Ghostwriting is a freeing and flexible career that you can easily adapt to your own preferences and needs. It’s also a solid and lucrative way to make a living. Whether you’ve been ghostwriting for a while now, or it’s a career that you’re hoping to break into, we’ve created a handy primer covering just about everything you need to know to make more money and ghostwriting fees. Below, we’ll answer questions such as “How much do ghostwriters charge?”, “How much do ghostwriters make?” and “Do I need a ghostwriting contract?”
Ghostwriting Fees: How Much To Charge? And How?
Did you know that there are many different ways that you can charge for your writing? Ghostwriting pricing can vary just as much as the wide variety of freelance ghostwriting jobs out there. When you take on a new project, or a apply for a job, you should be aware that most will pay either by the word, by the page, by the hour, or by a flat project-based fee. In this section, we’ll go over the relative pros and cons of these configurations.
First of all, it’s worth mentioning that you may or may not have your choice of these options. If you get paid to ghostwrite independently (i.e, you’re not attached to a company or agency), you are more likely to be able to choose your own payment configuration. However, it can be harder to market yourself at profitable ghostwriting service rates if you’re a relative beginner or unknown, without the steady flow of clients and name recognition that a ghostwriting company or agency can provide. With that in mind, lets go over your options.
By the Word
There are several advantages to getting paid by the word. First of all, the faster you can type polished and marketable prose, the higher your hourly rate can be! For example, say you were being paid ghostwriting fees of 4 cents a word for a 2,000 word story. If writing and editing this story took you 4 hours, your hourly rate would work out as $20; however, if you were able to accomplish the same in two hours, your hourly rate would be $40.
When you take on a “by the word” project, think about what kind of writer you are. Are you a meticulous perfectionist, or do you prefer to get a first draft down on the page as quickly as possible, and then tidy it up? Neither method is better than the other, but you should weigh up whether you can squeeze a good hourly rate out of each project, however you work.
By the Page
You might be commissioned to write a book by the page, and whether or not this works is very much dependent on the project. When you’re evaluating how much to charge for ghostwriting a book, there needs to be discussions between you and the client on what constitutes a page. If the client wants a 200-page book that is all text, with no illustrations, then you’ll need to agree on the number of words per page ahead of time (say 250 words per page).
Other projects might include figures, graphics, photos or illustrations. The questions you might want to ask include number of expected figures and intended size of figures, and you will need to adjust the word count for those pages. In addition, you will need to agree ahead of time on who will supply the images (and captions) and if any permissions and fees are needed for their use, who’s job that will be.
Be aware that the number of images will have a significant impact on the amount of time taken to complete the job (and therefore, how cost-effective it is for you — you should always attempt to mentally translate the amount of work needed into an hourly rate.). For example, if you’re commissioned for a 200-page book, then you will need to break out the content of those pages according to client specifications.
For example, in a 200-page book, 120 pages will be text-only at 200 words per page; 50 pages will have 1 image, 1 caption and 100 words per page; and the remaining 30 pages will have 2 images, 2 captions and 50 words per page. If you’re hired to take or source the images yourself, factor the time that takes, and any licensing fees and permissions, into your calculations when figuring out your ghostwriting fees.
By the Hour
With a “by the hour” payment configuration, you know what you’re getting. You can also charge accurately for time spent researching, planning, drafting, and editing. However, you should be aware that some clients might have an upper threshold for what they’re willing to spend on ghostwriting fees; in other words, you can’t write 100 words an hour for 20 hours, when you’re capable of writing the same amount (2,000 words) in 2 hours.
Flat Ghostwriting Fee / Project Based
Flat, project-based ghostwriting fees have the same advantages as a “by the word” configuration of payment. Expectations are clear, and you know up front exactly how much you’re going to receive for the finished project. As with a “by the word” payment, the quicker you can complete the project, the more profitable it will be for you — but if you’re in charge of setting your own deadlines and rates, please be realistic about how quickly you can complete a project without compromising on quality. That last part is key: it’s better to do fewer projects to a high standard, and grow a reputation as a skilled and reliable writer, than to bite off more than you can chew, and end up in a situation where you’ve overpromised and underdelivered.
How to Charge More for the Same Work
Now that you’re aware of the pros and cons of different payment configurations, let’s go over how you can charge more for the same amount of work.
The first and perhaps most obvious thing you can do is to negotiate a better rate when it comes to your ghostwriting fees. You can do this by thoroughly researching the current market rates, so that your opening gambit is both realistic and competitive relative to others in the writing industry. Don’t just look at what ghostwriters earn: research what ghostwriters of 1,000 word stories, or 500 word blog posts, or 30,000 word novellas are paid.
You’ll quickly find that rates vary depending on length, genre, format, and content — intimately familiarise yourself with your niche (whether that’s blog posts about fly fishing, erotic flash fiction, or moody poetry chapbooks) to avoid either undervaluing yourself, or pricing yourself out of the market. Your rate should be commensurate to your experience; a ghostwriter who’s been building their reputation for 10 years can charge more than somebody just starting out.
Use your strengths, your experience, and any positive reviews or references you have to bolster your breakdown of your prices.
Moving from an hourly to a per word payment configuration is also a good way to increase your earnings, providing you can keep up the pace! Which leads me to my next tip: writing quickly and efficiently is an invaluable skill, and there are many tools available to help you achieve and practice this.
One is The Most Dangerous Writing App, within which you can set yourself a target of either a specific wordcount, or a specific amount of time: once you start writing, the app won’t let you stop until the goal is reached… if you stop typing for more than five seconds, all your work is deleted. There are also time management systems like the pomodoro method, which involves working solidly for 25 minutes and then breaking for 5, and numerous apps (like Focus Booster) with built-in timers or trackers to keep a record of your progress.
How Much to Charge for a Book Proposal
As a ghostwriter, there are two main situations in which you might be required to write a book proposal. First, you might be hired by a client to write a proposal for their book (this might be part of a package deal in which you write the book itself, and the marketing content to go along with it). Second, you might need to write a book proposal for your own projects, or in order to win over a client or company (by telling them how you specifically would approach a certain project).
Regardless of the reason, the basic components of a book proposal remain roughly the same. A strong book proposal should be concise and compelling, and the tone should be half informative, half persuasive.
Before you begin to write your proposal, you should know your book intimately inside and out. If it’s fiction, you should have a strong awareness of genre conventions and the current market; if it’s non-fiction, you should be very clear on your argument, the evidence you’re going to use to back that argument up, and what exactly your non-fiction project can bring to the table (that no other book has done so far).
You’ll gain this knowledge through research and familiarity with your chosen niche. Your book proposal should provide logistical details like a rough word count and structure. How many chapters do you propose? How will they be laid out? Do you plan to include addenda like an index, appendices, illustrations, or photographs? All of this is relevant information for the client or commissioning editor.
Your book proposal should also include relevant information about yourself; don’t tell your entire life story (the editor doesn’t need to know where you went to primary school!), but do outline your pertinent experience and qualifications. What prior publications do you have, if any? Have you worked as an editorial assistant in children’s publishing for 10 years, and can therefore boast extensive knowledge of the market. For a non-fiction project, do you have a degree in the subject matter, or a lifelong passion for it. These biographical details sell you as the writer, and help to demonstrate why you are the right person for this book.
Finally, your book proposal should include a promotion plan. This doesn’t have to be extremely specific or carved in stone (after all, your book proposal shouldn’t be overly long), but you should be able to demonstrate that you’ve thought through how you will market this book. Do you have a strong online social media presence you could utilise, or are you a member of a special interest group that you know would enjoy reading and promoting the book? Let the commissioning editor or client know what tools you have at your disposal, rather than seeming as if you’re relying on somebody else to do all the marketing work.
Additional Incentives You can Earn
Finally, let’s take a look at some of the additional incentives you can potentially earn. It can sometimes be worth negotiating for royalties or credit (or both), in addition to your freelance ghostwriting rates. Royalties are an amount paid by the publisher to the author in exchange for publication rights, and they are calculated as a percentage of sales. For example, an author might negotiate for 8% of every physical copy sold, and 25% of every eBook sold. In your ghostwriting contract, you and your client or agency might make a similar arrangement.
However, it is more common to sign away the rights to royalties for ghostwriting projects (hence why even entry level ghostwriters can earn a fair amount of money — you exchange a bigger, one-off payment upfront for the profit from future sales); if you do so, you might wish to negotiate for credit. This can exist in the form of cover credit, or a written testimonial by the client or agency, both of which are a boost to your visibility and reputation.
Lastly, you should endeavour, whenever possible, to get a ghostwriting contract written and signed, in order to protect yourself and your business — this will pay for itself over time. An attorney can be hired to write an airtight deal that ensures the best and fairest outcome for you and your client or agency.
Ghostwriting can be a rewarding, but challenging career, and as you’ve seen in this article, there are pitfalls and complications to be avoided. One way to ensure you’re not being taken advantage of, and to ensure a steady flow of work and consistent income, is to ghostwrite for an agency. At Relay Publishing, we have many writing, outlining, and editing positions available, and you can even earn $200, just for referring a friend! Don’t delay a moment longer — optimise your skills as a ghostwriter, and start earning higher ghostwriting fees today.
Harry Wallett is the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing. Combining his entrepreneurial background with a love of great stories, Harry founded Relay in 2013 as a fresh way to create books and for writers to earn a living from their work. Since then, Relay has sold 3+ million copies and worked with 100s of writers on bestselling titles such as Defending Innocence, The Alveria Dragon Akademy Series and Rancher’s Family Christmas.
Harry oversees the creative direction of the company, and works to develop a supportive collaborative environment for the Relay team to thrive within in order to fulfill our mission to create unputdownable books.