens most of the time. If you are charging $20k Google Adwords is so prevalent, most people searching for a ghostwriter have done plenty of homework. They know that the “good ones” are in a much higher range….and they want a “good one.”

The point to all this is, there is a way to charge what you’re worth for every job you entertain taking. In those days, Adwords was just beginning and it was a godsend for all the obvious reasons. For the first time, we ghosts could reach out across the globe to potential clients easily and quickly. Who could have afforded even a tiny ad in the full run New York or London Times….not me certainly, but with the advent of Google, I could, and for pennies compared to the above media.

So, our world is an international world and we ghosts are international in scope, appearance and capabilities. We are “real” players on the world stage, which means, you can “appear” to be anything you want, if you back it up even a little bit. Just like when I opened my ad agency, I had to “fake it till I made it,” in a manner of speaking. I realized early on that you are what you want to appear to be, if you have the hutzpah, and some credentials. In fact, a lot of strong credentials aren’t necessary in many cases.

When someone wants to write a life story, for example, they are usually being told by their friends, “Oh Martha, you must get all this down on paper, you must capture your story, you must share it,” type of thing. Martha thinks about it for quite some time and then she decides to pull the trigger and follow her friend’s advice to look for a ghostwriter on, what else, Google. If your Adword ad is pulling well, or any other well distributed media, your name comes up along with whatever you want to project. Are you specializing in life stories….clients love specialists! If you’ve designed your ads well, and your site, you can obviously include testimonials, quotes, past book jacket covers you’ve ghostwritten (see my site at: for samples of ideas, and a host of other CV type info that is the subject of another blog/essay.

If you have any sales background, customer service background, understanding of human behavior, etc., you’ll do well in your first conversation and then follow typical sales techniques to a path of signing Martha up to a contract for XXX amount of dollars. In fact, if you’re fairly new to ghosting, you’ll probably find yourself doing much better in a Zoom or phone call than even you imagined you would. That “charge” of adrenaline is good and brilliant thoughts and solutions will just roll off your tongue, because, after all, you are a professional ghostwriter, a specialist! And, you know your stuff.

Self confidence plays a big part in all this and of course, the pricing of it. You are what you say you are if you have the chops to express yourself as “the ideal person to fit Martha’s needs because you are what I call an Active Listener and a Critical thinker. And, you have nothing to be worried about. When you first utter those words after having been asked by Martha, “How much is this going to cost me?” You can confidently say, “$100,000” or whatever is appropriate given where you are now on the price spectrum.

In my years of coaching and mentoring ghostwriters and writers, I have found that most start at about $20,000 to $35,000 for a full length memoir, business book. And that may be appropriate for “some books,” but you’ll never know which ones until you reach higher and test the marketplace. However, you have to start somewhere and you’ll need more past books for your website to show off and prove it. But even then, there are ways to make what you might think are very minor accomplishments, look bigger than they are. One of the women I consulted for had done articles for the New York Times and others that had cache names. I told her, even if you’ve only written a book review or a guest editorial, you did still work for the Times and you can use their name on your site along with any other big names you may have done small jobs for. Brand names say alot. People assume too much, usually. If you’re one of the lucky ones, and you’re already getting $45-$60K for books, this all pertains to you as well. Yes, it’s fine to do some work for this and maybe one or two books a year at this level is all you’ll need…but you MUST know, YOU are capable of far more if you know how to sell yourself (I can help you with that as a counselor/consultant by the hour. See my other site: I can teach you how to sell yourself up to the hundreds of thousands range). However, for now, you need to walk away from this article feeling you CAN earn this kind of money. I did it, you can too.

My first book was $7,500 as mentioned above. My second one a year later was $20k and every year after that for the next five years I was stuck at $45k all because of ONE reason—-I thought that’s what I was worth and/or what I could get away with. That was until I met those eight incredible ghosts and we did Zooms for two hours once a month and shared ideas about contracts, promoting ourselves, sharing our challenges with clients, etc., etc., etc. When one of them, Glenn Plaskin (Google him) who has been a dear friend for about 20 years now told me I was a fool for only charging $45k (he was charging $100k 20 years ago!! And he had no more brains than you or me, he just has hutzpah and the right attitude, as I have learned over the years for myself. He said, “Robert, what have you got to lose? Put down $100k in your Adword ads, or wherever, and see if you don’t get some hits. You can always go back to your old rates! It was easy to change my ads and within a couple weeks I got my first call. It was a high end businessman in New York who wanted to write a combination life story/business book. He was a high level management type with Apple and he had a lot to say. I only had about five books to my credit at the time, but to be honest, I also had one bestseller of my own under my belt, so I played that up to the hilt on my site. I also wrote my site and designed it with great confidence. The result was a professional appearance of a highly sought after ghostwriter. Or, at least a sharp business person who understood people’s needs when wanting to tell their stories.

It’s all about appearances backed up with confidence and a bit of a “gambler’s personality.” Indeed, I had nothing to lose. If he balked at my price, I would just say something akin to, “You get what you pay for,” but far more eloquently. I demonstrated my self taught knowledge of the publishing world, how agents worked, how the business of ghostwriting worked and basically wowed him with my accomplishments. I was always able to make small successes look bigger. However, the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of this asking for $100k or more in addition to all of the above is: the first thing you do on any incoming ghosting call is to “connect” to the caller as a human being, not a writer necessarily, and certainly not as a salesperson! This is a time worn “technique” or attitude of every sales person in the world—first make a human connection as one person with feelings, ideas and goals, to another. Listen, don’t talk more than you have to. Callers generally like to spill their guts, so let them and pay attention. Sales and thus pricing have always been about this rule, at least for good sales people and that is exactly what you’re doing, selling your talents, knowledge, experience, but mostly selling “yourself.”

Once you’ve done that, the smiles and maybe even a few laughs will follow and your conversation will flow like hot oil over a chrome bumper. MAKE YOURSELF CONFIDENT. Charge as much as you think this market (your caller) will bear. The worst thing that can happen is they can hang up, or say no thanks. So what, you’re on to the next one and you can examine what you could have done better and get better with the next one. You’ll know what mistakes you made, trust me.

Of course, there is far more to the depth of what we do beginning with reeling that big fish up to the gunnels of the boat and then into it. But space doesn’t allow too much more here. I can promise you if you’re charging, let’s say $40k, like most of my consulting clients do, you are worth $100k. And, what will happen even if you feel you’re a little over your head and you do get the job, your subconscious will take over, your instincts will guide you, your good sense of “connecting” with another human will carry the day for you. If you don’t put yourself on the line, you’ll never know any of this. And your first $100k book will have an incredible effect on you. You will breathe easier as you move along what is pretty much a simple path to creating a good outlines, then knowing how to interview well and how to make another “human being” feel confident in you and comfortable and you WILL end up doing the best work of your young career, or even your old one.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Marcia Layton Turner


  1. Carol on March 29, 2024 at 12:16 pm

    Would love to hear more about Google ads, which I’m not doing… maybe a follow-up post about those for ghostwriters, Marcia?

    Thanks so much for this post!

Leave a Comment