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.
Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.