I didn’t know what I was doing for the first book I ghostwrote and charged in the mid-four figures. But it was an easy project, so my compensation worked out okay.
My second ghostwriting experience was much more involved, and I charged twice as much. The fees for that book turned out okay, as well.
I understand that the minimum going rate for an experienced ghostwriter is $15,000, with established ghostwriters in the $25 to $35,000 range. (And I’ve heard of much higher numbers too.)
As a means of comparison, Book In A Box, now called Scribe, is a business that offers a turnkey solution to authors. Scribe will ghostwrite, edit, and publish a nonfiction book for $36,000. They may effectively be your competition.
I’ve ghostwritten some books and enjoyed doing so. The payment is almost always a fixed rate, paid in installments. Require the first payment before starting the project, and the final payment is due when the writer submits the finished product to the author. (The person who hires you is the author, and you are the writer.)
The number of installments is up to you and the author. Two, three, or four are common, but my last book was in ten installments (per the author’s request).
Also, try to frontload the installments so you receive more money in the beginning. That way if the project doesn’t work out, the author changes their mind, or they stop paying, then you have received just compensation for your work to date.
Don’t write on spec or have it contingent on them getting a book deal. Also, avoid a revenue share based on books sold.
Though you could negotiate a base fee plus a revenue share unless the author has a large platform and can sell books, assume there will never be any significant revenue for them to share with you. So make your base fee large enough to make the project worthwhile. See “Ghostwriting Fees” for some general ghostwriting rate ideas.
If you need to interview the author, such as for an autobiography or memoir, your fee should cover your time. Estimate high. You may need to help the author organize their thoughts, or they may be evasive or unwilling to share, which has happened to me.
Two related items: Always have a written agreement that states your fees, the installment amounts and dates, and details of what you will include and not include. A basic “work-for-hire” agreement should work. (Remember, I am not a lawyer, and this response is not legal advice.)
The other item is to be aware that you are selling your words and cannot claim them as your own or reuse them for another purpose. Though a nice author may share the byline with you or acknowledge you were the writer, most will not.
I’ve ghostwritten a couple of books and enjoyed doing so. The payment is almost always a fixed rate, paid in installments. The first payment is required to start the work, and the final payment is due when the writer submits the finished product to the author. (The person who hires you is the author—you are the writer).
The number of installments for ghostwriting books is up to you and the author. Two, three, or four are common, but my last book was in ten installments (per the author’s suggestion). Also, try to frontload the installments so that you receive more money in the beginning. That way if things don’t work out, the author changes their mind, or they stop paying, then you have received most of your compensation.
Don’t write on spec or have it contingent on them getting a book deal. Also, avoid a 100 percent revenue share based on books sold.
Though you could negotiate a base fee plus a revenue share unless the author has a large platform and can sell books, assume there will never be any significant revenue for them to share with you. So make your base fee large enough to make the project worthwhile.
Two related items: When it comes to ghostwriting books, always have a contract that states your fee, the installment amounts and dates, and details of what is and isn’t included. A basic “work-for-hire” agreement should work. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.)
The other item is to be aware that you are selling your words and cannot claim them as your own or reuse them for another purpose. (Though a nice author may share the byline with you or acknowledge you were the writer.)
Maintain an idea repository to jumpstart your creativity every time you sit down to write
Each week I create several posts for my blogs. I also compose posts for others (content marketing). In addition, I need to produce columns for my various publications. At a minimum, I write five new pieces a week, sometimes upwards of ten.
Yet I seldom struggle with what to say. I always have at least one idea waiting for me when it’s time to write, usually many. Here’s my process:
Keep a Running List: For each blog, client, or publication, I have an idea file. Sometimes I note a concept or a title. Other times it’s the first line or even the last. Occasionally there’s an anecdote to serve as the focal point for me to package. Then there is a bulleted list, the result of a quick brainstorm session during a moment of inspiration. Such is the case with this post.
Look For Fresh Ideas: Life and living provides a treasure chest of ideas. We merely need to recognize their value when we see them. This takes practice, as well as discipline. Reading provides creative fodder for me, too, as do podcasts and especially movies. The key in this, which I learned the hard way, is to seize these gems as soon as I see them. Trusting my memory has cost me too many good ideas.
Retain What You Can’t Use: Sometimes a piece doesn’t develop as I expect or I need to skip a thought or go in a different direction. Other times I need to cut a section. I always stuff these untapped nuggets into my file for another day.
Build on Feedback: Some people comment on posts. Others email me their thoughts and questions, and a few react in person. Each source of input provides the potential for a future piece, which I add to my list.
Tap Your Muse as You Write: Perhaps the most common source of inspiration occurs during my writing process. As I develop one piece, other gems for future posts pop into my mind. I stop writing immediately and capture them in my idea file. This happens with about half the pieces I write. Sometimes I receive multiple ideas in succession. I eventually use most of them.
Bonus Tip: Sometimes when it’s time to write, I simply ask myself, “What do you want to write about today?” Without even peeking at my list of ideas, another concept pops into my mind, and I can’t help but develop it. This saves all the ideas in my file for another day.
I polished this process over time. First, it was to minimize frustration over lost ideas; then for the sake of efficiency. But now it has become necessary for me if I am to meet all my commitments and make my deadlines.
The success some authors have in marketing their books can overwhelm writers or even cause them to give up
Last week we talked about how to deal with writer envy, of how to avoid having the abilities of other writers overwhelm us. While the threat of writer envy does assault me from time to time, I’ve mostly come to peace with my writing ability. I know I am good and am getting better. I may never be really great, but I’m okay with that – most of the time.
However, the flip side of writing ability is marketing proficiency. I must admit that I sorely struggle with my lack of promotional prowess. I’ve taken classes (even at the graduate level) and understand the theory. I know what to do, yet my gut churns when it comes to implementation. Too often it feels smarmy. Yet when I press through, I do well, but too often, I don’t bother to push myself to act.
I see other authors who successfully promote their books into the stratosphere of success, book after book. Their results devastate me—especially when the book isn’t well written. The sad reality is that a marketing maven doesn’t need to write a good book to make a lot of money. They just need to excel at marketing. I am envious.
So if we’re not good at book marketing, don’t want to do it, or even feel it is beneath the art, what are we to do?
Give Up: We could just forget our passion to write, our dream to create art, and move on to a less frustrating, more profitable career. Yet would that make us truly happy? Or would an unsatiated compulsion to write roil in our souls? I think we all know the answer.
Ghostwrite: Writing for others as a ghostwriter, writer for hire, or collaborator allows us to write—and earn money—without the need to market. I like this. I do this. Yet I also want to see my name on the cover. True ghostwriting assignments don’t provide that option.
Write But Don’t Market: This is a built-it-and-they-will-come mentality. We focus on the art of writing and forget about the business of writing. In rare instances, it works. Usually not. Don’t pin your hopes on this strategy.
Outsource Marketing: I’d love to hire someone to do all my marketing for me. It would be so freeing. Yet two questions nag at me: Would it be cost-effective? (likely not), and would they produce acceptable results? (doubtful).
Press Through: Every job has fun aspects that we like and other chores that are, well, chores. We must slog through the difficult toils to resume the joys of creation.
I’ve considered each of these five responses. I often vacillate between them. Though I seldom consider quitting any more, the other four considerations pop up each week. I don’t have an answer, but as I try to figure one out, I will continue to write.