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How Do I Price A Book Ghostwriting Project? Ask Anne, The Pro Writer

Hi Anne,

I started out as a web designer and have been moving more and more into writing. First I put together SEO articles for my clients, then I branched out to a couple of short reports for one of them. Now this client wants me to ghostwrite a whole book for him and I haven’t a clue how to charge, largely because I have no idea how much time I’ll be investing in this project. I like working with flat fees.

What do you suggest?



Hi DV,

Congratulations on your expanding career. Writing a book as a ghost can be billed on an hourly basis or as a flat fee. And you may know more about how long it will take you than you realize. Here’s one way to begin to get at it:

  • Typically, a book will have 40,000 – 60,000 words. That gets you about 200-250 pages. (Most trade publishers want at least 200 pages for most books.) Illustrations, if there are any, and other items obviously can change this.
  • I’m going to guess that your SEO articles are probably around 800 words. If I’m right, you’d need between 50 and 75 articles to get to the 40,000 – 60,000 words.
  • If it takes you two hours on average to write an article, you’ll have between 100 and 150 hours in the book.
Now, multiply your normal hourly rate by the hours and you’ll have your first guesstimate of a flat fee. Do you see how this works? Use your own numbers – that probably goes without saying.

Of course, writing a book is different than writing a series of articles. The book has to hang together and make sense as a whole. Writing articles and writing a book are NOT the same. So you might want to use this formula than add another 25% or so to cover contingencies.
Then you also have to look at the number and see how you feel about it. If you think it’s too high, your client will too. If you feel it’s too low, you’ll hate the project if you get it. A lot of this pricing is based on gut feeling. Writing and charging for writing is anything but an exact science.
Good luck, and let us know how it goes.
Image from http://www.sxc.hu
{ 3 comments… add one }
  • In my experience, the time to research, check, revise, and coordinate a project goes up exponentially with length. To the extent that I could, I’d try to exclude anything other than the writing itself from the fixed price, especially if it looks like the project may go over 100 pages. A 25% kicker may not cover the extra complexity of some long projects.

    Plates, as you mention, further complicate the issue, particularly if you have a sequential list of illos in the front of the book. Adding a plate in the middle of the book requires (1) making the plate itself, with number; (2) adding the plate to the list; (3) referring to the plate in the text; (4) flagging the plate position in the text; and (5) renumbering all the subsequent plates, both in the book and in the list.
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

    • Anne

      I’ve never had to do an illo book… not true, once, years ago, with 2 other co-authors and a trade publisher… which made everything easier along those lines.

  • Thanks!
    It actually is very easy to derive any rate (flat/hourly/per project) once you start taking this approach. I guess the hardest thing is to find a starting point – like a “SEO article” in this case – based on which you can calculate the rest of the numbers.

    Very well put, thanks again!

    Vlad’s last blog post..Action Toys In Two Cultures

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