View Full Version : Cost to have a small book ghost written?

12-28-2004, 02:25 PM
I'd like to consider myself and "expert" (and certianly a pioneer) in my field and I'd like to have a small book ghost written for me in order to self publish.

Does anyone have an idea as to the fee a ghost writer would charge for this? I'm not looking for TOm Wolfe here....just someone with a little experience.

TV time
12-28-2004, 02:55 PM
It will depend on a number of different things.

1. How big is "small?"
2. How much expertise in the field do you want your writer to possess.
3. Hi Opal!
4. How many drafts would you anticipate?
5. Will he/she be working from a draft on your part or will the writer be interviewing you, or working from tapes or notes or what?
6. How long do you anticipate this taking?

I would anticipate the absolute rock-bottom price for a relatively inexperienced writer would be around $20,000, but that being said I know people who get that much for putting out broshures, but I also know young reporters just out of college who would probably work that cheaply. I suppose there is a chance that English majors still in school would work even more cheaply.

12-28-2004, 03:00 PM
I'd say $20K is on the high side; that might be the cost for a celebrity to hire a ghostwriter, but you should be able to find someone willing to do it for a couple of thousand.

The question is, why? You're going to have to spend a lot for the ghostwriter, and then spend money to have it published. There's practically no likelihood of you coming anywhere close to making back what you will be spending, so it's all money down the drain. For what?

Why not just write it yourself? That will cut your expenses. You probably won't make anything from the book, but you won't lose as much. You're probably good enough a writer for your purposes, anyway, and if you think you need help, it'd be cheaper to hire a professional editor to go over the book.

12-28-2004, 03:08 PM
I'd like to consider myself and "expert" (and certianly a pioneer) in my field and I'd like to have a small book ghost written for me in order to self publish.

Does anyone have an idea as to the fee a ghost writer would charge for this? I'm not looking for TOm Wolfe here....just someone with a little experience.This is a hard question to answer, given what you've asked, so the only answer I can give right now is, "It would depend."

I've ghost-written a number of things for clients, and there are a number of things I need to know before I can give you even an extremely general figure:

-- What is it about? Will I be familiar with the subject matter, or is it something about which I know little and will have to spend some time researching to achieve a degree of familiarity? If I'm even a little familiar with the material, we can save a lot of time, since I won't be asking you questions you may find pretty basic.

-- How soon do you want this done? If you're in a hurry, I might have to charge you more, depending on whether your project will take time away from my other clients.

-- What is your idea of "small"? Ten pages? Fifty? A hundred? Depending on the subject matter and the scope of the work, even a thousand pages could be considered small.

-- How much are you willing to spend? My rates are negotiable, but only so far--I won't agree to do a job if I can't make decent money doing it. I will occasionally vary from this policy for charities or friends, but unless you fall into one of those categories, we're going to negotiate something you can afford and that allows me to pay my bills while having something left over.

-- Given that you plan to self-publish, you have to tell me just what you want me to deliver. Is it simply a text draft, or do you want the editing, layout, and design done as well? Some writers can do it all, others won't, and still some others will agree to deliver everything but will subcontract some of the tasks.

Those are just some starter questions; I'd need to know the answers to those (and perhaps a few more) before I could prepare a reasonable quote.

Sorry I cannot answer your question more directly, but I think you have to admit that it's hard to answer as you asked it. My advice would be to talk with a few professional writers in your area (you might even end up considering one of these for your project) and see what they have to say.

Gassy Man
12-28-2004, 03:30 PM
The answer depends on the supply-and-demand and the market. I live in a mid-sized city with a large university and a dozen smaller ones, so you can't turn around here without tripping over someone with an English or journalism degree. Competition is pretty fierce for the better contracts. Because I'm in the midwest, fees here are also lower than on the coasts, corresponding with the cost of living.

That said, $20,000 seems awfully high to me, too, as I'm aware of someone who was paid less than half of that to ghost-write a romance novel (published under a very well known name . . . I won't say which, but her books are everywhere). Another person I know ghost-wrote the biography of a famous baseball player, and she didn't get paid $20,000 either. "Big name" writers can command high fees, even hacks like Dominick Dunne, but they're generally the exception to the rule because, in part, they have connections to big money.

If you're planning to self-publish, my advice to you is to keep your costs to a minimum. Unless you have deep pockets, you'll find the project to be rather expensive--and marketing it to be tough. I do know of some people who have been very successful at self-publishing a text and selling it, but they're the exception.

Students and novice writers generally are cheaper to hire and may be more willing to be flexible in working with you and your schedule.

Gary Robson
12-28-2004, 04:42 PM
As others have pointed out, fees vary all over the place. You pay more for experience, writing skill, professionalism, and a lot of other factors. I'm a published author with my 11th book coming out next year, and over 200 of my articles have been published in various publications. I've done some ghost writing, and my rates depend on a lot of factors, which largely center around how many hours of work I'll have to do and how fast you need it.

By the way, why do you want to self-publish? I did that with my first couple of technical books, but I've dumped that approach since. Why not approach a trade association, university press, or other organization having to do with your specialty?

Self-publishing is a huge amount of work, and costs a big pile of money. Granted, you have total control, but with that comes the responsibility for everything, including getting an ISBN, producing cover art (including the bar code), all of the internal layout, selecting paper stock, paying for the initial print run, registering with Books in Print, registering the copyright, doing all of the marketing, and a whole lot more.

Self-publishing is largely being replaced these days by print-on-demand through the vanity presses. Pay them a fee and they handle all of the details. There are still a lot of problems, though. They tend to charge a lot more for the books, they usually use very cheap paper and cover stock, the books are often short-discounted and non-returnable, which makes bookstores not want to carry them, they're usually not stocked by the big distributors, and so on.

If you're going to create the book, why not pick a professional ghost-writer that has experience in the business? Using both names on the book proposal could increase your chances of getting it picked up by a real publishing house, so that you'll get paid for your work instead of paying someone else to print it for you.

12-28-2004, 05:13 PM
I have a cousin who does personal histories professionally. The feeling I got was that he makes a living doing it but nothing like 20K per project. I'd guess in the 3-5K range for something like the example I saw, but I really have no clue.

It was a hardback book about an inch thick. Maybe a little bigger. Might have been slightly oversized. It had a few black & white pictures scattered through the text. Looked nice. Here's a link (http://www.personalhistorians.org/index.html) to his professional association. I see people also do audio & video histories. If you search the membership directory you only need to select a state (and change the radio button to "any of the following" if you don't check any boxes).

I hope this doesn't sound like an ad for my cousin. That isn't my intent.

Gary Robson
12-28-2004, 05:21 PM
I forgot to add earlier--if you're an expert in your field, then you won't need another expert in that field as a ghostwriter (although you will need at least one as a proofreader). You should, however, look for someone who has written the same type of work. In other words, if you're an expert in static RAM design, pick someone with some engineering background so you won't have to explain every single technical word you use. If you're an expert in bovine genetics, pick someone who knows something about animals, biology, genetics, or ranching. Establish some common ground, and it'll make your life a lot easier!

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