How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter? This is a very common question, one that deserves an in-depth answer.
Shopping for a writer is a bit like walking into an art gallery with the hope of acquiring a special piece for your home or office. As you peruse the beautiful paintings on the walls, you might just wonder about their cost. After all, the price tags can vary widely. It can be intimidating to ask the artist because the price could be well outside your budget.
When you buy a car or a house, you probably embark on that journey with a rough idea of the expense involved. Now the question is: how can you know the cost to hire a ghostwriter?
Allow me to address the question of my fee directly: I charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite.
I’ve noticed that some ghostwriters don’t like to broach this subject on their websites. Maybe they’re worried you’ll just click away when you discover the price. For me, I figure why bury my pricing in some dusty corner of my website? There really is no need to dance around the subject.
As you’ll discover, writers have different fees, and some charge in different ways. For instance, some writers may charge by the hour or the page. Most charge by the word. While manuscripts vary in length, a short memoir or novella will be 25,000 words and a full-length book will be 50,000 – 75,000 words. Some clients prefer to publish mini-eBooks, which can be 5,000 – 10,000 words in length. These can be a good option to get one’s feet wet and learn the art of marketing books on Amazon.
Occasionally I’ll run into a client who actually needs a cross between an editor and a ghost, because he has already written most of the book and the first draft is in decent shape. If that’s the case with you, I’d charge much less.
Inside secret: how to reduce the cost of a ghostwriter
There are a few factors that might help reduce the cost to hire a ghostwriter. Firstly, I’m always impressed when a prospective client has taken the time to really research me and find out the steps he should take to work with a ghostwriter. I know this is a client who understands me and how I work, which is a great place to start the relationship.
Here are some key ways you may persuade me to reduce the amount I charge:
Pitch me an inspiring book
While some ghostwriters will write about any subject matter, I’m rather picky. I prefer to write about uplifting subjects that help people in some way. Of course, the book doesn’t need to be happy-go-lucky throughout, but if you’re looking to get back at an ex or wish to delve into the horrors of your abusive past, I’m not the writer for you.
I’ve written over forty books over the last two decades. Here are a few examples of projects I’ve been honored to work on from different genres:
- The memoir of a man who immigrated to the United States with only a few dollars in his pocket and became a multi-millionaire.
- A nonfiction book about how to run a specialized niche market business.
- The fictional story of a deadly family feud that spans generations and worlds, highlighting the importance of family loyalty and the overcoming of seemingly impossible obstacles.
- The heroic journey of a man who escaped communist Hungary on foot to become an affluent businessman in Canada.
- The memoir of an accomplished entrepreneur who started her life homeless on the street after her mother kicked her out of their home at age thirteen.
There are times when someone approaches me wondering about the cost to hire a ghostwriter. They have a story that truly appeals to me and I find that I can’t stop thinking about the project. Sometimes I want to help the author, even though they can’t pay my full price. In those cases, when the client shares the budget, I’ll do my best to at least guide them in the right direction.
If you’re on a tight budget and need help, let me know what you can afford. I can almost always make suggestions to help reduce your cost. Or I might be able to set you up with a student writer and supervise her work. When I do that, I can charge less.
Be flexible with your deadline
Normally, I request a year to complete a book project. If you need a fast turnaround time, I will need to increase my price. However, if you are flexible on deadlines and will approve extensions if needed, I can sometimes give you a price break. Flexibility allows me to take on other projects.
Having been a tournament chess player and a board-game fanatic, I routinely try to come in ahead of my deadlines, I’m just competitive in that way! However, it’s nice to have some leeway if it’s needed. Flexibility is worth its weight in gold.
In addition, there are times when my clients need to take a few months off, too. I always juggle projects to accommodate authors and will jump on another project if you need a little time off.
Reduce your word count
Since a ghostwriter usually charges on a per-word basis, you can reduce the cost to hire a ghostwriter by lowering your proposed word count. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the average length of a book is 50,000 – 75,000 words (or 200 – 300 pages), but some stories can be told in 25,000 words (or 100 pages). This can be an acceptable length for a memoir especially if you are self-publishing. So if a shorter book is more realistic for you, know that I can make it any length, within reason. Just be aware that we might not be able to include all the incidents that occurred in your lifetime in a short memoir.
Remember, quality is always better than quantity in writing. If you’re strapped financially, sometimes a 100-book is a good choice.
Show you communicate well
As a ghostwriter, I need my clients to be available to review pages I send or answer questions that come up as I write. Clients should plan to put in about two hours a week on their projects with me.
I seek out clients who communicate well and respect my time. From experience, I know that working with these clients will be easier because they will respond to my queries and be true partners throughout the writing process. Of course, I will always do the heavy lifting for any book project I take on, but the client’s contributions are vital to the success of the final manuscript.
On the flip side, I try to avoid clients who need me to send five emails before answering a question or people who don’t keep scheduled appointments.
I will sometimes give discounts (or add words for free) to a client who communicates well and respects my time.
Three Categories of Writer
If you’re willing to pay the cost to hire a ghostwriter, it’s good to know that there are three main categories of writers:
- Cheap writers
- Mid-range professional writers
- High-end celebrity writers
Price range: $2,000 to $10,000
How to locate: Fiverr, Upwork, Guru, or other freelance websites
- Easy to find
- Many writers in this category
- Very low cost
- You need to watch for plagiarism. It’s rampant in this category.
- Watch for AI assistance in writing your book. AI can assist with research, but will not be able to write a complete book on its own.
- Ask about the writer’s experience. Most will have little to no prior experience. You’ll need to be patient.
- Because of this writer’s lack of experience, she will probably miss deadlines or run into unexpected difficulties.
- Expect a cheap writer to have another full-time job. They will be writing your book in their spare time.
- Be prepared to rewrite their work.
- Ask for references and contact each one. Make sure they are legitimate by asking detailed questions about their experience.
- Get writing samples as well as titles to completed books in your genre.
- Make sure they include outside editing in their fee.
- Never pay the entire fee upfront. Plan to give an industry-standard deposit of 25% down.
If you have a very small budget (and you can’t write your book on your own), a cheap writer may seem like your only option. Your biggest risk is that you’ll wind up with an unusable manuscript that will need to be rewritten. In addition, you need to watch for plagiarism with this class of writer.
Mid-range professional writers
Price range: $15,000 to $100,000
How to locate: Internet searches, blogs, and word-of-mouth
- You will get personalized attention from a professional writer.
- The process will be an enjoyable experience.
- If you’re writing a memoir, you may remember more about your past through the interview process. This might help you put together some interesting pieces to your life puzzle.
- Your book will be in the hands of a ghostwriter who has had years of writing experience. They will probably have written at least a dozen books.
- If you’re so inclined, you might learn a lot about how to write as you work with your ghost.
- The price tag is high, similar to that of a car.
- Since there aren’t many ghostwriters in this category, it can be hard to get on a good ghost’s calendar. We book up fast.
- Review the ghostwriter’s website. Look for a testimonial page and a blog, as these will tell you a lot about the writer’s experience and viewpoint.
- Compile a good list of questions before you interview her.
- Make sure you sign a professional contract. Have it reviewed by your lawyer before signing it.
- Plan to pay 25% when you begin the project.
- Don’t restrict your search to local ghostwriters.
This level of ghostwriter will make the project an enjoyable and educational experience for you. It’s a bit like hiring a limousine instead of calling an Uber. If you can afford a professional ghostwriter, you’ll wind up with a quality manuscript that you can either market and sell or pitch to an agent or publisher.
High-end celebrity writers
These ghostwriters are usually hired by actors, politicians, musicians, and other famous personalities who will sell books just by virtue of their names. The writers for these celebrities are well-established ghostwriters and authors, who have a lot of experience in this area.
The price tag for a celebrity ghostwriter is usually in the upper six-figure range. J.R. Moehringer, the ghost for Prince Harry, earned about one million dollars for his work. He is considered one of the top-paid writers in the world.
Which category is right for you?
Most people recognize that they would like a mid-ranged professional writer. And, honestly, the cost to hire a ghostwriter is reasonable when you consider the time, energy, and hard work that goes into writing a book. An excellent professional writer will often spend up to a year or two researching, writing, and editing a book for you.
As you can see, the cost to hire a ghostwriter fluctuates greatly from writer to writer.
Bottom line: you get what you pay for!
Tip: Give your ghostwriter a trial run
If you’re uncertain about the cost to hire a ghostwriter and are nervous about plunking down a large deposit, propose a trial run. Of course, you’ll need to pay for the service. If you don’t pay her, she will have to fit it in around her paid work and won’t be able to grant it the proper importance. Also, if you pay for the piece, you’ll own the rights to it and can use it anytime.
This trial run will allow you to find out how well the writer meets the agreed-upon deadline and you can also determine the quality of their work. In the end, you will have a good idea of what to expect if you hire them.
Now, some people get the “bright idea” that they can piece together a manuscript by asking many different ghostwriters to provide samples for free. This won’t work. Trust me, it will look more like a patchwork quilt than a book. This is not a good way to get around the cost to hire a ghostwriter.
When I do a trial phase, I allow my client to pick the word count, then I charge my standard dollar-per-word fee. If someone is writing his memoir, I select a story from his past to write. If I’m trying out for a nonfiction piece, I usually write an essay or a blog article. These few pages give the new client a good idea of what to expect from our budding relationship.
A Little Warning
Have you received a lowball offer to write your book?
When researching the cost to hire a ghostwriter, a low offer might sound attractive. However, it rarely works out for you in the end. I have received calls from several prospective clients who made “excellent” deals hoping to save money. In the end, they each had to shell out a lot more cash to have everything rewritten. It’s frustrating for the author, as well as for the ghostwriter who must now take over the project.
If you’re paying a fraction of the usual price, you often get a fraction of the quality.
Writing a book requires a certain advanced skill set, and the complexity involved with ghostwriting is even greater. A ghost needs to capture the style and voice of our authors while meeting the goals of the client. That’s why the price tag should never be cheap.
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