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Should I Take A Percentage In Lieu Of Pay For Ghostwriting A Book?

ghowtwriterHi Anne,

A potential client wants me to ghostwrite a book for him.

It’s a topic I think will sell well and he’s offered me a percentage of his royalties in lieu of pay.

What do you think? And if you think it’s a good idea, what percentage should I ask for?



Hi GH,

The only time I’ll consider taking a percentage instead of payment is if there is a publishing contract already in place with an advance that gives me roughly what I would have charged for writing the book in the first place.

The reason is simple – as a ghostwriter I have absolutely no control over how well the book will be marketed to an agent, a publisher or, in the case of self-publishing, to the public. Even when there’s a contract there’s no guarantee the book will earn out its advance and pay additional royalties.

For the record, up to 50 percent or even more can be considered standard, but there really is no standard.

When a client comes to me and wants me to ghostwrite their book I want to be paid for my efforts. After determining how long it will take me to write the book, using my hourly rate I add an additional ten or twenty percent for contingencies and offer to write it for a flat fee. That fee may be paid month by month as I write or on some other schedule. This way I get paid for what I write regardless of who does what with the marketing.

By the way, if I think the book will sell reasonably well I often ask for a small percentage of the profits, but that’s in addition to the fees I charge.

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


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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Absolutely spot on. I see so many ads offering a share of the royalties instead of pay up front which is only a great deal for the person whose name is on the front of the book. If the book doesn’t sell, they haven’t lost anything, whereas you have lost a whole lot of billable hours.

  • This should serve as a guide for all the first-time book publishers, great post Anne!
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