In my last post I discussed some ways to break into ghostwriting and different types of ghostwriting that are available, such as writing for magazines, ghosting for business execs, and writing speeches. In this post, I want to focus on pricing and getting credit for your work.
How to Price Ghostwriting:
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly how much to charge for your work, because it will vary widely based on the publisher, person, or company you are working for, and also your amount of experience. I know of some ghostwriters starting out who have received $2500 for a book, while others with 20+ years of experience regularly get six figures for their work. But, what I can tell you is how to charge.
What I have found works best for me (you may need to experiment to see what works best for you) is to charge an hourly writing rate for shorter projects, like articles and reports, but charge a flat project fee for larger works, like books or longer speeches. Sometimes you will contract directly with the publisher for articles, in which case you’ll have to play by their rules of payment. But if you’re working with the author, you can typically set your own guidelines for how you want to charge them.
For the shorter works, I will wait until I have completed the project to the customer’s satisfaction before I bill. I just figure that’s the way I would want it. I’ve found that they appreciate that I want to make sure they are happy before I send out an invoice. And if the customer is happy, chances are my name will get passed on to others.
For longer projects, like a book which may take several months to complete, I’ll ask for a down payment of sorts before I start the project. I’ve yet to have anyone complain about this. I have however, heard of some people who have bailed on the project mid-stream and left the ghostwriter with no payment at all after writing half the book!
So, after the initial payment, which is typically about 1/4 to 1/3 of the total, I will then collect again at roughly the half-way point. The remainder of the payment is due after final approval of the finished work. If a book requires extensive research or many hours of interviewing, it may be wise to ask for a partial payment after some of that work is complete.
Speaking of interviewing and researching, don’t forget to bill for this time! Don’t limit your charges only to actual writing. Often, the time you need to spend with the author or the time it takes to research in order to write can be a bigger drag on your time than the writing itself.
Will your name go on the cover?
It used to be that when a book was ghostwritten, you never saw the ghostwriter’s name–anywhere! Obviously, that’s how the term came about, and the actual writer was always kept a secret. Nowadays, however, you’ll often see both the author (the person with the idea) and the actual writer’s name on the cover. But, aside from books, you still won’t know if material has been ghosted. You can assume that most speeches are not written by the one giving the speech, but for articles, reports, or other correspondence, the ghostwriter will not be revealed.
I ghostwrite many articles for one particular organization, under the name of the founder. When I’m with him at various company events, people often come to him and comment on “his” article they saw in the organization’s magazine. He just smiles and says, “Thank you!” And I smirk!
Depending on whether you have a traditional publisher involved in the book you are ghostwriting, you may or may not see your name on the cover. If the person you are writing for is self-publishing, you can always negotiate with that person to get your name on the front with his. One way is to ask for slightly less money if your name appears on the cover, or slightly more if it does not. Even if your name is not on the front, you still may get credit inside the book, either on the inside cover or in the Acknowledgements section. These are all negotiable terms.
If you’re working with a traditional publisher, you may have less say about where your name appears, if it does at all. Often this will depend on who the author is. If it’s a big-name celebrity or other writer, it’s doubtful that you will see your name with theirs, unless you are a big name as well. If, however, you are simply telling the story of an average Joe, then there’s a good chance your name will appear, especially if you have other books to your credit. In this case, you are the draw to the book and not the other person, who is probably unknown to most readers.
But, keep in mind, that for most ghostwriters, it’s all about the joy of writing and the paycheck at the end of the day–they’ve learned to set their ego aside and not worry about whether or not anyone ever sees their name. If you’re thinking about whether you want to start ghostwriting, this is a question you’ll definitely need to ask yourself: “Am I okay with not getting credit for my work?” If so, you can smirk all the way to the bank!