Ghostwriting FAQ – The Cost of a Ghostwriter

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a ghostwriter's cost

The most common questions I receive from prospective clients revolve around the cost of a ghostwriter. Hiring someone to write a book for you and then walk away from any credit or acknowledgment comes with a hefty price tag. If you’re wondering how you can predict the cost of a ghostwriter, I’ll do my best to help you.

How can I calculate the cost of a ghostwriter?

I’ve noticed that clients usually think in terms of the number of pages of a manuscript. However, professional ghostwriters always bid in terms of word count. It’s more precise. The spacing and font size shouldn’t enter into the calculation. However, if you prefer to think in terms of pages, just consider that there is an average of 250 words per page. So a short novella of 100 pages would be about 25,000 words.

When you approach a ghostwriter, you’ll need to know the rough word count of your proposed manuscript. This is understood to be a rough guess but will help the writer bid on your project. For instance, if you emailed me saying that you wanted me to complete a 200-page novel for you, I’d know that would be roughly 50,000 words (200 pages x 250 words/page), so I’d bid $50,000.

You can expect ghostwriters to charge anywhere from fifty cents to two dollars per word, so it just requires a little math to calculate the cost of a ghostwriter.

Is there a payment plan?

Yes. You shouldn’t be asked to pay the entire fee upfront. Instead, your writer will find a way to break up the payments for you. Personally, I prefer to work on a milestone approach, rather than a monthly draw. The four milestones that I use are:

  1. The completion of the outline (which includes research)
  2. The first half of the first draft
  3. The completion of the first draft
  4. The final delivery of the finished manuscript

The payments are always made ahead of the work, so you’ll pay 25% upon the signing of the contract. With that, I begin interviewing and researching the project. When I’m up to speed, I’ll present you with a detailed outline. Once you approve it, you’ll send another 25% payment and I’ll begin writing the first draft.

For example, if you’d contracted me to ghostwrite a 200-page book costing $50,000, each payment would be $12,500 paid ahead of the milestone.

Do you ever work for a share of the profits?

No, all ghostwriters need to be paid ahead of the work. You might not realize how many hours go into writing a book. That’s part of the reason the cost of a ghostwriter is so high. It requires hundreds of hours to research, interview, write, and edit a book for you. My ghostwriting process usually takes about a year.

Once the book is finished, it will take you months to reach out to literary agents. If you land one, it will take them another six months to a year to work with you to secure a publisher. Then the publisher will need a year or two to get the book ready for release. Once they do so, it will take a year or two before you begin to receive royalty checks.

Bottom line: the process isn’t fast, and ghostwriters can’t wait years to be paid.

I can’t afford that. What should I do?

A ghostwriter's cost

I know the cost of a ghostwriter isn’t cheap. If you have a lower budget, email me and I’ll give you options. Sometimes I take on clients on an hourly basis, helping them to write the book themselves.

You can also take a stab at writing your book on your own and then hire an editor to help you polish your manuscript. If your draft is rough around the edges, it will probably cost $5,000 – $15,000 to make it publishable.

Whatever you do, don’t hire a cheap or “affordable” ghostwriter to complete your book. I know it might be tempting to go with a lowball offer from a ghostwriter you found on Craigslist. What if they could really complete your book for only $5,000? Although they might be able to provide you with the word count, you won’t be happy with the results. Most likely you’ll need to toss the manuscript and start over from scratch.

Remember, if you’re paying a fraction of the usual price, you’ll probably get a fraction of the quality.

Feel free to contact me at any time with questions about a ghostwriter’s cost. I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction. I’m here to help you get your book completed!

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