I recently read a project proposal on Guru.com to find a ghostwriter. The buyer wanted a 230-250 page book written for “no more than $200.” I even took a screenshot of the proposal because I knew none of my professional colleagues would believe me. I thought to myself, “No writer in his/her right mind is going to bid on this project.” Some time after, I went back to the project proposal and saw that only one person had bid on the project. I was unable to see the terms of the bid, but I suspect that the writer was willing to take the mere $200 in exchange for part of the royalty and/or co-author credit. This leads me to my point. There are only three ways a profitable business or person, in this case, a writer, can make money:
- Charge at the front door (upfront fee)
- Charge for amenities (usage fee)
- Charge at the back door (exit fee)
A ghostwriter typically gets paid an agreed upon fee, upfront, no matter the sales potential or volume of the book. This is charging at the front door. Another possible arrangement would be for the ghostwriter to work on a low to no pay upfront (contingency) and get paid a portion of the royalties. This is charging at the back door. Writers are more apt to do this for a book that will likely have enduring sales (i.e. textbook) or a high sales volume (i.e. celebrity tell-all book). The least likely scenario would be to charge for amenities such as writer’s credit. There is a direct relationship between level of anonymity and amount of pay to a ghostwriter. In other words, the less anonymous the role of a ghostwriter, the less a ghostwriter can expect to be paid, namely upfront. Here are a few options in this scenario:
- Ghostwriter remains anonymous, given no credit or mention (by John Doe)
- Ghostwriter is given co-author credit (by John Doe and…)
- Ghostwriter is given secondary credit (by John Doe with…)
- Ghostwriter is acknowledged as “editor” or in some other fashion
So, the answer to the question is that a ghostwriter can make any arrangement he or she wants in order to get paid fairly. Good ghostwriters, for instance, can command a hybrid deal, asking for an upfront fee, as well as a small portion of the royalty. Ultimately, a ghostwriter should choose which reward is of more value: “money” or “recognition.” Then they should structure a ghostwriting agreement accordingly.
How much does a ghostwriter get paid? Ghostwriters can charge by the word (.20 to $1.00 per word) or by the hour ($15 and up) depending on the amount of work. Experienced ghostwriters charge from $15,000 and up.