How Much Do Ghostwriters Make? Common Rates

As an expert in self-publishing and writing, I’m often asked about ghostwriting as a viable career. And by far the most commonly asked question is “how much do ghostwriters make?”

 It's a fair question since ghostwriting rates can vary widely based on the type of project, the writer's experience level, and market conditions.

In this comprehensive guide, I'll break down exactly how much money professional ghostwriters can realistically expect to earn. I'll cover ghostwriting rates per word, per hour, and per project, including examples.

By the end of this guide, you'll have a clear understanding of ghostwriter income potential so you can confidently price your writing services.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. Typical ghostwriting rates per word, per hour, and per project
  2. What affects ghostwriting rates and fees
  3. How to determine fair pricing for your work
  4. Whether royalties or author credit impact pay

How Much Do Ghostwriters Make?

There is no single rate that all ghostwriters charge. Fees vary based on the length and complexity of the project, the writer's skills and experience, and market factors like supply and demand.

However, based on my experience and research, here are typical ghostwriting rates:

Nonfiction Books

  • Beginner ghostwriters: $15,000 – $30,000 per book
  • Established ghostwriters: $30,000 – $60,000 per book
  • Top ghostwriters: $60,000 – $100,000+ per book

Rates for nonfiction books often correlate with length. A 100-200 page book may fall on the lower end, while a 300+ page book requires more work and commands higher fees.

Fiction Books

  • Beginner ghostwriters: $0.05 – $0.10 per word
  • Established ghostwriters: $0.10 – $0.25 per word
  • Top ghostwriters: $0.25 – $1 per word

Fiction books typically range from 50,000 to 120,000 words. At $0.10/word, a 100k word novel would cost $10,000. At $0.25/word, that project would cost $25,000.

Blog Posts & Articles

  • Beginner ghostwriters: $100 – $300 per post
  • Established ghostwriters: $300 – $500 per post
  • Top ghostwriters: $500 – $1,000+ per post

Articles typically range from 500-2,000 words. Longer, more research-intensive pieces command higher fees.

As you can see, ghostwriting income has a wide range, approximately $15,000 on the low end for a short book to $100,000+ for an extensive nonfiction book by a top ghostwriter. 

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And I’ve given examples of per-project as well as per-word pricing. We’ll talk about this later, but keep in mind that it could differ from one client to another.

Next, let's look at what impacts rates.

What to Charge for Ghostwriting

Ghostwriting rates are influenced by multiple factors:

Per Word

Most fiction ghostwriting is priced per word. Typical rates range from:

  • $0.01 – $0.05 per word: Entry-level rate for an inexperienced ghostwriter.
  • $0.05 – $0.15 per word: Average rate for ghostwriters with a solid portfolio.
  • $0.15 – $0.25 per word: Rate for very experienced ghostwriters, often with bestselling credits.
  • $0.25 – $1 per word: Top tier rate reserved for ghostwriters with extensive credits writing in popular genres.

A typical starting place might be around $0.04-0.05/word. After building a portfolio, you can increase that to $0.10/word, which I’d say is a common standard. 

Then, once you have dozens of books under your belt and perhaps a few true success stories, you can bump that up to $0.25/word.

Per Hour

Some ghostwriters charge by the hour, typically between $25-$100 per hour. However, per hour fees are less common than per word rates, since the client cannot accurately judge that you are using your time wisely. 

Hourly engagements are better suited for editing existing material vs. creating new content from scratch.

Per Project

For nonfiction books and full manuscripts, most established ghostwriters work on a per project basis. Typical rates are:

  • Short ebooks or novellas: $3,000-$10,000
  • Full nonfiction books (~50k words): $15,000-$40,000
  • Extensive books (~75k+ words): $40,000-$100,000+

Project rates account for total time invested, not just writing. Research, interviews, project management and revisions are factored in.

Factors That Impact Ghostwriting Fees

While the above rates provide general guidelines, in reality every ghostwriting project is unique. There are many factors that influence what a particular client will pay for a specific book or writing assignment.

Expertise and Experience Required

Certain ghostwriting projects demand specific expertise, like:

  • Business books requiring an MBA or finance knowledge
  • Medical memoirs necessitating science/biology comprehension
  • Historical fiction needing a background in that era

If particular expertise is needed, it's reasonable to charge higher rates, especially if you have specialized credentials like medical degrees or PhDs. You offer added value.

Length of Manuscript

The most fundamental factor is word count or page count. A short ebook of 15,000 words will have a lower fee than an extensive 100,000 word memoir.

Typical range based on length:

  • Novellas (~15,000 – 25,000 words): $3,000 – $8,000
  • Standard Nonfiction (~50,000 words): $15,000 – $30,000
  • Full Novel (~75,000 – 100,000 words): $40,000 – $85,000
  • Extensive Books (100,000+ words): $60,000 – $100,000+

With fiction projects charged per word, total word count directly impacts your fee. With nonfiction books priced as a flat rate, higher word counts still warrant bigger fees to account for more writing time required.

When quoting new clients, always confirm the expected length. Price accordingly.

Research Required

If the ghostwriter needs to conduct extensive research before writing, they may charge a premium rate. Deep research takes far more time than writing from existing materials provided by the client.

Writing Difficulty and Style

Some projects inherently require more writing skill and time:

  • A complex exposé vs. simple business ebook
  • Literary fiction vs. commercial fiction
  • Academic/technical style vs. conversational

Factor in time needed to produce high-quality writing. Simpler writing means faster drafting and warrants lower fees.

Amount of Material Provided

If the client provides lots of background material, you can quote on the lower end. Without resources, more research is required, justifying higher fees.

Having transcripts of interviews and written summaries from the client makes the writing process far smoother and faster. Ask what they'll provide upfront.

Revisions and Rewrites

Most ghostwriters limit included revisions to 1-2 rounds. After that, an hourly fee often applies. Clarify the revision process upfront to prevent disputes.

Rush Jobs and Tight Deadlines

Accelerated turnarounds often require premium payments known as “rush fees.” Ghostwriters rely on reasonable schedules to produce quality work so tight deadlines cost extra.

Credits and Royalties

If the ghostwriter receives shared authorship credit or royalties, their flat fee may be reduced. Most don't pursue credits or royalties so they can maximize their base rate.

Right of First Refusal

Some ghostwriters request the option to work on future books for the same client. This provides job security and may influence their fee quote.

Should You Get Paid in Royalties?

Here's my take – avoid royalties. Only accept them as an added bonus to your flat fee, for three key reasons:

It's speculative income. There's no guarantee of significant book sales and royalties. Upfront fees provide reliable compensation.

Profit splits can be unfair. Unless you negotiate a high percentage, royalty income may be disappointing compared to hours invested.

Royalties can complicate payment. You may have to continually chase authors for sales reports and payments. Upfront fees are simpler.

For these reasons, I would stick to flat project fees and avoid royalty deals. However, if offered on top of fair upfront pay, I would view modest royalties as a nice potential add-on.

Should You Expect Credit?

Getting author credit as the ghostwriter is relatively rare. Often writers must remain anonymous. However, there are a few ways writers may get credited:

  • Mentioned as the ghostwriter in the acknowledgements or author's note
  • Listed as a co-author, especially if doing extensive research
  • Named as the author but the client is listed as the “as told to” source
  • Given cover credit in smaller font (“with Ghostwriter Name”)
  • Listed as the author on the copyright page but not the cover
  • Granted a percentage of royalties in exchange for credit

Ultimately, whether you receive credit depends on the client and project. Ghostwriting credit shouldn't impact your fee. However, it's a nice acknowledgment of your contribution.

If credit matters, discuss it upfront when negotiating terms. Some clients may offer higher royalties in exchange for credit.

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Ghostwriting Can Be Lucrative

Talented ghostwriters can earn from $20,000 up to $100,000+ annually writing for clients:

  • Fiction book fees range from $0.01 to $1 per word based on genre, length, and writer experience
  • Nonfiction ghostwriters typically charge flat rates starting around $15,000 to $40,000+ per book
  • Additional services like coaching and developmental editing can command hourly rates of $100+

By charging fair market rates customized to each project, ghostwriters get paid what they deserve while also satisfying clients.

But bear in mind that it requires a lot of work to pump out all these words, and if you are not reliable, you won’t get future clients either.

So make sure that you have a consistent production schedule, that you are good at hitting deadlines, and that all-in-all you are reliable. That, above all, will determine how much you are able to charge once you get the necessary experience.

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