Jerry Nelson
Apr 5 · 5 min read

Everyone wants to write a book about their life. Many, who recognize writing is not in their skill set want to pay a professional writer to write the story for them.

A ghost has only a lay knowledge of the client/subject and can keep asking the same questions as the lay reader, and may open up the potential readership of the book to a much wider audience.

Setting the obvious benefit of a wider audience aside, most clients don’t have a clue what professional ghostwriters may charge.

Clients and Ghostwriters Can Both Get Confused

Clients are confused about ghostwriting rates. Writers also get befuddled and wonder if they should ask for payment during the writing, a deposit before beginning or just a share of the book royalties.

Clients can be forgiven for being confused. There is no excuse for professional writers though. Writer’s Weekly suggests a per-project low of $5000 and a high of $100,000. The average cost comes in at $36,000 and the cost per word tends to run as low as 50-cents to a high of $3.00.

The correct price? Whatever the market will bear. As part of the calculation, there are other things to consider by the freelancer who wants to add ghostwriting to the stable of skills.

Ghostwriting Can be Lucrative

An experienced ghostwriter commands a higher fee than someone just starting out. The length of the book, in terms of word count, the amount of research needed and the amount of material provided by the client are also factored into the witch’s brew of price setting.

If royalties, or credit, are added in, they can change the negotiation as well as the rates. Also affecting the rates if whether the book is going to be self-published or if the author secures a name publisher. If a name publisher is used, royalties will have a higher value.

Ghostwriting can be lucrative, but without a track record, it can be tough to quantify the value of royalties and credit. So make sure to be paid appropriately for your efforts. Fame doesn’t pay the mortgage.

Many clients for ghostwriting services don’t realize skilled ghosting is expensive and freelance ghostwriting rates often spook them. It goes without saying that beginners should have a contract reviewed by an experienced, intellectual property attorney.

Here is an email exchange I recently had with someone who wanted to know about my ghostwriting rates. Many potential clients are as clueless about the rates and process as this person. But there are many who are knowledgeable about what it costs, the work involved and what it takes to ghostwrite a quality book.

An Email Conversation With a Potential Client

Spoiler Alert: Stay away from clients like this one. They want the sun, moon, and stars and want to pay a pittance for the work.

NOTE: All misspellings and miscalculations are the potential client’s way of spelling, typing, and executing basic math.

Potential Client (PC): Hello. I was wondering what you would charge to write my book.

Me: I can always create a custom order. How many words do you have in mind?

PC: I was looking for at least a 175–200-page book

Me: So you’re looking at about 50,000 words.

PC: What’s the price for something like that?

Me: Do you have an outline already? Notes? What kind of information do you have in place on which I can base the book?

PC: Yes

Me: Ok. What kind of deadline do you have in mind?

PC: I have notes from events that has happened to me, I don’t have years or dates. But I can try and figure it out. No deadline. But I guess with the amount of pages maybe 3–5 months

Me: I can do it at fifty-cents a word with a deadline of five months. Shall I send the custom offer now?

PC: Wow, what about at 25 cents a word

Me: If you can provide more research than you have indicated here, I could do it for that with a six-month deadline.

PC: (The client goes into a long-winded email mumbling something about a toxic mother-daughter relationship where the daughter commits crimes, bays at the moon, and tries on wedding dresses even though she doesn’t even have a boyfriend. Meanwhile, Mom is setting at the table throwing down whiskey and water while she waits for the homemade chocolate chip cookies to be done in the oven, and wonders why she had to buy a house next to a gay, midget wrestler who plays guitar.)

Me: Sounds like a good story. How soon did you want to get started?

PC: I want to try and turn it into a movie later

Me: Ok. When it comes to that time, I can also screenwrite it for you. I am screenwriting a story for a lady in the states now.

PC: I’m scared to ask but what do you charge for screenwriting

Me: Screenwriting is a different animal and runs around 75-cents to a dollar a word. Lots of variables go into the mix.

PC: Wow! So what, can we do installments being that this is a 6-month project, NYC has lots of starving Artists, lol

Me: Yes. We can set it up in installments. Four payments of 25% spread out over six months.

PC: So it’s 50,000 words times .25 = 1,250 divide into 4 equals 312.50

Me: 50,000 words time twenty-five cents a word is $12,500

PC: I guess I miss understood, 12500 for a 200-page book. I think that’s really steep, but if that’s what you charge, I’ll have to pass

Me: Actually, it’s not steep. Not at all. Feel free to do some research on the costs of professionally, ghostwritten books.

PC: I’ve had a book written before, 38000 words I was charged 3700 hundred dollars. And he was a well known writer

Me: Ok. Maybe you should go back to them then. Have a great day!

The Takeaway

So the potential client has no notes, no outline, no years or dates. But they can ‘try’ to figure all that, while thinking about making a movie later.

But they still think $12,000 is too steep.

Remember I said ghostwriting clients could be ‘confused?’

Confused is too mild a description.


Jerry Nelson is an American freelance writer living the expat life in Argentina. You can find him at any of hundreds of sidewalk cafes and hire him through Fiverr.

The Prolific Writer

Helping motivated writers get unstuck.

Jerry Nelson

Written by

I am an American freelance writer living the expat life in Argentina. Hire me through Fiverr.com/jandrewnelson

The Prolific Writer

Helping motivated writers get unstuck.

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