Interested in offering book ghostwriting services? If you love to write and think you’d enjoy writing books for others, you may have a career as a book ghostwriter ahead of you.
In this article, we’ll look at ghostwriting nonfiction books, like biographies, memoirs, and other nonfiction. In some ways, ghostwriting a nonfiction book is more challenging than fiction, because you’ll spend time interviewing your clients and on other research. When you’re ghostwriting a novel, you simply work out a plot and create characters your client likes, then you’re good to go.
OTOH, if you’d like to ghostwrite fiction, you can explore fiction ghostwriting here.
Book ghostwriting services: answering the BIG question
The big question you’re asked is of course… “How much do you charge?”
An experienced ghostwriter will charge upwards of $25,000 to write a book for someone. If you’re just starting out as a writer, you may feel that this is an enormous sum. If you’re a professional writer however, you know that this is low for a project which might take you six months, or longer, depending on the client.
Of course you’ll have other projects running concurrently, but book projects take time. Book projects also have an opportunity cost. That is, if you’re writing someone else’s book, you’re not writing your own, nor are you taking on client work which might pay more.
When you’re not sure how much to charge because you’re just starting out, ask your prospective client questions, until you can work out how many hours the project is likely to take. Then, multiply your hourly rate by the number of hours, and you’ve got a ballpark figure.
Here are some tips to help you to get started.
1. Vital: ask the qualifying question: “what’s your budget?”
Qualifying your prospective clients is vital. If someone is looking for a $500 ghostwriter, he’s not going to pay you $25,000.
Put your briefing form online. If the prospect won’t complete the form, so that you have a detailed project brief, it’s a red flag. Chances are good that this prospect doesn’t know what he wants. This is challenging, because few writers can afford to spend (unpaid) hours chatting with people.
In situations like this, you have two choices:
- Charge your hourly rate for the time you spend helping the prospect to decide what he wants; or
- Offer alternatives: suggest he post his project on one of the freelance marketplaces.
2. Use your own books as your portfolio
When writers ask me how to get started ghostwriting books, my first and most important tip is: write books and self-publish them. Your own books are your best advertisement for what you can do.
Keep in mind: when you’re ghostwriting, your name never appears on the books you write for clients, and you can’t use ghostwritten books to promote your services. Occasionally a client is willing to give you credit with an “as told to” or whatever on the cover… But they often want you to reduce your fee in exchange for the credit.
3. Build relationships to get known: people know people
Relationships matter in ghostwriting. My first ghostwriting commissions were offered to me because I was writing for tech magazines, and had written business books for Prentice Hall. Acquisitions’ editors got to know my name, and offered me gigs.
Once you get into ghostwriting, you’ll find that gigs are everywhere. You’ll become known for what you do. People will pass your name around.
That said, you still need to market your ghostwriting services. (See below.)
4. Get paid: get a deposit, and use milestone payments
A book takes time to write. Initially, you’ll need to spend a lot of time getting material from the client. Interviews and discussions take time. And, even if you’re writing someone’s autobiography, you’ll need to spend time on research.
Aim for a deposit of 30% of the total fee before you start on the project. Then add milestones into the project. If you estimate a project will take you three months, you need milestone payments at the end of the first and second months, and the final payment at the first draft stage.
Be clear on your payment schedule and itemize your initial quote to avoid project creep. If you agree to perform additional services, create quotes, and invoice those services.
5. Keep your client pipeline full: market every day
Don’t stop marketing your book ghostwriting services once you’ve got a gig. If you’re a full-time writer, you need to be working on at least two books at any one time.
This means that you need to market your services consistently.
People need to know about your services and get comfortable with you, before they’re prepared to hire you.
Do a little marketing every day, no matter how busy you are. Spend ten to 20 minutes a day marketing, and you’ll soon have a full pipeline, and a waiting list of clients.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.