“How much would it cost to have you write my book for me?”
That’s a common question, one that I’m always happy to answer when a 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 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 partnering with them to help them complete their book projects. It is wonderfully rewarding!
Some prospective clients have very good ideas and just need help. However, occasionally there are those calls that frustrate me beyond belief. Allow me to share one that happened a few years ago as an illustration of what not to do.
A little story
I was right in the middle of the thirteenth chapter of a memoir I was ghostwriting for a Canadian client when my landline rang. It was tough to pull myself away from the exciting chase scene that was taking place at the border crossing between Hungary and Austria. My client had lived an adventurous life! Normally, I don’t allow myself to be interrupted while writing, as it breaks my creative flow, but I’d forgotten to turn off the ringer and worried that a writer might need my help, so I picked up.
“Hello?” I answered cheerfully.
“Is this Laura Sherman?” the young woman asked. Her voice was somewhat demanding.
Oh my… It wasn’t a good start. My parents taught me to identify myself on the phone. In our home, it was considered a common courtesy to give one’s name before asking for the other’s.
I wasn’t in the mood to correct her. At least the woman didn’t sound like a telephone solicitor.
“Yes, I’m Laura,” I said, with a sigh.
Without acknowledging it, she continued forward. “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 ten months. 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.”
“That’s too much.”
“I understand,” I said. The truth was most people can’t really afford to hire a ghostwriter. We aren’t cheap. “What’s your budget? Maybe I can find another way to help.”
“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?”
“Well, if you want to write the book yourself and hire me to coach you, I could work with you to create an outline for $2,000 or so.”
“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 work that takes ten months to complete, 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, you might be able to pay as little as $10,000. 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. “Trust me, 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 blunt honesty 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. I tried to explain again that anyone willing to write a book for a thousand dollars wasn’t someone she’d want to hire. Then she cut me off and said, “OK, thank you!” and hung up.
I sighed and went back to my poor protagonist waiting for me to pull him to safety. He was right where I left him, hiding in some bushes near a river waiting for the cover of darkness to make his way to freedom. Spoiler alert: He made it. I really only work on uplifting, inspirational stories.
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 so you can 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: