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Ghostwriting Advice: What to charge?

Ghostwriting
Illustrator: Kalin Nachev

This is an updated version of a 2009 post, with updated pricing/fees and other advice. I’m happy to add to the post, so send your feedback and ask more questions!

In a comment responding to one of last week’s posts, Jeannie asked several questions that I thought might be of interest to many followers of this blog:

1.  I’ve been asked to ghostwrite a memoir. How much can I reasonably ask to be paid?

2.  Can I expect royalties if the book is made into a movie (the author is already in talks with a producer)

3.  Would you advise me to engage an entertainment lawyer?

4.  Do you have any suggestions for getting an agent?

Here are my answers (upated as of 2018 to reflect the current market):

1. Ghostwriting fees vary widely. Let’ s assume you are a beginner at ghostwriting. Ghostwriting fees in the range of $12,000 – $15,000 are usually the low end for a book of 200-300 pages.  A much shorter book (let’s say 80-100 pages) might only be $8,000 – $12,000. There are folks out there who charge even less, but they generally don’t have much experience, and their products are unlikely to be of traditional publishing quality. For a book of 250-300 pages, an experienced book author, book editor or ghostwriter would commonly charge $30,000 – $60,000 and up.

If you are writing a book of traditional publishing quality and it will be 200 pages or more, a starting place might be around $15,000 (again, if you are a beginner, there is little or no research involved and you will get most of the information through interviews with the author). However, if you have already written books, I would suggest something more like $25,000 – $30,000. And if you are very experienced as an author or editor, you might consider something more like $40,000 – $60,000 for a book in the 200-300 page range.

If you will be doing extensive research, you can increase your fees to reflect research time. If you already have publishing credits to your name, you should also charge more. Experienced ghostwriters tend to charge between $25,000 – $60,000 and even more.

ghostwritten memoir
Rumors suggest Andre Agassi’s memoir to be one of the highest paid ghostwriting fees ever, not surprising since ghostwriter J. R. Moehringer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

2. You may want to negotiate a modest royalty and see where it goes. I wouldn’t make it a deal breaker, but it’s worth pursuing as a possibility. Another negotiating point is whether your name is on the cover as a co-author or “as told to.” Depending on your goals, this may be worthwhile for you. In addition, you want to ask the author whether they are comfortable giving you credit as either writer or, if they don’t want to admit they hired a ghostwriter, would they credit you as editor. If not, will they allow you to mention the project at all to prospective clients? If not, this can be a negative for you when you are trying to land the next project.

3. Yes, I recommend hiring an intellectual property attorney. Do be careful. Try to find a person through personal referralssomeone who’s used this lawyer specifically for a ghostwriting contract. If you can’t find that, ask the lawyer for references who’ve used him or her for ghostwriting contracts.

I once hired a lawyer for a ghostwriting contract and the client ran out of money. The lawyer had not even written in anything about late fees, let alone anticipated the situation. Instead he told me, “If you need a lawyer to collect, just let me know.” I think he should have said, “I’m sorry I did a terrible job for you and didn’t deliver what you paid me for!”

The lawyer was my friend’s husband and I learned my lesson—don’t hire a friend unless you know they have experience in the exact area you are looking for and you know they are excellent at what they do.

resource for ghostwriting book proposals
An important resource for ghostwriting a book proposal

4. If the client is asking you to help find an agent and publisher, you will need to write a book proposal. I highly recommend Jody Rein and Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal, 5th Edition (note: this edition is significantly different and updated; don’t purchase the older edition). Both agents and publishers love proposals written in Michael’s format—it’s thorough and marketing-oriented. A typical ghostwriting fee for a book proposal is $10,000 – $18,000, which includes sample chapters and chapter outlines or summaries, in addition to all the marketing-oriented information specific to a book proposal. However, if you are new to this, I would recommend a lower fee or hire an experienced book proposal coach or editor to help you fine tune the proposal.

It’s always great if you can meet agents in person and pitch a book, though a good query letter can do the job as well. Two of my favorite places to meet agents are Harvard Medical School’s CME Publishing Course (next offering in June 2019) and the International Women Writers Guild’s (IWWG) Meet the Agents during their Big Apple Conference, usually every April and October. IWWG also has regional workshops that may have agents present. The San Francisco Writers Conference, generally held in February, is another great place to meet agents, pitch and network. You may want to attend yourself and/or suggest it to your ghostwriting client.

Have you thought of ghostwriting? Wondering how to break in? I plan to follow up Jeannie’s questions with a few more ideas for anyone contemplating a ghostwriting project or career as a ghostwriter.

 

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Maria Kostelas says

    Thank you for recommending Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal. Within the first few pages I realized I’d found the “Bible” on how to write a book proposal. It’s been my constant companion and guide throughout this first writing venture. I believe he’s provided us with a template from which we can create a great proposal and promotional plan that will get noticed. From how to incorporate “hooks” and tag lines, to identifying target markets, to the necessity of providing pertinent related statistics, to even choosing a good title, I have complete confidence in Michael’s recommendations. The case studies and “Hot Tips” he includes have also provided valuable assistance. I’ll pass on your recommendation!

  2. Jeannie says

    Dear Lisa,

    Thank you for your extremely helpful advice. Thank God for the Internet! I just didn’t know where to start and now I feel like I’m on more sure footing. I’m checking into the IWWG thing- I would love to go to that. I’m going to order the Michael Larsen book too.

    I’ll let you know how it’s going as negotiations continue!

    Thanks again,

    Jeannie

  3. lisatener says

    Hi Maria,
    I knew you’d love Michael Larsen’s book. I’ve recently been buying books about book proposal writing just to see what else is out there and even see if I could pick up a new idea or two on social networking, web 2.0 and other newer marketing techniques.
    Disappointing…the new books just don’t cut it–they offer a much fluffier look at book proposals. Many seemed to copy the advice they did have right out of Larsen’s book. Even the sample proposals are generally weaker. In fact, I wondered if a few left out some of their “top secrets” because they didn’t seem to offer any eye popping marketing plans or powerful internet strategies. More of the same. Makes me think your statement about it being the Bible of the industry is quite accurate.

    • lisatener says

      Yes, you can. Often, agents and publishers like to see the additional information in a book proposal, such as the promotion plan and author platform. However, you may need more sample pages (usually 50) than with other nonfiction/how-to books.

  4. Toianna says

    Hello, Lisa!

    For the first time ever, I am negotiating my way into being someone’s ghostwriter. We are talking about a long term relationship, whereby I become that person’s writing voice for the duration of her career. She is looking for help with books, articles, maybe blogging, newsletters.
    Although I have decades of writing experience (not publishing), I have never before officially done ghostwriting.
    Prior to reading your blog or doing adequat research, I suggested to the prospective employer $10/hour April 15 to June 15 for research, writing articles,and we have not ironed out what all…then re negotiation in June.
    I am not locked in with any contract, but rather than asking for more money I’m not sure I am worth yet, would I be best to set parameters about what the $10/hr or $1600.00 per month includes? OR should I say upon further reflection, I am worth $15.00/hour?
    Should I agree to write x amount of research, writing articles and blogs, and exclude book fees to compensate for my low fees?
    Am I shortchanging the person or myself by proving my merit to myself — as much as to the person, — then in mid June spike my costs to twice what I am asking ($3200.00 range per month) if the person is pleased (and more to the point a 3rd party publisher is pleased) with my work?
    Please get me started.
    Thank you.

    • lisatener says

      Dear Toianna,
      Congratulations on your foray into ghostwriting. It’s tricky to change your pricing once you have already suggested a lower price. However, it can be done. I think your question about what your work is worth is also a good one. Without seeing your writing and without knowing how fast or slowly you work, it’s hard for me to know. However, $10/hour does sound quite low to me. Many ghostwriters charge by the word or project.

      While am I not an entertainment lawyer, so do not know what you should put in your contract, specifically, it seems to me that if you are paid by the month, you have some agreement about how many hours that is. I do think that if you’re planning on “Spiking” your fees, it’s best that you discuss this up front with the person and maybe even have that in the contract–that by the third month or fourth month your fees would increase to $20/hr.

      If the person is looking for a traditional publisher, they will need a book proposal. Will you be writing book proposals? If so, I do suggest you get Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal, as well as Terry Whalen’s Book Proposals That Sell. Publishers do not want to see the book, but rather a book proposal. Even with a good book, a book proposal can benefit from having someone experienced in book proposals looking it over and providing feedback. Perhaps you want to include some funds for that in the contract. It will probably increase your client’s chances of getting published.

      Good luck!

  5. John Christensen says

    Hi Lisa,
    I’m grateful to have found your site, and found this post especialy helpful.

    I’ve got a client interested in an eBook, and I’m not sure what to charge. No details have been decided yet — in fact, he hasn’t committed yet — but I’m assuming 12-point type, double-spaced and probably 10,000 words or less.

    Thanks,
    John Christensen

    • lisatener says

      Hi John,
      For a 40 page book, I’d say it depends partly on whether you need to do any research, but if he’s providing all the materials, or you’re interviewing him, I’d recommend charging around $2,500 – $3,000. If he’s not so focused on polish and quality, you might quote something lower. If there’s lots of research involved, you might want to charge more. For more pages, I would definitely charge more.
      Freelance writers charge all kinds of numbers across the board, but generally, clients get what they pay for. They can find someone very cheap to write a book, but the quality won’t be there and it may have many errors or be fairly unreadable. Good luck with the project. Sometimes I am looking for freelance writers for projects that aren’t a fit for me personally. Do feel free to send me a resume and writing sample if you are interested in projects.

  6. Candace says

    This is a very helpful blog Lisa – and I will pick up the book proposal publication you recommend.

    I have been asked to quote on a 200 page health book. I am an experienced business and marketing writer with 15 years experience writing everything from PR articles and newsletters to ads and web content.

    I was thinking of charging 10-12,000 – with 50% upfront. This would include content interviewing etc – the works. With 50% upfront. Or perhaps 3 equal payments

    Should I ask for royalties? Is there wording to be worked into the quote.

    Any other recommended resource for novice book writers?

    Thanks
    Candace

    • lisatener says

      Hi Candace,

      Given that the book requires research, I’d say you could charge $15-20K (or more) depending on your experience. If it’s your first book, then your pricing is probably good.

      One third up front may be more customary, though the person may want to pay for a sample chapter first and make sure they are happy with the writing style. I often have the final payment be smaller than the others if it’s paid at the very end, so that you don’t have to “collect” after they have received services.

      You could certainly ask for royalties, especially if you are charging at the lower end. Some people are comfortable with that and some are not. Best thing would be to get wording from an attorney or look online for a ghostwriting agreement.

      I do have a course to complete a first draft of your book in 60 days (usually that does not include research). You can let me know if you are interested in that or in the book and workbook that comes with the course (I do sell that separately). It takes you through exercises that help you create a solid foundation for the book–a compelling concept that addresses your readers’ needs and wants. And it also walks you through some of the logistical issues like making the time and getting support and accountability.

      Good luck with the project and enjoy.
      Lisa

  7. Judith Ann says

    I have been asked to help an elderly businessman and entrepreneur organize, edit and write his memoirs. I’m not sure what to charge but considering the time I have to spend reviewing what he & his wife have already compiled, interviewing him and editing and writing — I’m figuring on spending at least 4 – 6 hours a week on the project — I am a freelance writer and retired educator — would $50.00 an hour be a reasonable fee to charge him?? Thank you. Judith Ann

    • lisatener says

      Hi Judith Ann,

      Generally, I would suggest a cost for the entire project, but I would create parameters around it. For instance, it might include x number of revisions and x number of hours research and would cost $15,000. Generally, $15,000 is a good starting place for a ghostwritten book, particularly if you haven’t ghostwritten a book before.

  8. PJ says

    I’m a screenwriter by trade, but I’m about to undergo my first ghostwriting experience. Would it be reasonable to ask for exclusivity in writing the screenplay as part of the deal?

  9. molly wright says

    Hi Lisa,
    Your writing site is wonderful – so glad I stumbled upon it!

    I have been asked to ghostwrite a self help book for a psychologist. He has written the book basically, but it needs a lot of work, especially reworking/rearranging chapters and then tying it altogether within a yet to be developed theme.
    He had also talked to me about marketing.

    This would be my first ghostwriting experience, however I have written multiple magazine articles and collaborated on a couple of books. He has told me to be fair to myself in what I charge, but with the numbers all over the place, hours vs pages, project vs time,…,I’m stumped.

    Also is there a difference in cost expectations for someone writing in the Midwest rather than on the coasts?

    Could you give me some advice?
    Thanks – Molly 🙂

    • lisatener says

      Hi Molly,
      Congratulations on the ghostwriting job.
      I would definitely separate the marketing and the writing parts of the project.
      My guess is, since it’s your first ghostwriting experience, you might go a little lower on price than average, but not much, since you have collaborated on books before.
      Every book takes a different amount of time. I would say, estimate how much time it will take you, add in some slack since it always takes longer, and think about how much you want to make per hour.
      Then look at per page pricing and compare to see that they’re not light years apart.

      Pricing for ghostwriting varies tremendously. Often, a starting figure is $15K and it goes up from there, but a shorter book (100 or 150 pages) or other circumstances, might mean you’re willing to charge less. I’ve also seen that many writers are charging less due to the economy.

      Fortunately, your client has been clear not to short-change yourself.

      One thing I suggest is to have the agreement include a certain number of phone conversations, a certain number of revisions, etc. and then a per hour charge should you go over that limit. This way, if the book changes dramatically, or there is some unforeseen additional work, you get paid for the additional time.

      Every project is individual. I recently spoke with another ghostwriter and we came up with some ways to estimate her time and come up with a fee. Good luck!

  10. molly wright says

    Lisa,
    Thanks so much for your expertise and quick turn-around on your response!
    I also appreciate your personal email and additional advice and comments. Now I know I have a go-to person!
    Molly 🙂

  11. EG says

    Thanks for all the great information!

    I’m still trying to establish myself as a writer, and currently i’m the editor of two newsletters for non-profit agencies. I’m also in the the middle of ghostwriting a book with my father, which will probably be published by the non-profit he works for. I’ve also received a request to ghostwrite a book with another acquaintance.

    Since I won’t be getting paid for any of these projects, (except for a percentage of any royalties), will they be viewed as valid experience? Can I claim to have “published” books if they are published by a small non-profit agency?

    • lisatener says

      EG, yes, once these books are published, whether self-published or by a small non-profit agency, you can certainly call yourself a published author. Just be sure that they are well edited and represent you well, especially if you want to get more (paid) ghostwriting projects or wish to share them with potential writing clients.

  12. Author Unknown says

    This site is very interesting.
    I have also received an invitation to Ghost write for an author who is writing a biography of her experiences. She would like 2 chapters and a marketing plan as well as choices to send it to. How much should I charge for this venture? Assuming that each chapter will contain approx 3000-4500 words and a marketing plan which will include a press release.
    I appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks in advance.
    Author Unknown

    • Lisa Tener says

      Ghostwriting fees vary considerably. Generally, for a full book, I would suggest not going below $15K as long as you have considerable writing experience. If you are a novice and want to do this for your portfolio, you might charge less. For determining agents to send to, maybe charge a couple hundred dollars, though you can certainly charge less. For marketing plan, if you have lots of experience, that is a very valuable part of a proposal and takes time and expertise, so you can charge anywhere from $500 to $1,500 for that depending on the ideas contained and how proven or fresh they are.

      For the two chapters, I’d say $1,000-$2,000 a chapter, depending on your level of expertise, but you can charge more than that if you are a very experienced writer. Most agents and publishers will want to see 50 pages and then the whole memoir before they sign her, so you’ll probably need to write the whole thing and have a book proposal to interest publishers. See Mike Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal for your format. I assume this is a memoir (not famous person and about a period of the person’s life, not their whole life). If it is truly about their whole life, they’d better be pretty interesting and famous. Do be mindful whether you call this autobiography or memoir. You want to sound knowledgeable. Good luck!

  13. Tamiko Gordon says

    I’m a self published author, and now I want to take my publishing to the next level. I self published with Iuniverse, but I want to public under my company Blondie’s Publications. Please help me.

    • Lisa Tener says

      You’ll have to look at your contract with I-Universe for any previously published books. For new books, you can call yourself a publisher and just get the books printed POD or offset. Indie Reader has some good publishing resources. You may try them.

  14. Caroline Crumley says

    Have you ever considered writing an e-book or guest authoring
    on other sites? I have a blog based on the same subjects
    you discuss and would love to have you share somje stories/information. I
    know my readers would appreciate your work.
    If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

  15. Anonymous Author says

    Very nice piece, Lisa. I have a more delicate question. I have an elderly close family member who has been quite the mover and shaker in our state for all of his life, from elected office(s) to honors bestowed on him from governors, etc. Because I have written a nonfiction book (with the initial help of a ghostwriter turned editor) and because he trusts me, he asked me to write his biography. Clearly, he is family and the clock is ticking for him so we both want to get moving on things.

    Do you have suggestions on how I respond to him on what I would charge? I envision 125-150 page book “as told to” (as I have some cache as well in the field) with photographs, some research needed but info also readily available. Do I charge a by page fee and royalties, just royalties, flat? In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to charge him at all. But as a independent contractor, I can’t afford that option. Still, I want to be fair to all of us. I appreciate your insight.

    • Lisa Tener says

      I think royalties could make it complicated. This is just personal opinion, but I would just charge a flat fee with specifics laid out (x number of edits, x number of words or pages). And then $x for additional edits, $x for additional research beyond y, $x per additional page beyond y, etc. Hope that helps. And, yes, send him to my website or others to see what the fees are for experienced ghostwriters. You may need to let him know that elance is not exactly a place to find the most experienced ghostwriters, so if he wants quality, a book takes a long time to write and special skills and you need to be paid accordingly. My guess is he will understand and want to pay you fairly.

      I would also suggest to him that it’s best for you to have a contract so that you can be sure you are on the same page. The relationship is important to you and you know how crucial it is to make sure everything is spelled out so that you’re both happy with the outcome.

  16. Anne says

    Hello Lisa,
    Thank you for being so forthcoming with your advice. Really good information!

    I have a question regarding book proposals for nonfiction books. Is it best to write an entire book before submitting a book proposal to a potential publisher or agent? I ask because I’m ready to start my next book but I’m always keeping my eye on which book is most marketable. It takes a great time commitment to complete a book as you know. But a book proposal would involve less time and I could test the waters to identify any takers for publishing it. If they did state interest then I would complete the book. I would anticipate having the entire book outlined but not all the chapters written. I’ve written one non-fiction book and a children’s book and have self-published both. I’m trying to solicit interest from publishers and lit agents this time around.

    Your thoughts are welcome and appreciated.

    Best regards,
    Anne

    • Lisa Tener says

      Thank you for your questions, Anne. In most cases I would suggest you write the book proposal first, for the very reasons you suggest. You can test the waters and make sure you get interest. Plus, if an agent or publisher suggests significant changes, you won’t have to rewrite the whole book, just the sample chapter(s) and revise the outline. With memoir, it can be helpful to have the whole book ready for agents and publishers, but it doesn’t sound like that is the case with your book. Good luck!

  17. Chisa Barrett says

    I am currently preparing myself to venture into ghostwriting. Although I have self-published several books and have a past as an online magazine columnist, I am uncertain about what my starting prices should be. I am interested in not only writing books but continuing to write articles as well. I tend to love articles more. I am also interested in blogging, but don’t know how to get going or at least how to truly blog and be great at it. I have a hard time finding people to write articles for. I’m thirsty for a good project. Any advice?

  18. Shoshanah Shear says

    HI Lisa

    Thanks for this informative article.

    I have a book self-published and am working on other books of my own.
    What do you recommend to figure out my fee for a non-fiction ebook (within my profession drawing on much of my clinical experience. The Ebook is over 8000 words and my name would be used. Also, would you negotiate royalties or not?

    Secondly, for ghostwriting memoirs of 100 – 200 pages?

    Lastly, is there benefit to joining the IWWG if I am outside of the US? The meet the agent that you mention is regional within the US?

    Thanks for your help

    Shoshanah

    • Lisa Tener says

      If you are outside the IWWG, I’m not sure. Check out their membership information and see if you think you’d benefit.
      As to prices, it’s a little hard to say. I would say for an 8,000 word ebook maybe $3,000 – $5,000, though it’s very subjective. Is this your first ghostwriting gig? If so, you may want to charge a little less than going rate. For memoir, again it varies. Memoir is a challenging genre, so it would really depend on the quality of the writing. You might start your first ghoswriting project at $10,000 or $15,000 to get the experience, but you may be able to charge more if you are an excellent writer and can show that. Once you have significant experience, you can charge $25,000 – $40,000 or even more.

  19. J.A. says

    Hi Lisa! Thank you for this post. I am in talks to assist someone in writing a book and I’m wondering if you can help me think through scaling a bid based on how much of the work the client will do himself.
    He will definitely provide a preliminary outline but wants me to provide multiple options (e.g. what it would cost if he just provides the outline vs. the outline plus substantial notes vs. a full rough draft). Also, how do you accommodate research time into a bid?
    I have 10 years of full-time copywriting and editing experience but most of my work is short-form and I have only helped write one e-book. (This will be a full-length book though I’m not sure how long, and I don’t know how to scale based on potential page length.) I appreciate any thoughts you may have!
    Thank you!
    J.A.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi J.A.
      Good luck with this ghostwriting (or co-authoring) project.
      I would say there are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
      1. Be very, very clear about what exactly comes with each package – how many hours of interviewing (max), how many revisions, etc. What happens if the book topic changes dramatically and you have all this extra work? Be clear about contingencies. There should also be a kill fee if one of you decides to cancel.
      2. If you are not sure about hours of research, include a quote for x number of hours of research, indicating that additional research will be billed at $x/hour and that the client will be notified when they are close to the maximum research hours included in the bid.
      3. You’ll need to guess at the time it will take for you in the different scenarios. You may want to ask the client more about their expectations (multiple edits to truly polish the book, including developmental edits and line-by-line edits). If the client is providing a rough draft, can they show you samples of other writing they’ve done so that you have some sense of the quality of their writing? (samples that have not been edited by someone else).
      The most important thing is to make sure you are both on the same page with expectations.
      Let me know if you have additional questions and good luck with the project.
      Lisa

      • JA says

        Thank you so much for your thorough and thoughtful response. I’m seeing numbers in the $12-$15K and up range elsewhere in this post; are you at all able to speak to how this might scale at the different levels I mentioned? Again, thank you—it’s so generous of you to be so responsive and forthcoming.

        • Lisa Tener says

          I would say $12,000 – $15,000 is at the lower end of the range and would generally not include research. It might be a good price for someone wanting to get a few books under their belt, but you would be working hard for the money. By the hour, it probably wouldn’t work out to much pay. As a first project, it may be worth it to you, but I’d consider adding research as a separate fee then.

          • JA says

            That minimum applies even if he provides the outline and/or notes and/or a draft? (I apologize for the multiple follow-ups; you are of course under no obligation to respond!)

  20. M. Fahad says

    I wish I had known about this blog a bit earlier. I never knew that my writing skills could be charged for so much money. I probably underestimated ghostwriting as a career.

    • Lisa Tener says

      It is crucial that the writing be precise and punctuation correct, so you may want to start out hiring an editor the first few times you ghostwrite.

  21. Brook says

    Lisa, thank you for providing a great resource for ghostwriters! I have worked in web content writing, public relations and other communication disciplines for about 15 years. One of my clients is finally ready for me to ghostwrite his book. This would be my first book, but I do other ongoing work for him on a retainer of $1000 a month. The book is going to be an additional workload. I think we are looking at 200 pages and I believe the genre is memoir/business advice. Would I be reasonable to propose a $10,000 fee, paid in increments monthly until completion? And what would a reasonable timeline be? Thank you so much for your wisdom and insights.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Brook, That is on the low end for ghostwriting a 200 page book, but since it’s your first book, then that’s a reasonable price. You might also charge a bit more and put the extra money towards a developmental editor to help you polish and learn the craft of book writing, which is different from other writing. It would be worth it for your client and also help you if you want to do more ghostwriting in the future. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  22. Ari says

    Hi Lisa! Thanks for your insight! My situation seems unique given that few online sources have made me confident in how I should proceed. I’m a third year college student who was in the middle of an interview for a marketing internship when the interviewer asked if I would be interested in ghostwriting her book. The internship (for which I have been rejected) was listed as unpaid, but the suggested gig of ghostwriting seems like it would entail far more work than the internship would have. After consulting some of my previous English professors, it’s clear that I should pursue some compensation, but here’s the kicker…I have zero experience. I probably put more love and effort in my academic papers compared to most of my classmates; I founded and edited my improv troupe’s monthly newsletter this past year; I have a few small, personal creative projects under my belt; and I did win an essay contest on the topic of ethics last year; but I am without any actual, tangible experience to leverage in a negotiation. We have scheduled a meeting for this Friday to discuss the book and my prospective involvement, but I haven’t a clue what I can reasonably ask for in regards to compensation. Perhaps if I ask my potential client to prompt an example piece, I could demonstrate how my writing style would translate to the book’s subject, but even so I wouldn’t know where to begin in negotiating my fee. Can you offer me any further advice, or better yet a number? Thanks!

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Ari, I agree that you should be compensated. This could be a great opportunity for you but it takes a long time to write a book. What kind of book is it? Yes, I agree that it would be good to write a sample piece, something for the book, but charge for that as well. It can be modest due to your lack of experience but do charge. If it were me, I would also include in the budget money for an editor so that you get the experience of working with an editor to improve the book, she gets a better book, etc. Most experienced writers have editors because they add value. It’s harder to see the weaknesses and opportunities in your own work. An outside eye always helps. So this would be a reasonable request.

      • Ari says

        Thanks for the prompt response! What kind of book is it? That’s actually a fantastic question and one that I intend to solve at the very beginning of the meeting. From what I can tell so far, the book is meant to revolve around dreams, both psychologically and philosophically, and how they can be practically utilized for entrepreneurs to construct/market their businesses. It has me both interested and skeptical; as you may be inferring as well, it seems slightly ‘self-helpy’, but I intend to keep an open mind until I learn more. It’s also been made clear that I’ll be helping on the research side of things as well, seeing that neither of us are psychologists, we will likely be contacting psychology scholars and entrepreneurs. Some groundwork has apparently been laid, though it seems that there are still a few steps before a book’s worth of content will be transcribable. I’ve reached out to professors, mentors, and an evidently sage book writing coach, and I have gotten distinctly valuable advice from each of you, so the past few days have certainly substantiated the value of an editor. As for the cheese (I swear I’d articulate more professionally in a book), are you familiar with what a reasonable editor’s fee would be? Furthermore, what might I charge for a specialized sample and ghostwriting fee? I know this would all be dependent on her budget and the book’s own metrics, but given that I’m not even a proven/published writer, would it be offensive for me to even charge the low end of what The Writer’s Market (2014) suggests, that being $50 per page (i.e. 250 words)/$.50 per word (i.e. any confined amount of letters)? I’m not certain how long our exchange will be, so it’s possible that you’ll tire of my ‘thank yous’; consequently, whenever I want to express gratitude for your help and wisdom, I’ll write ‘Nabisco Ginger Snaps’, naturally due to their strict association with positive attitudes. Nabisco Ginger Snaps, Lisa!

        • Lisa Tener says

          That’s a fair fee to charge. However, if there is a lot of research involved, I would add that on as a separate fee. For research you can charge anywhere from $20-$30 per hour or more. You can estimate research up front and let her know if you are getting close to the estimate and need to revise it but be clear that this is likely to happen. Is she planning to self publish? If not, she might want to add a psychologist as a co-author and have them write something about the research or science/evidence as a sidebar in each chapter.
          As to the price of an editor, first you’ll want to determine services. Do you want a developmental edit? Line by line editing? A copy edit? Proofreading? This page gives more information about types of editing. Feel free to email me to find an editor that meets your budget.

          • Ari says

            Nabisco Ginger Snaps! This has all been very helpful! I’ll be sure to bother you once I know more, but I definitely feel more well-equipped for my upcoming meeting!

          • Lisa Tener says

            Good luck and let us know how it goes. I’ll be rooting for you to get a nice agreement! Do make sure you put together a ghostwriter contract. This post includes a checklist for the ghostwriting contact. See if you can find something free online or talk to a lawyer if you want to be safest!

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