Hiring a ghostwriter? Here's what you're paying for.

One of the first questions I get when someone enquires about my book writing services is, understandably, 'How much will it cost?' To which I respond, 'How long is a piece of string?' Well, not really. At least not in those words, though the sentiment is the same.

While I completely understand that a potential buyer needs to have some idea of cost, the challenge for a ghostwriter is that we can't afford to lock in a price that is unrealistic, and there are a lot of variables that determine how much work will be needed to write a book.

The most obvious influence on the cost of having a book written relates to the length of the book. More words = more work = more cost. But even that is an oversimplification as it is quite possible that a short book could take a long time too, depending on how refined it is.

Let me try to break the ghostwriting task down into its components and explain how they will affect the cost of a ghostwriter.

Information gathering

I've had clients who were able to give me the draft of a book they've been working on, while others have had nothing more than a few bullet points, if that. In the latter case I will usually end up conducting a number of face-to-face interviews, the recordings of which then need to be transcribed to provide me with my raw material.

Bottom line: information gathering can vary from not much to many hours. If you want to minimise the cost, the best way is to gather or draft as much content as you can before you engage a writer*.

Information sorting

Another form of raw material is presentations. I've had clients who are speakers or educators who are able to give me copious workshop notes, PowerPoint presentations and video recordings of their presentations.

This obviously reduces the cost of the information gathering phase, but it can add a substantial amount of time in another way. All that information has to be sorted and sifted in order to isolate the gems which will go into your book.

Bottom line: information sorting can also vary widely in cost, but again costs can be minimised by doing as much as you can yourself.

Creative input

This is often the biggie. Once the content for a book has been collected and sorted into some sort of order, what you have is essentially a bunch of words. What you don't have is a book – that is still to be written.

The variation in workload for a ghostwriter at this stage comes from the level of creative input that you would like made to your book.

At one end of the scale is a fairly straightforward rewrite of the collected material, involving just enough buffing and polishing to make it all read coherently.

At the other end of the scale, your writer will use the collected content as a painter uses a palette, that is, as a starting point. He or she will then craft a complete narrative from that raw material, usually in frequent consultation with you, the expert. This takes both skill and time, and is therefore more expensive. But if a quality product is what you are after then it can be worth the investment.

Bottom line: creative input can seem highly intangible to the person hiring a writer. It is, however, the principle reason for doing so. That said, your decision about how much to budget for creativity should include consideration of the purpose of your book. If, for instance, you book will mostly sold at the 'back of the room' for people to take away as a souvenir/reference of your presentation, a high level of creative input is probably not required. If you want to attract a mainstream publisher, on the other hand, you may need more creative input.

Writing a book is a big project. That's why books give their author so much more credibility than an article or a booklet. Which in turn is why hiring a professional ghostwriter can be a worthwhile investment, both to ensure the book gets finished, and to ensure that it is of good quality.

As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please add a comment below or contact me.

Posted by