Understanding the Costs of Hiring a Ghostwriter

How much would it cost to write my book?”

That’s a common question, one that I’m always happy to answer. I believe direct answers are most helpful. I charge a dollar per word to ghostwrite.

Now, I really enjoy talking to people about their book concepts. After all, I’ve worked with dozens of clients over the last seventeen years and have had the privilege of writing their books with them. It is wonderfully rewarding!

Some prospective clients have very good ideas and just need help. However, occasionally there are those calls which frustrate me beyond belief. One occurred the other day…

A little story

I was right in the middle of the last chapter of a memoir I was ghostwriting for a client when the phone rang. Normally, I don’t like to be interrupted while writing, as it breaks my creative flow, but I worried that it might be a writer with a question, so I picked up (I also coach budding writers from time to time).

“Hello?” I asked.

“Is this Laura Sherman?” the young woman asked, her voice slightly demanding.

Oh my… It wasn’t a good start. I was brought up to identify myself on the phone and dislike it when people don’t bother to give their name before asking me for mine.

“Yes, it is,” I said, with a sigh. I wasn’t in the mood to correct her. At least the woman didn’t seem like a telephone solicitor.

“I want to hire a ghostwriter to write my book, because I just don’t have the time to write it myself.”

“That makes sense,” I said. She had voiced a common plea. Most of my clients are busy executives, with very little extra time. “And to whom am I speaking?” (hint hint)

She paused for a moment, probably weighing the pros and cons of telling me her name. “Joyce.” (Okay, that wasn’t really her name, but I’m a ghostwriter, so I can embellish.)

The Interview with Joyce

“Hello, Joyce,” I said. “What’s your book about?”

“My life story,” was all she offered. “What are the steps involved with hiring someone to write my book.”

I gave her a brief overview of how the process works, letting her know it would probably require a couple dozen interviews, spread out over a ten month period. I explained how it takes a ghostwriter hundreds of hours to write a book. She asked a few more questions then got to the big one.

“So, how much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?”

“Well, that depends. How long will your book be?”

“About two hundred pages,” she said.

“That’s a good length. I charge a dollar per word,” I said. “So, I’d charge $50,000. What’s your budget?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of money to spend.”

Just what every ghostwriter wants to hear. “Well, how much did you want to spend?”

“I don’t know, maybe a thousand dollars? I know that probably isn’t enough, right?”

“No, it isn’t,” I agreed.

A Ghostwriter’s fee

No one can charge a thousand dollars for ten months work, not even starving ghostwriters. However, I always like to try to help everyone who contacts me.  “Look, I know a few editors who are looking to branch out into writing. If you’re interested in writing a short, one-hundred page book, I could talk to one of them about maybe coming down to ten thousand dollars. That’s low, but possible.”

“I don’t have that kind of money.”

“Then you’ll probably need to write the book yourself,” I said. “If you did manage to find someone willing to write your book for a thousand dollars, it probably wouldn’t come out well. Then you’d be stuck hiring someone else to rewrite it.”

She then asked me what would happen after the book was written and I gave her a rundown on what an author needs to do to sell a book, such as creating and maintaining marketing websites.

“I’m not good with computers, so I can’t do any of that,” she said.

Yes, there’s a learning curve

“You’ll need to learn,” I said. My bluntness sometimes gets me into trouble, but I find it’s better to be upfront than beat around the bush. “Even if you get a publisher, you’ll need to do your own marketing. That’s part of being an author these days.”

“So, how can I find a ghostwriter?”

“If you’re able to scrape together ten thousand dollars, I can ask around for you.”

“But that would be for a good writer,” she replied. “What if I just wanted to find a writer who will do it for one thousand dollars?”

I have to admit I was speechless for a moment. Finally, I tried to repeat that anyone willing to write a book for a thousand dollars wasn’t someone she’d want to hire, but she cut me off and said, “OK, thank you!” and hung up.

Moral of the story

If you’re serious about writing a book, you will find a way. Either by hiring a good, qualified ghostwriter or by making the time to write it yourself.

Now, if you’ve read this article and you are interested in hiring a ghostwriter, I would love to hear from you.

If you’re interested in learning more about the writing process, please check out these other blog article topics:

Character Development

How to Handle Criticism

Avoiding Distractions

How to Complete a Book