A Ghostwriter’s Compensation: Pricing and More


Learn to calculate a ghostwriter's compensationIf you’re delving into the world of hiring a ghostwriter, you’re likely wondering about the financial aspect of this collaboration. How do ghostwriters charge for their services, and what factors influence their fees? Let’s dive into the intricacies of a ghostwriter’s compensation and shed light on this often mysterious subject.


Methods of Calculating a Ghostwriter’s Compensation


The skill, experience level, and ability vary from ghostwriter to ghostwriter, so naturally, you can expect each one to charge differently. Not only do their fees vary, but the methods they use to calculate those fees also differ. Here are four primary ways ghostwriters determine their compensation:


Per Project


High-end ghostwriters typically charge on a per-project basis. The range of prices you’ll encounter can be quite broad. Here’s an overview:


Cheap Ghostwriters: These writers charge anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 for a book. They’re readily available but are often less reliable. Beware of overly enticing offers and consider investing in plagiarism software to ensure the originality of your manuscript.


Mid-range Professional Ghostwriters: Expect the ghostwriter’s compensation to be between $15,000 and $100,000, depending on the project’s size and complexity. This category of writer is experienced and dependable, though they can be harder to find. Working with them ensures a deeper understanding of the writing process and a high-quality product.


Celebrity Ghostwriters: These are reserved for those with significant name recognition and budgets ranging from six to seven figures. These ghostwriters cater to the elite.


Per Word


Many professionals prefer calculating the ghostwriter’s compensation on a per-word basis. So you would let the ghostwriter know the rough word count and they would bid accordingly.

This method offers precision and transparency, with rates typically ranging from $0.50 to $2 per word. For instance, I charge one dollar per word.

If you are on a budget, be open with the ghostwriter about the figure you have in mind. That way they can help you find a realistic price point. For instance, the average book is 200 pages in length (or 50,000 words), so if a prospective client lets me know that they have a budget of $35,000, I might suggest they write a shorter book.




Charging by the hour is another approach, but it’s less common due to the unpredictability of book-writing timelines. On average, a full-length book may take around 200 hours to write, though extensive research or interviews could double this estimate. Nowadays, hourly billing is often reserved for consulting services, with rates ranging from $100 – $200 per hour.

Personally, I charge $145 per hour to consult on a project. My clients purchase a 10-hour block and I coach them through the writing process.


Per Page


This is a rare approach, but some ghostwriters charge per page. In my opinion, this method can be tricky to calculate due to variations in word count based on factors like font size, spacing, and margins. An approximate average is around 250 words per page, leading to fees ranging from $125 to $500 per page.


How a Ghostwriter Is Paid


When you find a ghostwriter you wish to hire, expect them to ask for a deposit to hold a spot on their calendar. I request 25% down, but some ghostwriters require 50%.

Once you pay the deposit and sign the contract, your ghostwriter will either request monthly payments or will set up a milestone approach with you.


Cost for a Book Proposal


If your goal is to secure an agent and a book publisher, you’ll need a well-crafted book proposal. These documents, typically 50 to 80 pages long, contain essential components like an overview of the book, target audience description, author biography, marketing plan, table of contents, and two sample chapters.


A ghostwriter’s compensation for your book proposal can be between $5,000 and $15,000. If you decide to have the same ghostwriter work on your book, consider incorporating this cost into your overall budget.


Incentives for Ghostwriters


While budget-conscious ghostwriters on platforms like Guru or Upwork might vie for your project, high-end professionals are more discerning. To attract top-tier talent, you may want to offer incentives. Now, keep in mind that you must still pay them upfront for their work, but if you wish to secure a top-notch ghost, here are some things you can offer:


Percentage of the Back End: While not a sole compensation method, sharing royalties with the ghostwriter can be an attractive bonus. It also aligns their interests with yours in promoting the book.


Cover Credit: For emerging ghostwriters, a cover credit holds significant value, boosting their portfolio and future client prospects. This can be a mutually beneficial arrangement and typically appears as “with” or “as told to” on the book cover.


Acknowledgment: Some authors choose to acknowledge their ghostwriter in the book’s acknowledgment section, a gesture often appreciated by ghostwriters.


Testimonial: After completing your book, offer to write a testimonial for your ghostwriter. This can help them showcase their success and expertise to potential clients.


The Importance of a Legal Contract


Always work with a ghostwriting contractTo avoid misunderstandings and protect both parties, it’s crucial to have a well-defined contract in place when hiring a ghostwriter. A robust contract should include:


Deadlines: Specify completion dates for each project milestone, especially for larger projects.

Overall Price: Clearly outline the ghostwriter’s compensation and payment plan.

Expected Length: Mention the book’s expected word count and, if necessary, page count.

Scope of Services: Define what services the ghostwriter will provide.

Revision Limits: Specify the number of revisions allowed.

Confidentiality and Copyrights: Ensure the author retains book rights. Include a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in the contract.


Ghostwriter Selection Criteria


When searching for the right ghostwriter, it’s essential to consider various factors beyond just their pricing and compensation structure. Here are some critical criteria to keep in mind:


  1. Experience and Expertise: Look for ghostwriters who have experience in your specific genre or niche. Experienced writers can offer valuable insights and understand the nuances of your topic or style.


  1. Writing Style Compatibility: Ensure that the ghostwriter’s writing style aligns with your vision for the book. Request writing samples or previous works to assess their ability to capture your voice.


  1. Portfolio and References: Review the ghostwriter’s portfolio and ask for testimonials from previous clients. Hearing about others’ experiences can provide valuable insights into their professionalism and quality of work.


  1. Availability and Workload: Determine whether the ghostwriter has the bandwidth to take on your project within your desired timeline. High-demand ghostwriters may have busy schedules, so it’s essential to establish clear expectations regarding project deadlines.


  1. Communication Skills: Effective communication is crucial throughout the writing process. Choose a ghostwriter who is responsive, open to feedback, and willing to collaborate closely with you to achieve your goals.


  1. Understanding of Your Goals: Ensure that the ghostwriter understands your book’s purpose, target audience, and overall objectives. A clear alignment of vision is key to a successful partnership.


  1. Contract Clarity: As mentioned earlier, a well-structured contract is vital. Ensure that the contract addresses all aspects of the project, including payment terms, timelines, and project scope.


  1. Revisions and Feedback: Discuss the ghostwriter’s approach to revisions and feedback. How many rounds of revisions are included in the contract, and how will feedback be incorporated into the work?


  1. Commitment to Confidentiality: Ghostwriters should be committed to maintaining confidentiality. Verify that they are willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect your intellectual property.


  1. Flexibility and Adaptability: The writing process can be dynamic, and unforeseen changes may arise. Choose a ghostwriter who is adaptable and willing to make adjustments as needed.


  1. Payment Structure: While we’ve discussed various payment methods, also consider the payment structure within your budget. Some ghostwriters may require a monthly payment, while others may work on a milestone approach.
  2. Portfolio Diversity: A ghostwriter with a diverse portfolio that includes various genres or writing styles can bring a broader perspective to your project.


  1. Research Skills: Depending on your project, research may be a significant component. Ensure that the ghostwriter has strong research skills and can source accurate information when necessary.


  1. Long-Term Collaboration: If you envision a long-term writing partnership, consider whether the ghostwriter is open to working on multiple projects with you and has the capacity to do so.


By carefully evaluating these criteria and conducting thorough interviews with potential ghostwriters, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your project’s goals and ensures a successful collaboration. Remember that finding the right ghostwriter is not just about their fees but also about their qualifications, experience, and commitment to bringing your vision to life.


In Summary


Armed with knowledge about the various compensation methods and key contract elements, you can make an informed decision when hiring a ghostwriter. If you’re interested in pursuing your writing and publishing dreams, consider these insights as you embark on your journey. Feel free to reach out with any questions, as the world of ghostwriting can indeed be intricate, but assistance is always available.


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