You have a great idea for a book but have ZERO time to write it.
So, you’re entertaining the idea of hiring a ghostwriter.
But you’re wondering how much a ghostwriter costs.
More importantly, you want to know how much a good one costs.
Because the last thing you want to do is pay tens of thousands of dollars for something that’s completely unusable.
That’s exactly what happened to me on my first journey in hiring a ghostwriter.
The book didn’t sound like me at all and I was out tons of time and money.
In this post, I’m going to break down ghostwriting fees and contracts so you know what to look for as you begin your search for a ghostwriter.
How Much Does a Ghostwriter Cost in 2023?
A good ghostwriter for a nonfiction book will cost somewhere between $25,000 and $250,000.
Where a particular project falls in that range depends on the:
- Number of pages you need
- Subject of your book
- Experience of the ghostwriter
You can expect short and simple books to be on the lower end of the cost spectrum and longer books where the ghostwriter needs subject-matter expertise to be on the higher end.
You can also expect experienced ghostwriters with a track record of success (like multiple respected books under their belt) to quote over six figures.
A Word of Caution
The phrase “you get what you pay for” has never been more true than with ghostwriting.
Steer clear of anyone who charges less than $10,000 for ghostwriting a nonfiction book (even if it’s short).
You’ll end up with work that’s unusable and you’ll be out of money.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use marketplaces like Upwork to find ghostwriters, but it does mean you need to make sure whoever you go with will produce quality work.
And it’s really hard to get quality work for less than $10,000 (and sometimes even less than $25,000).
Whoever you get on the “cheap” side will either be brand new and trying to build their profile or a company that tries to source your project for as little as possible.
How Do Ghostwriters Normally Charge?
There are 3 main ways ghostwriters handle payment:
1. Per word
Some ghostwriters charge by word–this tends to be anywhere from $.30 to $2+ per word for nonfiction.
This is uncommon and should be approached with caution because it incentivizes the ghostwriter to add filler to your manuscript.
2. Per hour
Few ghostwriters charge by the hour, but those that do usually charge somewhere between $50 – $250 per hour.
This can be dangerous when trying to set a budget for your project because it’s very difficult for the ghostwriter to accurately predict how long it will take them. They’re also incentivized to take longer rather than turn in the best possible work.
3. Per project
This is the most common pricing structure for a ghostwriter. As mentioned above, you can expect to pay between $25,000 – $100,000 for a nonfiction book.
I highly recommend only considering ghostwriters who bill by project. Sure, you can find good ghostwriters who charge by word or hour, but it’s less common.
When working with a ghostwriter on a project rate, you can expect them to set up delivery milestones where they get a portion of the fee.
For example, they may request to get a percentage upon completion of the rough draft, certain chapters, the second draft, etc.
This is common and protects the ghostwriter from doing a ton of unpaid work if things go south.
FAQs About How Ghostwriters Handle Payment
1. Will ghostwriters work for a share of royalties?
Generally, no. There is simply too much risk on the ghostwriter’s side to be interested in this type of arrangement.
2. Do you need a contract when hiring a ghostwriter?
Yes, you absolutely need one in order to determine the scope of work, ownership of the content, and more. Having a contract, even with someone you trust, is simply good business.
How to Select the Right Ghostwriter for Your Project
Selecting a ghostwriter is similar to hiring a full-time employee.
You’re going to be:
- Conducting interviews
- Reviewing portfolios
- Checking references
You can easily spend upwards of 20 hours on your search–and rightfully so. This is a high-stakes decision.
The last thing you want is for your project to end up as my first one did…
When transitioning into a new business, I was advised to write a book, so the first thought I had was to hire a ghostwriter.
But after many months of interviews and a ton of work, the draft I got back didn’t even remotely sound like me.
The book had good content but lacked the necessary context to capture my voice. And the draft was completely unusable, so I ended up writing the whole thing myself.
As bad as that experience was, it taught me a ton and is actually what led me to start Best Seller Publishing.
Here are 3 things you MUST remember while looking for a ghostwriter if you want your project to be successful.
1. Make sure the ghostwriter has experience in your industry
The ghostwriter (or agency) you enlist doesn’t have to be an expert in your field, but they do need experience.
Otherwise, they won’t have the necessary context to be able to write a good book for your target audience.
That’s not to say that a great ghostwriter with zero industry experience couldn’t do a good job. There are certainly some ghostwriters who charge in the $100k – $250k range who could pull that off.
But those types of ghostwriters are few and far between.
You can drastically increase your chances of a successful project if you ensure your ghostwriter either has experience writing in or working with writers in your industry.
2. Storytelling skills are a must
People may read your book because of the value they expect to get from it, but they keep reading because of the stories.
In our proprietary Enhanced Ghostwriting process, we use the following 5 steps for each chapter to deliver incredible content with compelling stories:
- Story – start each chapter with a compelling story that ties into the content you’ll discuss.
- Open Loop – We don’t culminate the story yet because the human brain wants to know how the story will end. We stop right at the point of the greatest uncertainty and fear and move to the next step.
- Content – Readers are now drawn in and motivated to read more as they create their own conclusions and learn from your story. Here’s where you add valuable content to your chapter.
- Close the Loop – After the content, we want to end the chapter with a bang. Close your story with a dramatic ending. Every chapter is a microcosm of your entire book, which is why every chapter must captivate, fascinate, and provide valuable content and information to the readers.
- Conclude – End your chapter by giving your reader the next steps and recommendations on how to apply the content they learned.
You don’t have to work with a ghostwriter who follows a similar process to ours, but you do need whoever you work with to know how to write compelling chapters that combine storytelling with valuable content.
3. Context is key
Traditional ghostwriting tends to produce content without context.
Because it’s based on your answers to specific questions and a general table of contents built out by the ghostwriter.
And that can very easily lead to a book that doesn’t sound anything like you (which is exactly what happened to me).
This is a very common problem and is the reason most clients aren’t happy when they finally see their book.
So, I highly recommend talking with any potential ghostwriter about their process.
You need to make sure they have a sound plan for getting the necessary context to make the book sound like you.
Now, It’s Time to Find a Ghostwriter
You now know everything you need to know about ghostwriting fees and selecting the best ghostwriter for you.
The next step in this process is actually finding your ghostwriter.
I wrote an entire article on that topic that you can read here.
And if you were intrigued by the concept of Enhanced Ghostwriting, you can click here to learn more about how we can use our proprietary process to write a bestselling book for you.
That could save you a lot of time and heartache. 🙂