Illustrator: Kalin Nachev
In a comment 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 (please note: I have updated and revised my answers as of 2014 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 $25,000 – $30,000and 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 $30,000 – $40,000 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 $20,000 – $60,000 and even more.
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 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.
Yes, I recommend hiring an intellectual property attorney. Do be careful. Try to find a person through personal referrals–someone 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.
If the client is asking you to help find an agent and publisher, you will need to write a book proposal. I highly recommend Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal. 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 in March and the International Women Writers Guild’s (IWWG) Meet the Agents during their BIg Apple Conference every April and October. IWWG also has regional workshops that may have agents present.
Have you thought of ghostwriting? Wondering how to break in? Tomorrow, I plan to follow up Jeannie’s questions with a few more ideas for anyone contemplating a ghostwriting project or career as a ghostwriter.
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Filed Under: Author's Platform, Book Proposals, Getting Published, Ghostwriting, How to Get Published, More..., Writing, Writing Blocks, Writing Challenges, Writing FeesTagged With: entertainment lawyer, ghostwriter, Ghostwriting, ghostwriting advice, ghostwriting contract, ghostwriting fees, ghostwriting project, ghostwriting research, ghostwriting royalty, Harvard Medical School, International Women Writers Guild, IWWG, meet agents, Meet the Agents, write a book proposal« Previous PostThe Squirtgun Approach to MotivationNext postMore Ghostwriting Advice: 10 Things You Need to Know »
What Do I Need to Consider When Choosing a Ghostwriting Firm?
The Internet is littered with online writing and editing services, making it nearly impossible to sift through the scams and find a legitimate and trustworthy service. Here are some questions to ask when you’re vetting companies to ensure that you pick a reliable firm for all your writing and editing needs:
- Is the price right? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Developing a high-quality book can take hundreds of hours of work and requires a high level of expertise—don’t be tempted by third-rate writers who market “affordable” prices.
- Who owns the rights to the book? It’s your book, which means that you should own the rights to your content. Be wary of ghostwriters asking for partial rights to your material.
- What is the payment arrangement? You should always pay for ghostwriting services in installments and never 100% upfront. After the initial deposit, you should make subsequent payments only if you’re happy with what the ghostwriter has written up to that point. You should have clearly defined milestones for payments to ensure that you and your writer know what to expect.
- Who’s in charge? Working with a ghostwriter is a collaborative effort, but you should have the final say on all content decisions. If a writer is unwilling to put your needs and requests first, then it’s not going to be your book—it will be theirs.
- Is the service confidential? This is YOUR book. A ghostwriter’s name should never appear on the completed manuscript unless you want it to be there.
Whatever service you decide to use, be sure to protect yourself. Make certain that you are working with a reputable company with experience.
I Know the General Topic for My Book, But I Don’t Know What Specific Ideas to Include. Can You Help Me?
Absolutely! Your ghostwriter can be intimately involved with the planning and development of your concept, as well as conduct in-depth research to augment and elaborate on your topic. We can conduct interviews with you and create an outline for your book based on your ideas that you can then work with your writer to refine and expand before the writing process begins.
What Is the Typical Ghostwriting Process?
The ghostwriting process can be as unique as you and your book! There are basic elements that are typically included in every book; however, our ghostwriting services are tailored to your specific needs and can include anything you need help with, from planning and preparation to ghostwriting to publishing.
We can work with you as consultants and editors as you develop the content on your own, or we can ghostwrite the book for you, based on interviews and other information you provide us.
A standard ghostwriting package will include phone calls and email correspondence to gather information from you, as well as a process of writing, reviewing, and revising your content. We can also conduct in-person interviews, site visits, and independent research as needed. We are very flexible with our ghostwriting process and we are happy to customize our service to best suit your personality, schedule, and publishing goals.
While we tailor our ghostwriting services to suit each client’s preferences, here is the typical ghostwriting process:
- Getting to know you and your publishing goals: The first step in the ghostwriting process is understanding the author—you! We’ll discuss your ghostwriting needs, personal preferences, schedule, and publishing goals in depth and help you decide what strategy would work best for you and your book.
- Planning: Our team will discuss your book concept with you in depth and begin developing a detailed outline of your book. We typically gather information via email and phone conversations, though the process may also include in-person interviews, site visits, and independent research as necessary.
- Writing and Revisions: A primary writer will be assigned to develop the draft material 3-5 pages at a time, which will be continually reviewed by one of our managing editors and then proofread by additional editors to ensure the highest level of quality. The process usually involves developing a small amount of material at a time and submitting it to you regularly for review and approval. We will then revise the segment per your preferences and resubmit it to you for review and another round of feedback. We will not continue with the writing process until you’re completely happy with each segment.
- Editing and Formatting: Once the ghostwriting is complete, we will have an editor (who is NOT the ghostwriter) review the manuscript and ensure that it is free of grammatical error. At this time, we will also format the manuscript for your various publishing outlets (self-publishing, PDF, eBook, etc.).
- Publishing: At this stage, we will either develop your query letter or book proposal and provide you with a list of reputable literary agents to contact.
How Long Does the Ghostwriting Process Typically Take?
The duration of the ghostwriting process is partly up to you—the author! Depending on your schedule and desired level of involvement, your ghostwriter will develop material for you to review and approve on a weekly or biweekly basis. While every book is unique, on average, a 200-page manuscript will take between three and six months to develop. We can often rush these services for you if you need to meet a specific publishing date.
How Can I Be Sure That a Ghostwriter Will Be Able to Capture My Vision?
The process of writing is a creative one that almost always morphs as it progresses. However, our professional writers are ready to work closely with you to ensure that the words on the page are as faithful to your vision as possible. Your writer will develop the material in small batches at a time, giving you and the ghostwriter ample opportunity to discuss and adjust the style, tone, and content of the writing. You’ll also have plenty of one-on-one interaction with your writer, which means that you’ll be able to come to a shared agreement about what you want your book to be.
I Have an Idea for a Book, But I Don’t Know if It’s Good. Can You Help?
Our consultation services are perfect for authors who have an idea and want to talk it through to weigh the merits and challenges of the project. Our professional publishing consultants can discuss your project with you and give you feedback on the concept, outline, and implementation. Give us a call and tell us about your book idea!
I'm Not a Writer, But I Have a Great Idea for a Movie/Novel/etc. Can You Help?
Give us a call! We’ll help you bring your story to life—for the screen, the page, or even the stage. We have the passion and experience writing stories, and we can pair you with a skilled ghostwriter, editor, or consultant to coax your concept out into a fully formed work of art that you’ll be proud to call your own. Don’t let lack of experience hold you back from actualizing a great idea!
Can You Help Me Write a Play?
Our team of writers is well versed in developing both stageplays and screenplays, and we would be delighted to collaborate with you. As with novelists, we work with playwrights in a flexible, customized way. We can develop material independently that you review and approve, or the process can involve in-depth interviews and one-on-one writing sessions—it’s all up to you!
How Much Interaction Will I Have with My Ghostwriter and Editor?
You can have as much or as little interaction with your ghostwriter and editor as you’d like! We tailor our process to suit your schedule and your needs. Generally, writers opt to have regular interviews and collaboration sessions with their ghostwriter or editor via phone or Skype, as well as ongoing communication by email. In certain instances, it is also possible to arrange for in-person meetings with your ghostwriter or editor. The entire process can be molded to best support you!
Do I Have to Give the Ghostwriter Credit?
No! That is why it is called ghostwriting—no one will know you had help with the writing process unless you choose to tell them. Our services are 100% confidential. We do not retain any rights or ownership of your book whatsoever—it is 100% YOUR book. Whether you earn one dollar or a million, you will never owe us any credit or extra compensation. Be skeptical of other ghostwriting services that may require such promises from you.
Is Ghostwriting Ethical?
Absolutely! The most important elements behind ghostwriting are the ideas—and as the author and initiator of your book, the ideas are all yours. The fact is, some people are just too busy or lack the writing skills to develop a publishable book—but their voices still deserve to be heard. A ghostwriter facilitates this process and acts as a translator between your mind and what readers can understand and enjoy. The ghostwriting process is simply a means for getting your story into the world!
How Much Do Ghostwriting Services Cost?
Every ghostwriting project is unique, and so the pricing is flexible and varies according to what you choose to include in your package. We customize our services for every client, which means the price is negotiable and based on the specifics of your project. Our comprehensive ghostwriting and publishing packages typically include phone time with the ghostwriter, an original query letter, a book cover, literary agent search, and publishing services, which means the price for your book will vary according to your publishing goals and needs.
Can I Include My Own Writing? Will this Save Me Money?
Yes and yes! We will gladly edit and incorporate any content that you provide. Depending on the strength of the content you’ve written, it may save you a lot of money!
Am I Allowed to Choose My Ghostwriter? Can I View a Sample of Their Writing?
In general, we’re very adept at matching clients with the ghostwriter who will best suit them; however, we are also more than willing to provide you with writing samples and credentials for your potential ghostwriter. We can arrange for phone calls between you and potential writers and you are more than welcome to select between several options. Our goal is to make sure you’re fully satisfied with your ghostwriting experience from the very beginning.
What if It’s Not Working Out with My Assigned Ghostwriter?
If you’re unhappy with the material you’ve received from your writer, you can simply give that feedback directly to the writer or our editor-in-chief and we will revise accordingly. Our skilled ghostwriters are able to shift their tone and style based on input from you to ensure that you connect with the writing. If after multiple revisions you are still unhappy with the writing, we can assign a new writer to the project who is a better match for you—this type of flexibility is one of the unique benefits of working with a professional firm.
What Happens if I’m Not Happy or Satisfied with the Final Product?
We design our ghostwriting process to ensure that we’re always meeting your expectations and that there are no last-minute surprises. You will be able to review and influence your manuscript as the ghostwriter completes it, and you will have every opportunity to provide feedback and request revisions. Our process involves writing a small amount of material, sending it to you for feedback, making revisions based on your input, and then returning the revised content to you for approval before moving on. This method guarantees that you’ll be happy with the final result since you will have approved every page of writing leading up to the final page. With that said, if for some reason you’re not happy with the final product, it just means that it’s not the final product! We’ll continue to work with you until you’re satisfied with the results.
What if I Just Want Feedback and Consultation on My Book?
Our editing and consultation services are perfectly suited for writers who are looking to improve their work. We can give input at whatever level of detail you’d like—overarching feedback on the structure and concept of the book, critical review on the flow and transitions, or copyediting changes to the text itself. We can also address specific issues, as per your request, in our review of your work.
Once the Ghostwriting Is Complete, Can You Help with Publishing and Marketing?
We’ve assisted many first-time and experienced authors with self-publishing their book and securing lucrative book deals through traditional publishing avenues. We’ll craft a query letter or book proposal that you can use to promote your book to agents and publishing houses. We’ll help you to decide between self-publishing options, and we can put you in contact with marketing services to get the word out about your book.