How much do ghostwriters make?

Whether you’re an eager new writer or a passionate ghostwriting veteran, the question of pay and rates can be a squeamish one. As tricky as it can be to put a price on your services, once you know how, it’ll be a cinch to set a reasonable rate that’ll suit you and your future clients.

Like many creative fields, ghostwriting can be undercharged by those who don’t fully appreciate the skills necessary or by those who expect more from you than what’s stipulated in your job description.

And while we’d love to give you an immediate answer, this is a no one-rate-fits-all kind of job.

What we know best at Relay Publishing is fiction ghostwriting with publishers & packagers, so by the end of this article, you’ll have a good grasp on the sort of rates that can be expected in this field.

Taking charge

The good news is, ghostwriters can often demand high rates because they’re providing a highly specialized and sought-after service in the publishing industry. Forgoing authorship credit while writing a story to a set of specifications comes at a premium, and rightly so. But the rate range for ghostwriting fiction is still very wide — from $0.01/word all the way up to $1.00/word, or even more!

The maybe not so good news: it’s up to you to decide on what you are going to charge. As a ghostwriter, each project you take on will be unique — from blog posts, to novellas, to epic multi-part series — and each will come with its individual circumstances. The scope of tasks expected can vary, and your rate should be different depending on writing style, genre, or timeframe.

What type of rate do I need to set?

We have a handy table later in the article to help you decide on your number, but figuring out what your ideal terms and conditions are will also give you a strong starting point in setting a reasonable rate. Some publishers can offer an hourly rate for parts of your service, such as time spent on revisions and research, while others may offer you a lower per word rate in exchange for a royalty split. Knowing all these possibilities and getting crystal clear on what you want, and what is or isn’t possible for your client’s budget before entering into a contract will save you from rueful hindsight down the line.

What affects this reasonable rate you speak of?

· The type of client — individual, book packager or traditional publisher

· Genre — level of research, the writing style, and your experience within that genre

· Your ghostwriting experience — ghostwriting is very different than writing your own stories, so past experience is valuable

· Your overall writing experience — the level of craft you bring to the table

· The scope of the project — a 300k word trilogy is a big commitment, but also guarantees long-term work. What is important to you?

Have a think about each of these factors and make an honest assessment of yourself and the project. Sometimes you’ll be recruited because you’re the best person for the job, but many times you can be hired because you were the right price for the job. It’s a strength to be able to accurately appraise the specific skillset that you can provide!

First contact with a publisher

There tends to be room for negotiation when you begin corresponding with a potential employer, so don’t get too caught up in nailing the perfect number on your first try. A mark of a reputable publisher or packager is that they know the rate they can afford to pay for a title, and they can let you know if your figure is out of their budget. This also shows that they have solid financial forecasting and projections, which gives you a good indication that they’ll:

a) Follow through on publishing your hard work

b) Honor your invoice upon completion

c) Support and help you with any questions throughout the process

Expectations, please

Clarity of expectations is key on both sides of the agreement, so be sure to ask in advance about the resources you’ll be provided with. There’s a huge leap between working with a detailed outline and being teamed up with an experienced editor, versus being provided with a 2-sentence logline and a deadline. Allow these resources to affect your rate. The more prepared a client is before hiring you, the easier they are making your job. If you will need to do more research or work on the materials that have been provided to you, then consider if this should be reflected by increasing your rate.

Bonus Round

What to expect at each pay range

$0.01-$0.03/word

70k word novel = $700 to $2100.

You’ll find clients with these lower rates on many freelancer websites, usually acting as an individual and at these rates the client should be carefully vetted. Expect to do your own plotting and edits, too.

$0.04-$0.08/word

70k word novel = $2800 to $5600.

Professional book packagers generally pay within this range, and offer a comprehensive outline to work from as well as an experienced editorial team. Edits are paid at a separate hourly rate.

$0.09-$0.15/word

70k word novel = $6300 to $10,500.

Traditional publishers who are looking to fill a gap in the market or need a book written after a writer goes AWOL pay within this range, and generally use writers who are represented by an agent. Expect to write from a brief synopsis, so you’ll have to do the bulk of the plotting yourself.

$0.16-$1.00+/word

70k word novel = $11,200 and $70,000.

Traditional publishers with marque authors or an established franchise series will pay within this range. You’ll need to do lots of research to match the writing voice and story style. This level may also come with co-author credit.

That’s all there is to it!

Relay has founded a collaborative environment for literary creatives to exercise their skillset and develop their craft across a multitude of fiction genres.