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No, I Can’t Tell You If You’re Undercharging For Ghostwriting A Book!

Pricing ghostwritingHi Anne,

I am a regular reader of your weekly e-zine and appreciate your writing tips. Since you are an expert in ghost writing, and this is the first ghost writing project I am about to consider, I wonder if you might be able to set me straight on coming up with a fee.

A potential client approached me a few weeks ago wanting to know if I’d be interested in ghostwriting a book for him. He would like to get the first few chapters written and then shop around for a publisher (in initial conversations with him I have told him that I cannot help him find a publisher).

He estimates that the book will be approximately 200 pages. I normally charge $xx per hour and estimate that it might take me 150 hours to do this project, although one can never accurately estimate this (as I have learned in the past). Adding on 25 percent for additional expenses would bring the total to approximately $xx,000.

Am I short changing myself here? I have a lot of experience writing other marketing materials, but I’ve never ghostwritten a book before. I was thinking of asking this potential client for half up front, and I would also insist on him signing a contract. What do you think? I appreciate any help you can give me on this.

Sincerely, CC
Hi CC,

I have no way to tell if you’re undercharging or not. Your formula is about right, but I can’t tell from here how fast you write – can you really get it done in 150 hours? Since I don’t know anything about the material I wouldn’t have even a guestimate.

I do like that you’ve added 25 percent. And certainly getting half up front is a great idea. I can tell you there are people who would do it for more and people who would do it for less – not helpful, I know.

I do, however, I see a problem.

If the client wants one, two or three chapters to shop to publishers (and good for you for not claiming you can help with that), he’s really talking about a book proposal which is x number of chapters plus marketing info, etc. (Shameless self-promo: I’ve written an ebook on book proposals.)If he succeeds in selling the book there’s no guarantee the publisher will want to hire you to complete it.  They may or may not. Also unknown is how much they will be willing to pay the ghost.

This isn’t a deal breaker, but you probably should also work out your price based on one, two or three chapters plus the additional material. You may end up writing only the proposal.

Keep in mind that the first few chapters of a ghostwritten book are the hardest to write because you’re learning the author’s style and personality.

If he comes back with the balance of the book, great, but that’s a new contract. You can set the price for it now and put a time limit on it, like six months or a year.

Do you have a question about freelance writing? Contact me with Q&A in the subject line and I’ll do my best to answer it.

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