Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ghost Writing?

For the cover of The Pardy Boys, I hired two actors to portray Joe and Frank. One of them has a pretty great life-story he wants adapted into a YA thriller and he wants me to write it. I love the basic story and he's flexible and enthusiastic. Does anyone have any ghostwriting experience. I want to sign a contract with him, but don't know what to charge?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

- Now get back to your writing!



Graeme Stone said...

OMG Tiffani,

I was totally on Writer's which I'd totally forgotten I'd subscribed to because I haven't left my wordprocessor in like a year when suddenly there was an advice column on Ghost Writing AND How to Track Down A Writer's Agent.

It was so like God talking to me, or Buddah or Yahweh or whatever. So like, I think he has your answer. Charge by the hour, the job, or page, and negotiate royalties separately.

I hope this helps...

Peace out,


Graeme Stone said...

OMG Amber, you totally forgot the article and the link. What if others are interested in this information. Ever since you started watching GG, your brain has totally turned to mush...

- Tiffani

What Should I Charge to Ghostwrite a Book?
Q: A friend approached me about writing her memoir. I don't know how to charge for it, especially since I have no idea how much material I'll have to work with and, therefore, how long it might be. Also, I know I want to share credit, on the one in a million chance that the client gets it published and the book becomes a bestseller. What should I charge? Should I assure a minimum number of pages? What guidelines do you suggest? —Tamara Kort

A: According to guidelines set forth in the 2008 Writer's Market, ghostwriters charge anywhere from $50-100 per hour for "as told to" projects and $30-115 per hour for no credit pieces. “As-told-to” ghostwriting often nets you less money per hour because you get other benefits—such as a byline, an advance and a split of the royalties (up to 50 percent). But if you're willing to skip the byline and future earnings, you can act as a work-for-hire ghostwriter and charge more on the front end.

"Whatever is negotiated needs to be done, agreed upon, on paper and signed before work commences (or continues--if already started)," says Robert Brewer, editor of Writer's Market. "Included should be an estimate on the amount of time or pages expected; how many re-writes/revisions are expected; what constitutes a finished product; how and when payment will be made; and conditions under which the price might escalate."

If charging by the hour makes you (or your counterpart) nervous (Hey, I know I said to write about my first time at Yankee Stadium, but I'm not paying for the three hours you spent catching a game in the bleachers no matter how much 'ambiance' it added to the writing)—you can simplify it by charging per page. When translating hourly rates to pages, it comes out to $4-$25. I know that seems like a large range, but, like with any contracting job, the more experience and success you have, the more you can justify charging a higher price.

Realistically, the best bet for your first time ghostwriting is probably to negotiate a specific page count and price per page, so both you and your counterpart know the total amount that will exchange hands when the book is finished. (Negotiate royalties separately). As you become more comfortable with the process, you can adjust accordingly.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tiffani/Amber! I have ghostwritten two books - the one I thought would do well flopped and the one I thought would flop won a fairly prestigious award. Because I sucked at predicting outcome, I'm glad I didn't have my name on the one that flopped; publishers will take into account how other books you've written have done so if your name and a book ISBN are connected, it will be forever on your record.

It sounds like you have a good rapport with subject so maybe he won't piss on it as the "authors" of the books I ghosted did, but in the end since they were paying I had to do what they wanted (against my better judgment). Can you a structure an agreement whereby he gets a percetage cut from any money made so that you retain full creative control or is he hell-bent on having his name on the book?

Because I'm dissing my clients I have to post this anonymously, but you know me as the bossy Leo from Oregon that you met at SCBWI...


Graeme Stone said...

Wow CR,

I never thought about horrible creative differences (umm...duh!) or how the book will perform. I think both will be ok. The subject matter is ripe for the pickin', but we definitely need to have a conversation about how the book will go. I've proposed a 6 page outline, but I think a chapter by chapter outline will allow us to agree before writing begins. And obviously before any more work is done, money and contract.


Graeme Stone said...

Allan had recommended some Southwest conferences too. I just missed the LA conference, and Palm Springs is in limbo, but the San Diego is still on for February. But I see the lure of Big Sur. And I'd forgotten all about the glamorous and exciting Andrea Brown Agency until Laura's name came up. They look like a great agency. I also found an agency called THE JENNIFER DECHIARA LITERARY AGENCY that had a hilarious write-up on what they were looking for in writers. Some of the agencies are so stuffy and "literary" but this one just hit the right button with me. I wish I could just conference my way through the year. But I'm rambling. Off to edit.
And get back to writing the rest of you!