Ghostwriting is a particular discipline in the freelance writing world that calls for research, story development and creativity. When ghostwriting, a writer takes a story or concept, crafts a work from it, then publishes the work under the client's name. In some cases, the ghostwriter gets a byline and a cut of the royalties, but usually the ghostwriter works anonymously. In the trade, ghostwriters charge for their labor, the length of the work, research and time.
Not every ghostwriter is alike. Some specialize in article writing, while others create e-books and novels. Ghostwriters also come with varying levels of experience and expertise that cause variations in pricing. A new ghostwriter with only two years of experience in the business may charge as little as $10 for 500 words, while a more experienced ghostwriter with 10 years of experience and a degree in the project subject matter might charge $500 for 500 words. The type of ghostwriter is important in determining a rate of pay.
Location matters when it comes to comfort with the language and use of vernacular. Depending on the subject matter and project, a native American speaker might suit better than a foreign counterpart. Marked differences in cost of living and expenses also make a difference between a Los Angeles or Manhattan writer compared with a writer in Des Moines, Iowa. A ghostwriter has to eat and pay for the roof over her head, so she'll take into account her cost of living when creating a labor quote. An expert writer in a less expensive locale may charge much less per hour than a comparably skilled writer based in a large city because locational costs are different.
Duration also affects pricing. Professional ghostwriter Dawn Josephson, in an article on the WritersWeekly website, suggests using a flat fee, rather than an hourly rate, for certain projects. She also recommends splitting fees into installments for long projects such as books, which can take three to six months of work. She quotes a book rate of $7,000 to $9,000 for a beginning ghostwriter, and $10,000 to $20,000 for more experienced and in-demand writers, as of 2006. A short-term project with little research costs significantly less than a longer project involving more labor.
Brian A. Klems, online managing editor of Writer's Digest magazine, states that a rate also depends on how much credit the ghostwriter receives. If there's no credit, the writer may charge $30 to $115 per hour; for an "as told to" piece, expect a rate between $50 and $100 an hour, as of 2008. Writer's Digest editor Robert Brewer says a ghostwriting contract should detail the estimated project time or number of pages, as well as the expectations for rewrites, revisions and payment. The contract also should explain any circumstances that might cause an escalation in the price. For ease of calculation, Klems points out that ghostwriters may set a rate based on words per page and the number of expected pages. With this method, the rate comes out to between $4 and $25 a page on average.
When setting a rate for a ghostwriting project, a writer needs to take into account many factors that create value for both the writer and client. Though it may be tempting to skew low in order to get the job, the writer must also get sufficient pay for time and labor. A clear contract creates an easy-to-understand foundation for the writer-client relationship and helps to avoid any confusion about expectations. As Dawn Josephson states, "Just be sure you're getting compensated for all the work you're putting in."