That’s a common question, one that I’m always happy to answer when an client interviews me. Direct answers are best, I find. The answer is that I charge a dollar per word to ghostwrite and $145 per hour to consult (and I can get a lot done in one hour).
I will admit that I really enjoy talking to people about their book concepts. After all, I’ve worked with dozens of clients over the last twenty 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.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Is this Laura Sherman?” the young woman asked, her voice slightly demanding.
Oh my… It wasn’t a good start. My parents taught me to identify myself on the phone. I 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 sound 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’s your ghostwriting process?”
I gave her a brief overview, explaining how 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. Then she asked a few more questions before she 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.”
“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. “Not if you want me to write the book for you. I could coach you on writing your book, but you’d need to write it yourself.”
“No. I don’t want to do that. I want you to write it,” she said.
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, that price is possible. It’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.”
Then she asked me about the publishing process. So I gave her a rundown on what an author needs to do to sell a book.
“I’m not good with computers, so I can’t do any of that,” she said.
Authors need to learn about marketing
“You’ll need to learn,” I said. My bluntness sometimes gets me into trouble. However, 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.”
She didn’t seem very interested in this part of the discussion. “So, how can I find a ghostwriter?”
“If you’re able to scrape together ten thousand dollars, I can ask around for you.”
She paused then said, “But that would be for a good writer. What if I just wanted to find a writer who will do it for one thousand dollars?”
I have to admit I was gobsmacked, as my British friends would say. 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 hire a good, qualified ghostwriter or make the time to learn how to write a book then write it yourself. If you choose to write your own book, consider hiring me as a consultant. I can help you with outlining, rewrites, dialogue, character arcs, etc.
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: