How Much Do Ghost Writers Get Paid?

by Christina Hamlett; Updated September 26, 2017
Woman sitting on floor in lounge room, using laptop

Ghostwriting is a collaborative working arrangement between accomplished authors and clients who often have neither the time nor the talent to put their ideas down on paper. Although ghostwriters expend the majority of energy in research, development and even recommending potential markets when a manuscript is completed, they are paid to remain anonymous; it is the client's name -- not the ghostwriter's -- that goes on the finished product.

By the Project

For full-length novels, memoirs, scripts and business books, a project fee is set that is based on the ghostwriter's credentials, areas of expertise, amount of research required, desired timeline for completion and whether the client plans to participate in the writing process. On average, an experienced ghostwriter can make $20,000 per project and well over $50,000 if the client is a celebrity. Beginning ghostwriters average around $5,000. Depending on the topic and length of the book, the average completion time is six months. While payment schedules are flexible, the most common is half due upon signing the contract and the balance due upon completion.

By the Page

Trade journals, consumer magazines and college students utilize ghostwriters to research and write articles, business columns, thesis projects and term papers. Ghostwriters are provided with a set of specific parameters -- including presentation formats -- and are usually paid by the page. On average, the pay is $12 per double-spaced page but can go as high as $65 per page if the designated turnaround time is less than 24 hours. Payment is made upon completion of the assignment.

By the Word

For ghostwriting assignments such as brochures, short booklets, newsletters, press kits, advertorials and press releases, the word-count payment ranges from $0.30 per word up to $5. Payment is made after the project is turned in.

By the Hour

Ghostwriters also earn money by the hour and often include consultation fees as part of the price. This arrangement works well if the ghostwriter and the client are entering into a long-term partnership. Essentially, the client hires the ghostwriter on a retainer basis to pen syndicated columns, write speeches, develop promotional material for advertising campaigns and generate blogs and articles. The pay ranges from $35 an hour to $120. Clients are billed on a monthly basis for cumulative projects.

References

  • "Goodbye Byline: Hello Big Bucks"; Kelly James-Enger; 2010
  • "The Secret World of Ghostwriters: And How to Work With One"; Julie-Ann Amos; 2008
  • "Write a Book Without Lifting a Finger"; Mahesh Grossman; 2010

About the Author

Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.

Photo Credits

  • Marili Forastieri/Photodisc/Getty Images