Actors and pop stars use them. Sports people too. I am talking about ghostwriters — those nebulous characters who write for other people.

Musical, acting or sporting greatness rarely translates into writing ability. And I’m fine with that — this fact of life keeps writers like me gainfully employed.

There can be big money in ghostwriting. Apparently, current presidential candidate and ‘megalomaniac’ Donald Trump’s ghostwriter netted a whopping US$500,000 plus royalties to write The Art of the Deal.

Nice work if you can get it.

Alas, most ghostwriters can only dream of such paydays. So, the 'million-dollar question' is this: How much does a ghostwriter cost?

Related post: What is a ghostwriter and why you might need one?

How long is your piece of string?

All books are different. Some are large; some are small. Some tackle complicated subjects; some don’t.

So, the question of cost is tricky.

It really is a case of ‘how long is a piece of string?’

According to Writer’s Digest, an informal poll in 2010 reported ghostwriters earned between US$10,000 and US$50,000 for books between 50,000 – 70,000 words. So, as you can see, ghostwriting fees vary a lot.

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What influences cost?

So, to gauge what a ghostwriter may cost, it helps to understand what you’re paying for.

Here are some of the main cost factors.

The size of your book

How big will your book be? A coffee table book with lots of pictures may require just a few thousand words. Full-size books, on the other hand, can have a word count of anywhere between 30,000 – 70,000.

Your involvement

A ghostwriter will do as much or as little as required. It may be that you have written your book, but it needs editing. Or, due to lack of skill, time or inclination, you want your ghostwriter to write from scratch.

Interviews

More often than not, a ghostwriter will source most of the information by talking to you. What do you prefer: telephone, Skype or in person? Face-to-face interviews may require your ghostwriter to factor in travel time.

To ensure nothing is overlooked, interviews are usually recorded. And an hour-long recorded interview takes two – four hours to transcribe. So, be aware that a one-hour interview could mean as much as five hours’ work.

Material to work with

If you are a business person, there may be available audio of conferences you have spoken at or magazine articles you have written or been featured in. These are all useful, and the more information you have, the easier it is for your ghostwriter.

Research

How much research will your ghostwriter need to do? The more complicated your topic, the more time-consuming research is likely to be. It may be that you’re not a great writer but can do research. Doing your own research will reduce the time you’ll have to pay for.

Writing

Finally, it’s time for the fun part! Based on interviews, research and material supplied, your ghostwriter will start to write.

Editing

It is important you are happy with your book’s content and style. So, your ghostwriter will ask you to review chapters as they are written. This enables you to make suggestions and request edits during the process.

Proofreading/external editing

It's never a good idea for writers to proofread their own work. When you're immersed in a project you often ‘can't see the wood for the trees.' So, a professional proofreader is required to spot embarrassing errors. Also, depending on your budget, it's often a good idea to use an external editor to look out for things like ambiguity or factual errors.

In summary, the more involvement you have in a ghostwriting project, the more affordable it is likely to be.

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  1. This is a good post based on what I know is solid experience from you Andrew. It’s never a case of ‘just write it’ – writing is a tremendous amount of work and made both easier and cheaper when there’s close collaboration.

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