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What Do I Charge For My Services? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

questionsignHello Anne,

I’m new to the online writing community, although I have been a writer for more years than I care to remember, publishing fiction and articles in mainstream magazines, editing a business mag for many years – writing for radio etc etc.

Anyway, now I would like to specialize in ghostwriting e-books for clients as I feel this is a perfect fit for me with my particular skill set. (having published 11 e-books of my own in my own particular niche) – and also an opportunity to earn a decent wage and escape the slave-labour treadmill of web article content writing!

The question I have is this:

What do I charge for my services? I know there are many variables involved – experience, track record, research involved etc. I read online that some writers charge $2000 to ghostwrite e-books, but feel that this is completely unrealistic – unless you are some sort of acclaimed guru! I also do not want to peg a rate at X amount per hour.

If I were the client and I was being quoted a per-hour rate, I would feel more than a little anxious as it leaves a big question mark as to how many hours would be involved. So I would prefer to charge a set rate of X $ per page. That gives the client a definite figure to work with and he knows where he stands at the outset.

However, what would be a realisitic rate per page?

I have just landed two interested clients awaiting quotes for their projects (both highly technical and difficult e-book subjects) and, whilst I want to be paid a fair price (and manage to pay the bills at the end of the month), I don’t want to scare them off by quoting out of the ballpark. Would $15 per A4 page be realistic and fair?

Also, I am rather nervous about payment. I definitely do not want to start the project without a retainer. What would be a fair amount to ask for upfront? I was thinking 50%. Again, I am thinking from the client’s point of view, they might feel I would take the 50% and they may never hear from me again? So, would some sort of contract be the best option and are there some basic e-book contract templates available on the web?

I would really appreciate an answer if you don’t mind giving up some of your valuable time. Thanks very much for an extremely informative and helpful newsletter. I have found your articles invaluable, and of great assistance to someone like me who is new to the online writing business.

AL via email

Dear AL,

You’ve asked at least a couple of questions here. Let’s see if any of this is helpful:

  • I generally charge a flat fee for ghostwriting. It’s  on an hourly rate, but I’ve got years of experience guessing how much time a project will take. A good writer friend of mine who also ghostwrites charges by the hour. She gives an estimate and if it starts to look like it will run over warns the client well in advance.
  • Figuring out how much to charge per page, or per hour or as a flat fee is totally up to you. As you indicate, ghostwriting rates are all over the map. You simply have to base your fees on what it’s costing you – your time. Plus profit. And, since you are probably not in the U.S. (we don’t use A6 paper here much), I have even less idea what a reasonable rate for you would be. Check our Setting Fees Category for more information.
  • I always insist on money up front. It can be as little as a 10th of the total or as much as 1/3.
  • I’m not aware of contract templates, but I wrote Ghostwriting – Elements Of My Contracts or Letters of Agreement which you may find helpful.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

[askanne] [sig]

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • In response to the questions raised here: some are easy to answer, such as contracts. I have a contract I use based on one that used to be recommended by the National Writers Union, when they existed. It’s about four pages long, and covers fee, time, deadline, number of rewrites, etc. I generally ask for one-third of my fee before I begin, upon signing of the contract; and another third mid-way through, and the final third upon completion.

    The difficult question, of course, is what to charge. No matter how long I work at this I don’t think this will ever get easier. To me, $2000 for an entire book is not enough at all. OTOH, more than $3000 sounds astronomical. And yet, if I actually calculate my hours it almost always ends up under minimum wage if I don’t ask for a lot. I’ve been paid as little as $2000 and as much as $15K. The latter did not feel like too much at all! I wish I could find some resolution around this issue! I am going to read all your articles in this category and see if I learn anything. Thanks.
    Marcy Sheiner recently posted..Ghostwriting: How It Works Part IIMy Profile

    • As far as I know, Marcy, the NWU – National Writers Union is still going strong — http://www.nwu.org. $2000-$3000 for a 200 or so page books sounds way way too low… $15,000 and up is getting there, and $30-$60,000 and more wouldn’t be too much imo. The trick is finding the clients to pay those rates.

  • Terri

    Hi! I have a friend who has written a book with 13 stories in it. She wants to have me record reading the book and wants to know how much would I charge her. Either per stories or by the book. I’ve never done this so I don’t know where to start. Can you help me?

    • Anne

      Terri, what’s your time worth? Is this for her or will she be selling the recording? No reason to charge less than your usual hourly unless you think by taking a percentage of sales you’ll make more – just be sure you think it will sell.

  • Anne

    I take half or a third up front… depending… I write the half or a third and then don’t write until I get the rest.

    I don’t password protect, etc. with clients and so far I’ve not been ripped off.

  • Ron Lewis, that’s a genius idea! LOL I love it. I have just been contacted to write an ebook and since this is my first time, I’m glad to have found this article. Thanks, Anne!
    .-= Article Writer´s last blog ..Advice from our Master Forum Poster: How to Choose the Right Forum Posting Service for Your Forum =-.

  • One comment, regarding the need for a retainer, and I’ve probably offered this advice on the site before:

    Unless the client pays 100% up front, in the virtual world you are still at risk of not being paid. Would you agree to do the job for 50% of your quoted fee? You take that chance if you turn over the work after having only received 50% of the payment. Believe me, people will cheat you – happened to me again last week.

    The solution I use does not prevent your loss of time and money, but at least you have the satisfaction of knowing the thief did not get you work.

    If I don’t know the client well enough to trust them, instead of sending the completed document, I paste the text into MS Paint and black out enough of it to make it unusable, yet still reveal enough to show that I’ve done the work and that the quality meets their expectations.

    I could then just send the image, but I prefer to paste the image on a Word page and then covert it to a PDF, which I lock and secure against printing and copying. No reason for this except that it presents better to the client, and if they are a thief, I want to piss them off by making them go to the effort to break into the PDF, only to discover then that it’s just an image anyway – they still can’t copy and paste. Because I black out part, they can’t just rekey.

    FYI, simply locking the original word doc in a password protected PDF is not sufficient – there are many free shareware programs that will quickly crack PDF passwords.

    I use a free program, PrimoPDF, to convert files, and another, PDF Password Cracker, to access other PDFs. You should be able to quickly Google up both of them.

    • Ron Lewis: I must say, if I trusted someone so little I had to block out and lock off my work from them, I don’t think I could work for them. I have never not been paid by individual clients. I cannot say the same for publishing companies.
      Marcy Sheiner recently posted..Ghostwriting: How It Works Part IIMy Profile

  • Hi Anne: Thanks for the post.

    AL: Anne’s advice is right on the mark. Ghostwriting rates are all over the map. I’ve been a ghostwriter for more than 16 years – writing nonfiction books and eBooks. I’ve known ghostwriters who charge an hourly fee and others who charge a flat project fee. Personally, I charge a per page fee (as do many of my associates). I’ve seen per page fees that range from as low as $3 per page to $150 per page (and more). I charge the same rate for books and eBooks – I’m doing the same work whether the book is published in print or online. Charging $2,000 is not unrealistic for an eBook, though it may be an unrealistic figure to some clients. The key is to know your customer demographic and attract the type of clients that value a good writer and understand the worth of your fee. Most likely, the eBook you ghostwrite will establish the client as an expert in his field, drive traffic to his website, increase his business, open up media opportunities and make him a boatload of money. What is that worth to him? You are providing a valuable service and should be compensated accordingly.
    .-= Laura Cross´s last blog ..Framing the Narrative Nonfiction Story =-.

    • Anne

      Thanks for the confirmation Laura. I might try a per page rate. Not sure I want to change anything; we’ll see.

      • I tend to charge a flat fee but I’ve low-balled myself and I’ve also quoted too high. A per page fee is a good idea, I just don’t know what’s reasonable. Certainly $150 per page is completely over the top!!
        Marcy Sheiner recently posted..Ghostwriting: How It Works Part IIMy Profile

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