Hmm, that is one very loaded question. Business ghostwriters charge different rates based on their expertise and knowledge and experience. But they also base their fees on their confidence in their ability to meet or exceed the client’s expectations.
But there are other variables to consider, the biggest being how much research is involved.
It took Jim Collins five years to write and research his two biggest best sellers–Built to Last and Good To Great. He had a co-author and a team of researchers to help him with the first book, and another team of researchers to help him with the second. These books are outliers, of course, but I present them to give you an idea of how big a business book can get, and how much work can be involved.
Fortune wrote an article on ghostwriting, and ghostwriting fees were mentioned in passing. These fees are so wide ranging they are not terribly relevant or helpful, but they do provide an interesting reference point. Here is an excerpt from the article:
“Depending on how involved the writer is, the actual interviews, writing, and rewriting can take anywhere from a couple of months to several years. “It’s a very intimate process,” says Madeleine Morel, who runs 2M Communications, a ghostwriting matchmaker. “You’re trusting them with your life story.” Still, its not uncommon to hear of “authors” neglecting to read the final product. These days business is good for ghostwriters. The median going price is around $50,000; that can easily triple for research-heavy projects. A few writers, however, command high six figures.”
Research is the x factor when choosing a business ghostwriter
The amount of research needed can range from heavy to light to negligible to none (one ghostwriter colleague informed me that he wrote only from a series of interviews with his subject). Then there is the other end of the spectrum in which the ghostwriter’s research can take months or even longer. The scope of the job must be estimated, but it is never possible to be exact, which is why experienced business ghosts often add a bit of a bump or a fudge to cover most eventualities. It is far better to quote a project with a bump, and stick to the number quoted, than to quote too tightly and run over budget, time-wise, and have to go back to the client/author after the fact for more money. It’s not professional to do the latter, and thus not likely to make for a good working relationship. It is much smarter to do the former.
What does the client/author get for his or her ghostwriting outlay? Quite a lot more than he or she expects if the ghostwriter is any good. The ghostwriter is not only your writing partner but also a consultant, a coach, a motivator and sometimes a therapist. The work in process product, chapter by chapter, is likely to be an eye opener for the client/author, because the words on the page are usually far more articulate than the words spoken over the phone and into the recorder. That’s because most people do their best and most original thinking when they are writing. Stephen King said that writing is refined thinking. Toni Morrison said that writing is a way of thinking. Joan Didion said “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking.” From my own experience, this is definitely true.
The relationship between business ghostwriter and client can be a truly great one if the author and writer are both passionate about the work, contribute equally–not so much in words as in thoughts–and do not let ego get in the way. In that sense it becomes a true collaboration, and maybe a lifetime one.