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  • Writer's pictureJohn Kador

Ghostwriting Compensation: Too Much or Too Little?

Both potential clients and fellow ghostwriters are uncertain about ghostwriting fees. Clients always want to know what the ranges are. Fellow ghostwriters always feel they are not charging enough or perhaps they are charging too much. It’s all a muddle.

I wish there was more transparency in the fees ghostwriters charge. Very few ghostwriters I know of list fees on their websites. My own blog on ghostwriting was recently selected by Feedspot as one of the 40 best ghostwriter blogs in the world. I appreciate the honor. So I used that list to see if any of the top ghostwriters listed fees on their websites. None do.

I do. My website is very clear that my minimum fee for ghostwriting a book is $50,000. Does this statement scare away potential clients with a budget of, say, $45,000? I doubt it. What it does do is cut down on the number of calls and emails I get from prospects who are in no position to hire me.

Advances and Royalties

Besides the writing fee, ghostwriters also want to know about indirect compensation. Here we are talking about the ghostwriter sharing the advance or royalties, if any, with the client. I’m very clear on this matter. I don’t ask for any share of the advance or royalties. I make it clear that my writing fee represents the total compensation I earn. Advances and royalties go to the client.

I think this is the cleanest way to do things. It also short circuits a conversation I really don’t want to have. Some clients have the impression that ghostwriters will write the book without a fee in anticipation of getting some or all of the anticipated advances and royalties. I’m a business ghostwriter. That model is not for me.

I know some ghostwriters do well with participating in the royalties. Some have gotten rich. (Think of Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump’s ghostwriter (really collaborator) on The Art of the Deal or UK ghostwriter Andrew Crofts.) These ghostwriters typically work on celebrity books that sometimes generate revenue far beyond any reasonable fee. And there’s an argument to be made that revenue sharing royalties align the long-term interests of the ghostwriter and the client.

Yes, risks sometimes pay off big. And early in my career, I did well by sharing royalties. But lately, I’m more comfortable just charging a fee and letting the writer benefit from the royalties. As I said, it’s a cleaner model that avoids long-term financial entanglements.

Hope this discussion helps clients and ghostwriters have more informed conversations about fees and other compensation issues. And ghostwriters, if you do list your fees on your website, let me know and I’ll include your website in a subsequent list I post.

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