How much does a ghostwriter cost?

How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?

When someone searches for a ghostwriter, one of the first questions they ask is how much most ghostwriters charge, or, put another way, how much it costs to hire a ghostwriter.

Because there is no central governing board of ghostwriters or a ghostwriter’s guild that sets rates, each ghostwriter is free to set his or her own fees, so ghostwriters’ rates can vary quite a bit.

At the bottom of the price range are ghostwriters who live and work offshore (in a country like the Philippines, where their living expenses are a fraction of those in the States or  Europe). Those in this range might charge just a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to write a book, but they often do not speak English as their first language, and/or they lack experience.

In the middle are many ghostwriters who charge anywhere between $20,000 to $50,000 for a mass-market business book (something around 140 pages or 30,000 words), and between $35,000 and $120,000 for a longer, legacy memoir book (anywhere from 200 to 300 pages or more). Per word rates for ghostwriters in this group range anywhere from $1/word up to $2 or even $3 per word. As you can see, there is some variation in the fee. While these ghostwriter cost more than the lowest tier, they generally have much more experience and can provide a premium product and experience. Oh, and of course, they almost always speak English as their first language. 

At the very top are ghostwriters who work almost exclusively for celebrities. These ghost writers charge from $150,000 on up to $1,000,000 to write a book. For instance, the ghostwriter who helped write Prince Harry’s memoir Spare charged $1 million for his efforts. Prince Harry’s ghostwriter had previously written his own bestselling memoir, The Tender Bar (which is now a movie) and had also ghostwritten Andre Agassi’s memoir, Open. In other words, celebrity ghostwriters are those who have either already written a bestselling book or who have the experience and publishing connections to be introduced to clients like Prince Harry. Thus, with well-known, big clients come even bigger fees.

So, what you pay for a ghostwriter depends on whom you hire, and it’s up to you how much you want to spend.

How much should you pay a ghostwriter?

The answer to this question is ultimately up to you. Whether you’re hiring a top celebrity ghostwriter (like J.R. Moehringer who wrote Prince Harry’s memoir), or someone who has come well-recommended to you, you should pay up to the most that you can afford.

Why? Because generally, you get what you pay for. Thus, if you can afford to spend $30,000 on your business book, that’s what you should spend, and not a penny less. And if you only have a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to spend, then, you may be shopping in the wrong store, as the saying goes. Because any ghostwriter who is charging only a few dollars to write a book is going to provide a service that is only worth a few dollars and is probably not for you.

How do ghostwriters charge for their services?

A few ghostwriters charge by the hour for their services, many by the word, and some by the entire project.

If a ghostwriter charges by the hour (which is more common with newer ghostwriters) the rates they charge can vary anywhere from the very low ($25/hour), to the higher end ($200/hour or more). Again, most experienced ghostwriters do not charge by the hour unless they are billing for services that are performed outside the scope of the current book project. For instance, while writing a book at a previously contracted rate, the ghostwriter may be asked to perform additional research or to help their client secure a literary agent. For those services, the ghost writer may track their time and charge an hourly rate. Ghostwriters may also charge for extra manuscript reviews or edits not included in the initial contract.

Many ghostwriters charge for their services based on a per word rate. This per word rate can vary not only by the ghostwriter but also by the type of work performed.

For instance, a ghostwriter who charges $1/word to write a nonfiction book may charge less to perform an extra copy edit or to do basic proofreading of a book. For instance, they may charge $.35/word for a developmental edit and only $.07/word for a more basic proofread.

Ghostwriters who charge by the project still often base their rates on a basic per word or estimated hourly cost. So, if a ghostwriter charges $50,000 for a typical trade paperback of 65,000 words, they might have arrived at that rate by multiplying the estimated word count of the book by their per/word charge.

As when purchasing any kind of service, if you ever have questions about how a ghostwriter charges, just ask them.

How much should a ghostwriter charge?

As with any service, ghostwriters should charge as much as the market will bear, and yet, they should also charge what their services are worth.

To charge too little for a service that took the practitioner years to develop is a disservice to those others who ply the same trade. And naturally, to charge far more than the market will bear is to screen out all but the very wealthy from being able to afford your services.

In the end, how much a ghostwriter chooses to charge is up to them and how much they feel that they are worth.

Pricing, as you can guess, is not an exact science, and so everyone must set prices that they feel work for them.

Do ghostwriters get royalties?

Most ghostwriters do not ask for or receive royalties from their clients’ books. This happens because most ghostwriters’ clients self-publish their books instead of publishing traditionally, and self-published books typically do not generate a lot of income.

But more importantly, ghostwriters are not paid royalties or do not ask for royalties because they are doing what is called work for hire, which means that they are paid to do a job (help write a book) and thus are paid before, during, and after the job is complete. Given that even most traditionally published books do not generate a lot of revenue, most ghostwriters choose instead to get paid for the work they do instead of gambling that the book they worked on will some how sell a ton and make a ton of money.

The exception to all this is ghostwriters who write for celebrity clients whose books look like they might become a bestseller. In those cases, the ghostwriter is still usually paid a hefty working fee, and if they have the leverage, those ghostwriters can also opt to negotiate for extra revenue by participating in the book’s royalties. But they are still paid their base fee, which is never cheap or cut rate.

So, unless you’re a celeb who is bound to make a ton of money on your book, chances are your ghostwriter will not even ask you for royalties. Instead, you will pay them for the work they do and royalties won′t even need to be brought up.

Why are ghostwriters so expensive?

This is a great question. To start with, if you love to write and are reasonably good at it, then you know how much work goes into writing well. Writing is both art and craft. And while writing can be learned, to do it well one must also have some innate talent with words—an ear for good language, if you will.

Add to that the fact that ghostwriters in particular must take someone else’s words, recollections, thoughts, and stories and weave them into a compelling, comprehensive book. And they must do all this within a relatively short period of time (usually around six months or less), and you can begin to see that ghostwriting is not a task that anyone and everyone can do.

Like other professions, such as medicine, law, architecture, and so on, where the practitioner had to study many years and spend much time learning and perfecting their craft, ghostwriters had to spend time to get where they are and learn how to do what they do.

So, if you write well and don’t want to or can’t spend the money to hire a ghostwriter, you are free to go it on your own. Just know that you are taking on a large task that always goes better when someone else is there to help you.

In the end, ghostwriters are expensive because they are worth it, and they are worth it because they provide a service that not everyone can do but that many people need.

How much do beginner ghostwriters charge?

Not surprisingly, beginning ghostwriters typically charge less than experienced ghostwriters.

If you are working with a beginning ghostwriter, you might expect to pay between $5,000 and $20,000 for a 150 to 200-page book. Or even less.

If your budget is too tight to afford a more experienced ghostwriter, you might take your chances hiring someone newer who is hungry to get some credits behind their name. It’s your call.

How do ghostwriters get hired?

Ghostwriters get hired in many ways.

In many cases, the author/client hires them directly. But sometimes, when an author has already secured a literary agent, the literary agent hires the ghostwriter. And sometimes the publisher hires the ghostwriter.

That last case happens when the author has already secured a publisher but it’s clear that the manuscript needs more work than the book editor is willing to put in. It can also happen when the book deal was secured on the author’s name and reputation alone (before much was written) as when a celebrity decides to write a book and before any writing has gotten done.

And finally, public relations representatives and talent managers sometimes also hire ghostwriters for their clients.

Do ghostwriters get copyright?

Almost always ghostwriters therefore do not own the material they write or help to write. Instead, ghostwriters work for hire and are paid for the job that they do and do not own any copyright to the book, eBook, article, or other material they helped to write.

Most ghostwriters will stipulate in their contract or agreement that the client is the sole holder of the copyright over the work that the ghost writer does.

If a client wants to share some of the revenue from the work, they can give a portion of the copyright to their ghostwriter, but in most cases the client retains full copyright.

Will some ghostwriters work for free—in exchange for royalties?

As a rule, any real ghost writer who makes their living by helping others write books, whether they help celebrities, business leaders, or average joes, needs to be paid for their work.

When you go to the dentist, do you have to pay to have your teeth cleaned? To get a crown? To get braces put on? Because unless some public or charitable agency is footing the bill, you have to pay.

The answer would be the same about any good or service. I have yet to visit a grocery store that gives away its food and produce, a car dealership that gives away cars to its customers, or a plumber who fixes broken pipes for a smile.

They all charge, and that is how it should be.

And yet, many people think that because a ghost writer is helping someone write a book—a book that the client/author is sure will become a bestseller and make everyone involved rich—that the client shouldn’t have to pay the ghostwrite for their work. The ghostwriter should just be happy for the exposure and for the chance to work on what will most assuredly be a bestselling book.


Asking a ghostwriter to gamble that your book might become a bestseller is disingenuous.

Because the ghostwriter must still pay the rent, keep the lights on, and buy food, so please, think twice before you ask anyone, especially a ghostwriter, to work for free on the promise of possible future untold riches. Because the fact is that in most cases those riches never show up. But the ghostwriter’s monthly bills will still continue to show up, and so they need to be paid for their work.

Want a good job done on something? Then be prepared to pay for it.

Case closed.

Do ghostwriters get paid upfront?

Naturally, different ghostwriters have different payment arrangements. In most cases, ghostwriters get paid some or all of the fee for work to be done on a book before writing begins. In most cases, clients pay ghostwriters in some kind of regular interval or when the project achieves certain milestones.

For instance, some ghostwriters charge a monthly fee spread out over several months or several payments to pay for the entire project, and that fee is charged until the project is paid for. Other ghostwriters charge a fee prior to the start, after the first draft is completed, after the second draft is completed, and on completion.

Some ghostwriters may even charge a slightly discounted fee if the entire payment is made up front, though many clients are not able to afford that.

No matter the arrangement, clients can often find ways to work within their chosen ghostwriter’s payment structure or within a timeframe that allows the client to budget for the ghostwriter’s services.

If you want to work with a ghostwriter but aren’t sure if you can work within their payment structure, just ask. They will often be able to find a solution that works for both of you.

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