Are you thinking about publishing a nonfiction book and wondering how much does a ghostwriter cost? I have the answer you’re looking for. In fact, of all book genres, nonfiction books created with the purpose of promoting a business or a professional career are ideal candidates for ghostwriting.
The reason is that these books have a more structured approach to content delivery than most other books. Also, they tend to address a very specific niche audience, which means that a ghostwriter who specializes in business writing understands the dynamic of this type of audience better than a general nonfiction ghostwriter.
Before we can answer the question how much does a ghostwriter cost, it’s important to know the many facets of a business ghostwriter and what it is that they can do for you.
How Does a Business Ghostwriter Work?
Business ghostwriters have a number of ways they can work with you, depending of the nature of your project.
They generally address the following four scenarios:
1. You’ve already completed your manuscript, but writing is not your forte. If this is your case, a professional edit will not be sufficient to make your book shine. For professional editors to be successful, they need to be able to work on a fairly polished manuscript which does not require extensive rewriting (some rewriting is acceptable).
When more significant edits are required, say the structure of the chapters doesn’t flow properly, a book editor will make recommendations on how to re-arrange your book, but it’s your job as the writer to then take those recommendations and go back to the drawing board.
A ghostwriter, on the other hand, will take all the information contained in your non-polished manuscript and rewrite it entirely as if they were the original author, making as many changes as necessary to turn your manuscript into a polished, publication-ready book.
They can do so because ghostwriters are authors first and foremost, and as such they fully understand the dynamic of the writer-reader relationship. On the other hand, not all book editors are published authors (some are but many aren’t).
2. You just have an outline of your book, a preliminary table of contents of sorts listing all the areas that you wish to cover, including some initial paragraphs or thoughts for each entry in your outline.
In this case, your ghostwriter will first take this information, complemented by any additional documentation you provide plus one-on-one discussions with you, then they’ll conduct their own research into your subject matter (with recommendations from you) and finally they’ll proceed to write your manuscript in its entirety.
They will follow your original outline but also make changes as they see fit, in order to make your book best suited for your target audience.
3. You have ideas for a book, but you don’t have an outline per se, or you have a list of points you would like to cover, but no additional writing. In this case, your ghostwriter will need to interview you, asking you questions about your goals for your book, your knowledge and experiences that you would like conveyed on its pages, and any stories or anecdotes that you would like to add to it.
Your ghostwriter will help you build a mind map to establish the structure you desire, and ensure that all your main ideas are covered. Your ghostwriter will then use this information, conduct their own research into the topic and finally produce a polished manuscript.
An example of this type of ghostwriting is when recognized business leaders would like to document their experiences in a book but simply don’t have the time (or skill) to sit down to write it – many famous CEOs use this ghostwriting approach.
4. You have taped yourself dictating the book into a recording device and now would like to turn the audio tracks into a written book. With this approach, your ghostwriter will make use of a voice transcription service, which will use a combination of software tools and manual input, to turn your recordings word by word into written documents. Your ghostwriter will then use these documents in consultation with you to craft your book.
How Much Do You Pay a Ghostwriter?
Depending on the scenario that most closely matches your requirements, ghostwriters have four main types of charges:
- Preparation Charges
- Research Charges
- Transcription Charges
- Per-Word Charges
Before beginning the writing process, ghostwriters need to have one-on-one conversations with you, at a minimum to discuss your project, and at a maximum to interview you over several days or weeks in order to obtain the information that they need to write your manuscript. The less amount of information you provide in written form (or audio form), the longer this preparatory stage will take and the higher the cost.
Due to the large range of scenarios for this preparatory stage, most ghostwriters will charge an hourly rate based on the total time required. Typical rates for this stage range between $100 and $250 per hour, depending on the reputation and demand of the ghostwriter, with a typical project costing between $3,000 and $7,500.
Once the ghostwriter has all the information they need from you, and unless you provide them with a full manuscript, they will have to conduct their own research into your subject matter in order to fill out knowledge gaps and to fact check your information before it goes onto the printed page.
Research charges are typically hourly and can range between $100 and $500 per hour, with a typical project costing between $3,000 and $30,000. The higher end of the range is substantial because it usually involves ghostwriters that work with well-known business personalities or politicians, and as such, the volume of information that they must sift through requires them to hire a staff of researchers and fact checkers.
If you are supplying your ghostwriter with audio materials, they will charge you a transcription fee to turn the audio into writer form. Transcription charges range between $1,000 and $3,000.
Finally, once the ghostwriter has all they need to create your manuscript, you will be charged a per-word fee based on the final word count of your publication-ready manuscript. Per-word charges can range between $0.50 and $3.00.
Since ghostwriting can become a significant investment, it’s imperative that you sign a thorough agreement that lists in detail all of the work that needs to be done in order to ghostwrite your manuscript, including pricing, clear terms and payment timetables. Although fees won’t likely be negotiable, payment terms might be.
As a safeguard, it’s important that you request a sensible probation/early-termination clause (i.e. an “escape clause”) so that you can end your contract should you not be satisfied with the work that’s being provided. Naturally, you’ll be required to pay for work already done, but not for the entire contract (this is called the “kill fee”).
Reputable ghostwriters will include escape clauses in their contracts to ensure that the relationship ends amicably should there be an irreconcilable disagreement in the overall direction of the project or if you are unsatisfied with the results.
The ghostwriting contract must also include a copyright clause to ensure that once the work is completed all rights revert to you, including the rights to any other future work derived from your book.
Do Ghostwriters Get Royalties?
In some cases, usually for authors that come with a large audience of followers that has been successfully monetized in the past, ghostwriters may negotiate to receive a percentage of royalties from the sale of the book. If you fit this scenario, you might want to use your built-in audience and associated ghostwriter share of the royalties to reduce your upfront costs.
Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?
The answer to this question comes down to whether you don’t enjoy writing, you simply have no time available but need a book in order to grow your business, or economic considerations that make ghostwriting financially attractive.
For example, if you’ve been shown by colleagues that a nonfiction book in your niche will become a much stronger lead-generation and client-acquisition mechanism than your paid advertising has delivered in the past, then the ghostwriting cost might be favorable compared to the future cost of advertising.
Good luck in your writing journey!
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, printing, distribution and marketing.