Authors pour their hearts and souls into their works, investing countless hours in research, writing, and revising to produce a final manuscript. Readers pick this up. However, the role of a ghostwriter is often overlooked, despite their significant contributions to the literary world. Ghostwriters are the hidden architects behind many books, articles, speeches, and more, shaping and refining the words that bear someone else’s name. But what do ghostwriters charge for their services, and why are their fees often considered a worthy investment?
The Value of a Ghostwriter
Before we delve into what ghostwriters charge, it’s essential to recognize their value. Ghostwriters are skilled professionals who possess the ability to transform raw ideas and concepts into polished, coherent, and engaging content.
Ghostwriters are not just writers; they are skilled wordsmiths who have honed their craft. In other words, they understand the nuances of language, storytelling, and the art of communication. Their ability to craft well-structured and compelling narratives is a valuable asset to those who may not possess these skills themselves.
Writing is a time-consuming process that demands undivided attention. Many individuals, including celebrities, business leaders, and subject matter experts, simply do not have the time to commit to writing an entire book. Ghostwriters enable these busy individuals to share their stories and ideas without the need to be immersed in the writing process.
In addition, ghostwriters are bound by a code of confidentiality and professionalism. They respect their client’s privacy and ensure that the content produced is presented in the client’s name without revealing the ghostwriter’s involvement. When I present the final manuscript to my client, they are proud to put their name on it and promote it as their own. I enjoy that and am completely fine being the silent partner in the background.
What a Ghostwriter Does That Makes Them Worth the Money
Ghostwriters perform a wide range of tasks that justify their fees. These tasks go beyond mere writing and encompass everything needed to transform an idea into a finished manuscript. Here are some of the key functions a ghostwriter performs:
Idea Development: Ghostwriters collaborate with their clients to refine and develop their ideas. After all, when all is said and done, the finished book will bear their name! Idea development often involves brainstorming, outlining, and organizing the content to create a coherent narrative structure. However, sometimes I merely present ideas to my client who then chooses which option they prefer.
Research: Depending on the project’s subject matter, ghostwriters may conduct extensive research to ensure accuracy and depth of information. This research can include reading books, articles, interviews, and primary source materials. Any ghost worth their salt enjoys this process. For me, this is always a learning experience. After two decades in this profession, I’m proud to say that I’ve accumulated a lot of unique knowledge as a result.
Structure and Organization: Ghostwriters create a logical and reader-friendly structure for the manuscript. They determine the order of chapters, sections, and content, ensuring that the narrative flows smoothly. When it comes to writing fiction, there is a definite structure that ALL novels follow. If you choose to stray from that path, your book will flatline. Unfortunately, that means readers will put your book down and give you a poor review.
Finding Your Written Voice: One of the most significant talents of a ghostwriter is the ability to capture your unique voice. This is crucial for maintaining the authenticity of the work, especially in memoirs and autobiographies. If you already have an established written voice, it is my job to maintain it so your brand is consistent.
How a Ghostwriter Can Improve Your Manuscript
While reading this article, you might be wondering why you can’t just write your book yourself. Well, my question to you is: Have you? Have you completed your book? Or are you mid the process and find yourself stuck? Honestly, that’s why 90% of my clients reach out to me. They are tired of being mired in the mud of writer’s block.
So why pay what ghostwriters charge? The answer is simple. The involvement of a ghostwriter can significantly enhance the quality of a manuscript in many ways:
Professional Writing: Ghostwriters are professionals in their craft. Their expertise in language and writing elevates the quality of the content, making it more engaging and reader-friendly. I can take a first draft from a client and rewrite it so that it sings. The highest compliment I can receive is, “I read your book in one sitting. I just couldn’t put it down!”
Structure and Clarity: Ghostwriters excel in structuring content to create clear and coherent narratives. This ensures that readers can follow the story or argument effortlessly. Without an understanding of the structure, a novel will fall flat. A ghostwriter can collaborate with you to share your story in an engaging way.
Time Efficiency: With the sole focus on writing, ghostwriters save their clients time. Authors can dedicate their energy to their core strengths while leaving the writing process to the professionals. I usually ask clients to give me a year to complete their books, but sometimes I can shave months off that target. Most first-time authors take years to complete a book (and most never find the time to finish it).
Different Fee Structures of a Ghostwriter
Ghostwriters charge in varying ways depending on several factors. These include the scope of the project, the ghostwriter’s experience and reputation, and the client’s specific needs. The fee structures commonly used by ghostwriters include:
Flat Fee: The flat fee is often negotiated based on the estimated word count, complexity of the content, and the ghostwriter’s experience. Fundamentally, this approach provides clients with a clear understanding of the project’s cost. I typically charge $50,000 – $75,000 per book (which is 200 – 300 pages long).
Hourly Rate: Some ghostwriters charge by the hour. This can be beneficial for clients who have a project with an undefined scope or who require ongoing work. Hourly rates can vary significantly depending on the ghostwriter’s experience and location. I charge $145 per hour to coach or consult clients.
Royalties or Percentage of Sales: In some cases, ghostwriters may agree to a lower upfront fee in exchange for a percentage of the book’s royalties or sales. This arrangement aligns the interests of the author and the ghostwriter, as both parties benefit from the book’s success. Note: No professional ghost would ever accept pay based solely on royalties. This is more of a bonus given to some ghostwriters.
Why You Shouldn’t Jump to Hire a Cheap Ghostwriter
When hiring a ghostwriter, it can be tempting to seek the most affordable option. That’s a huge mistake and can lead you to scam artists and frustration. I can’t tell you how many times a prospective client came to me upset because they spent money on an “affordable ghostwriter.”
It’s crucial to exercise caution when the price tag seems low. I mean, does it make sense that a professional writer would charge $5,000 to write a 200-page book when the industry standard is much higher? I promise that you’ll be unhappy with the product. Or worse, the “ghostwriter” will vanish without a trace before they do a lick of work.
Please avoid the lure of a cheap ghostwriter, as doing so can lead to various pitfalls. For instance, cheap ghostwriters cut corners in terms of research, writing quality, and revision. They can plagiarize. They have to or they’d make minimum wage for their work. The result will be a subpar manuscript that fails to meet your expectations or resonate with readers.
In addition, low-cost ghostwriters may lack the experience and skills needed to handle complex or specialized topics. This can result in a shallow and inaccurate treatment of the subject matter. Some will use AI to “write” your book. Well, if AI could write a good book, you would cut out the middle person, right? We all know that this isn’t the way to write a best-seller.
Another point to consider is that inexpensive ghostwriters may struggle to prioritize your project. After all, they aren’t making enough to make ends meet if they are charging you a tenth of the going rate. This will lead to missed deadlines or a significant delay in completing the manuscript. Or, worse yet, most will never finish the book, leaving you hanging.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that if you hire a cheap ghostwriter your reputation will be damaged. A poorly written book can harm an author’s reputation and credibility. Readers will hold the author accountable for any shortcomings in the final product. Remember, they don’t even know the ghostwriter exists!
Instead of looking for the cheapest option, authors should prioritize finding a reputable and experienced ghostwriter who can deliver the quality and value they seek. It’s worth investing in a professional with a track record of successful projects and satisfied clients. If you have a limited budget, I do have options. Normally, I charge one dollar per word, but if you assist me with writing your book, I can come down in my price.
Note: If you don’t like what professional ghostwriters charge, consider hiring a writing coach. That fee is much less and will allow you to write your book yourself. This is appealing to many.
Why the Personal Connection with a Ghostwriter Is a Key to Success
For your book to be a success, you must connect with your ghostwriter. This is often underestimated or overlooked. This connection goes beyond the contractual relationship.
This connection goes both ways for me. I know some ghosts who don’t care about this bond. I’m not like that. For me, I look for that connection in the very first conversation. In addition, I like it when a prospective client does a little research about me and reaches out because they like my work and reputation. You will also feel more comfortable sharing your ideas, experiences, and aspirations with a ghostwriter you trust.
In order to capture your unique written voice, there needs to be a strong relationship between you and the ghost. With a healthy amount of affinity, I can better capture your unique voice, tone, and style. This is particularly vital in memoirs and autobiographies but holds true for novels and business books. Your goals become my goals as I strive to complete your book. This synergy is essential for a successful project.
And finally, a strong personal connection facilitates open and efficient communication. Authors and ghostwriters need to be able to exchange ideas, feedback, and updates seamlessly. So, when you interview a ghostwriter, really look for that connection, that bond to form. If it doesn’t, walk away.
Overall, what you pay a ghostwriter is an investment in the creation of high-quality pages that carry your name and message. The value of a ghostwriter lies in their expertise, time efficiency, confidentiality, adaptability, research skills, and the ability to capture your voice. Yes, professional ghostwriters aren’t cheap. However, the costs are justified and what professional ghostwriters charge makes sense.