How much does it cost?
While finding a ghost that ‘gets’ you and your story is key, the other big consideration is experience and this is what makes the difference to the fee an author can expect to pay. If a ghost already has a number of bestsellers under their belt they will charge more than one who is just starting out and who is desperately trying to build up their portfolio of work. This is why, if you are shopping around for a ghost, you will see that prices vary from as little as £5000, to £50,000, or even more. It might sound like an arbitrary pricing model, but if you want the confidence that the writing will be of a certain standard, the ghost knows what they are doing and has a proven track record of bestselling works, you will need to budget a little more. A skilled and experienced ghost knows how to structure a narrative, build characters and grab the reader’s attention from the very first page.
Professional Ghost does not have a ‘set price list’, but will be able to give a ballpark figure following an initial discussion, based on other, similar, books that Teena has collaborated on. Then, if the project progresses to the stage of an initial interview, as outlined in how does it work, a full quote will be presented for the whole job, based on the scope of the chapter-by-chapter plan. This is a set fee, so the author will understand exactly what the final charge will be before they go ahead. Payments are structured into instalments over the period taken to complete the book, which is generally six months. The first payment is required in advance, with a further sixth of the fee charged at the end of each subsequent month. One of the benefits of payments in stages, other than making it easier to budget, is that if the relationship doesn’t work out, or the author changes their mind, they can stop the project and only pay for the work done to date.
A question that ghosts are often asked is, will they work for a share of the royalties, in a buy now, pay later scenario? The short answer is, no. While a ghost will work with you to create the best possible work, there are no certainties that any book will make much money from sales and some may make barely any at all. Royalties can also take a good while to come through. Most of all, it is extremely hard to predict what will be a bestseller and what won’t and there are an awful lot more also-rans than hits. It is a big ask to expect a ghost to spend up to six months working for free on the hope of a success. Not to mention, they will be foregoing other, paid, work at the same time.
Before approaching a ghost, it is wise to have a budget in mind. It is also worth giving some thought to what you want to do with the manuscript once it is complete. Do you want to find a big name, traditional publisher, or maintain control of the whole project and self-publish? If it is the former and you are successful in the endeavour, it may be possible to obtain an advance that will partly off-set the costs of hiring a ghostwriter. In this instance, one alternative is to work with a ghost to produce a publishing proposal and some sample chapters to test the water with publishers. A book proposal is around 10,000 – 20,000 words, containing a short synopsis of the book, an author profile, chapter-by-chapter breakdown and marketing information about just how this book will fly off the shelves. If and when a contract is secured, the ghost can then be contracted to complete the whole manuscript. The price of this proposal will be calculated in much the same way as the quote for the full book, as described above, but will be proportionally smaller, reflecting the scale of the work.
Many books will not make back enough money from sales to match the cost of hiring a ghostwriter. It is for this reason that authors always need to consider their motivations for writing the book, other than the hope of making money. Is it, for example, part of a strategy to promote a business, or to highlight personal expertise? Books still hold a great deal of cachet. If you write a book about a subject, it gives you a certain ownership of the space. It is why some business books have been dubbed ‘posh business cards’ (and why Teena Lyons wrote The Complete Guide to Ghostwriting); they are a great shorthand to describe who you are and what you do. Alternatively, you may simply want to write a deeply personal story, simply because it needs to be told. These are all factors to consider when setting a budget for ghostwriting.
The best way to get an estimate for a specific project is to contact Professional Ghost and ask for a quote.