How Much Should I Pay for a Ghostwriter?

A motivational speaker / business coach recently sent me a great question about ghostwriting. Because there are so many variables (and more than a few scams out there), I wanted to share the question and my response with you, too.

Question

What are upsides & downsides to getting book done with a ghostwriter? [I’m] Getting bids from ghostwriters offering to write 20,000- to 30,000-word books using my speaking and coaching recordings at a cost of $250-$400.

Answer

Ghostwriting is an excellent option for people who simply don’t have time to write or who have a story to tell but don’t have the skill or language background to do it well. That’s the upside.

The downside is that it isn’t inexpensive.

A fee of $250-400 is exceptionally low—barely covering the cost of transcription—even for a short book. That might equate to around $8-15/hour if the writer could knock out 2,000 words an hour. As a professional, would you work for that rate? I love a great deal as much as the next bargain shopper, but I would be wary of anyone calling him/herself a ghostwriter at that rate. At best, you might get a relatively clean transcript. At worst, you’re simply throwing money away.

Consider the fact that we write and read differently than we speak. In books, our words should be clear, concise, direct, and flow smoothly from one thought to the next. Regardless of how polished a speaker you are, it’s unlikely that your recordings are perfectly synced up to create a cohesive book. If you want someone to do more than compile transcripts, you can expect to pay for the time and skill involved. A rock-bottom rate might be .25/per word with all your source content neatly supplied, but it’s much more common for the fee to be .50 – 1.50/word (for the finished manuscript) or higher. Some ghostwriters charge upward of six-figures for their work on projects with celebrity authors.

Beware cheap ghostwriters. If you want someone to do more than compile transcripts, you can expect to pay for the time and skill involved. Click To Tweet

Ghostwriting rates vary based on the experience of the writer, the type of work you need, and the time allotted for the project. Fees do tend to be lower if you have blog posts and transcripts (or recordings that can be turned into transcripts) to work from, as that means the writer will spend less time gathering information. Even then, a qualified writer will spend significant time sorting through your words to pull out a message that will best represent you and your work or story.

If you’re wondering how much to charge as a freelancer or how much you can expect to pay for writing and editing services, the Editorial Freelancers Association has compiled a list of  common rates. Again, rates vary based on several factors, but this rate sheet provides some basic guidelines.

Bottom line: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Happy writing… and beware the sharks!

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