How to Set Your Ghostwriting Fee and Payment StructurePosted by Susan Carter
This week’s post is a response to a Monday Muse subscriber’s question I received this past week about fees and payment structure for ghostwriting a nonfiction corporate book. Although I’ve addressed ghostwriting fees briefly in a previous post (http://www.writerprofits.com/three-ways-to-find-a-book-ghostwriting-gig/#more-379), the question led me to believe others may also like additional information and prompted this week’s post, so here goes…
Not surprisingly, there is no quick and simple answer for setting your fees since there are many variables that go into quoting a book project. Things like the manuscript’s word count, amount of research you need to do, your experience, and whether or not you are starting from scratch or using an outline and material provided by the client. Depending on these variables, a book project might cost as little as $5,000 for a quick-read handbook that can be completed in 30 days to $75,000+ for a deeply researched, highly detailed historical account that could take a year or more to finish.
This broad range is frustrating for both the writer and potential clients. The most important thing is to make sure that clients know what they are getting for their money. For example, when you detail your project quote, include reference to research, outline development, interviews, writing, editing, follow up, first draft, etc. When clients understand the process for writing a manuscript, they better understand costs associated with the work.
Many writers assemble a quote based on an hourly rate or per page fee. This is fine for your personal canoodling to determine your fees, but I do not advise using hourly or per page fees in your quote to the client. I only recommend per project quotes. Here’s why:
Per hour quotes:
1) Some writers are slow and methodical and others are quick and haphazard—both might be good and come to similar results, but the cost will be dramatically different. If you charge by project, the focus in on the result, not the speed of the writer.
2) Clients who are focused on an hourly rate may try to find ways to shorten the process. They may hurry through an interview to ‘save money’ and if they know they are on the clock, they are less relaxed. When doing a book, getting to know some of the people personally is a big asset for such a long project and if they connect seeing your face to a cash register, it’s the wrong impression you want your client to have. Even if you provide a range of expected hours, a client will want to make sure you come in at the low end of it. Too much attention is given to the hourly rate instead of the quality of content.
As for the per page pricing, I use this to configure my quotes, but rarely use it for client pricing. Again, clients get hung up on how many pages they are paying for instead of getting a great book. A client says, “Well… maybe we can save some money if we make it 200 pages instead of 250…” Suddenly you find yourself negotiating page rates instead of remaining focused on quality of content. Although you might find this mindset less often with a corporate client, someone in that company is responsible for costs and will be watching out for ways to reduce them.
My personal rule of thumb is: the more ‘long term’ the project, the better to avoid per hour pricing.
Regarding how to structure payment, I always ask for an upfront deposit, especially since the preliminary time is filled with research and interviews when you aren’t delivering anything but will be working your little tushie off. Then, depending on the client and your process, payment could be required upon delivery of each draft chapter or ‘clump’ of chapters. Or, if the number of chapters is undefined and there is a stated start and finish date, you might divide your project fee into monthly installments with the final payment made due upon delivery of a finished/approved final manuscript. You will be putting a lot of time and work into the project before you pen your first chapter, so be wary of clients who balk at paying an upfront deposit.
And, as always, do not enter into a book project without a signed contract. It is designed to protect both you and the client by detailing expectations and confirming agreed upon fees and payment plan.
If you would like more information about ghostwriting rates, do an online search for “book ghostwriting fees” to see what other writers are charging.