Ghostwriting is precision work that requires much more than writing and editing skills. I like to say that in addition to being an art, it is also a craft and a business.

The ghostwriter is committed to satisfying a client's wishes and needs. This commitment is probably the most important part of the process, since it requires the ghostwriter to step into the shoes of their client and start to think, feel and write like that person.

Often a client may have less than an elementary school education. Even if they are college graduates or professionals with several post-graduate degrees, they may still have limited writing skills. This doesn't mean that the finished product will be poorly written; rather, it must reflect the client's voice and manner of presentation.

Also, often the client's viewpoints and opinions may be radically different; this is not a challenge if the ghostwriter remains detached from the material yet realizes that their only agenda is to satisfactorily deliver the client's message.

What should I charge?

A good professional will have a fee structure document to send or hand deliver to clients. The table of fees is based on:

  • The writer’s qualifications - Are they a newbie or have they been doing
    this for several years, with a track record; testimonials (available on request)?
  • Estimated time for completing the job
  • It is best to set flat rates when contracting for writing assignments because some writers work faster than others. Page count is one of the best ways to establish flat rates. To set a fee for editing a manuscript, for example, test yourself by working through a couple of pages and clock that time. Base your fee on experience and skill.

    A beginning editor would charge approximately $30 an hour. That may seem low, but they need the experience and can raise the rate after they’ve collected some testimonials and have worked with a significant number of clients.

    Determine how many pages you can complete in an hour and then divide the total number by that page count. Multiply the fee by your hourly rate and add $50 - $100 for wiggle room, depending on the size of the work and your hourly rate. If they pay by credit card or any other merchant card service, add that processing fee to your invoice.

    I include office expenses, costs of materials, phone, fax, transcription (if that is required) and other related work fees. Travel expenses (plane, hotel, car rental and per diem allowance) are extra.

    If you know a job is going to be difficult, tedious or time-consuming, charge extra for the additional time it will require.

    Potential Client Package

    Some of these items may not appear in the first package you send, but will be delivered later. It will depend on how far along you are toward closing the deal, and also, what the potential client has requested that you send them.

  • Drafted quote (if the potential client has requested this)
  • Drafted Memorandum of Understanding for the client to review
  • Brief résumé – see my website, Write to Publish for Profit for résumé
  • writing techniques
  • C.V. (Curriculum vita)
  • Testimonials (Ask permission from your clients to use their names or initials
  • on the document you prepare for potential clients. Also, ask permission
    to have a potential client call them as a reference.)
  • Fee Sheet
  • Promotion Pamphlet or flyer that describes your services and gives your contact information
  • Business card
  • Sample writing in the genre for which your potential client is interested in
  • contracting your services

    Your To-Do List

    Bio (Résumé) and C.V. (Curriculum Vita)

    Develop a brief biographical sketch of yourself. It should be no longer than a page (approximately 250 words). Include all the pertinent information that you want people to know about yourself:

  • Contact information
  • Education
  • Credentials
  • Awards
  • Memberships
  • Accomplishments
  • Remember, this is a professional document. People won’t really care if you have hobbies, pets, a Significant Other or children. They will be paying you to write or edit. How can you show them you have the qualifications to get the job done?

    You will also want to develop a Curriculum Vita or chronological list of your positions (title and responsibilities) with the most recent year listed first. (See my Write to Publish for Profit Website for C. V.writing techniques.)

    Writing Samples

    Upon request, you will be able to send many examples or samples of your writing. Include non-fiction—everything from press releases to articles, essays, op-ed pieces, excerpts from books you’ve written… whatever will showcase your abilities. However, unless requested, send only those samples that are relevant to the type of writing your potential client will ask you to perform.

    The more clients and experience you have, the more efficiently you will move through the negotiation process. If your potential client tells you they are able to get the same services performed for less, encourage them to use those services.

    Stay firm with your rates and the value you have set for expenditure of your time, experience and expertise. Chasing clients and pretending not to be desperate when deep down you do in fact have serious monthly payments on the car, house, credit cards, etc., will only lead you down a dark alley where you really don’t want to go. You will say yes to a project that will be more trouble than it’s worth.

    Everything depends on your attitude and your self-esteem.

  • Author's Bio: 

    Carol Adler, MFA’s first ghost-written book listing her name as co-editor, Why Am I Still Addicted? A Holistic Approach to Recovery, was endorsed by Deepak Chopra, M.D., and published by McGraw-Hill. She has ghostwritten over 40 non-fiction and fiction works for a number of professionals in the education, health care and human potential industries. Other publications include three novels, four books of poetry, and well over 200 poems in literary journals.

    Carol is President of Dandelion Books, LLC of Tempe, Arizona; a full service publishing company. She is also President and CEO of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc., Write to Publish for Profit and President of the International Arts & Media Foundation, a non-profit subsidiary of Dandelion Enterprises, Inc.

    Her business experience includes co-ownership of a Palm Beach, FL public relations company and executive management positions in two U.S. rejuvenation and mind/body wellness corporations, for which she founded publishing divisions.

    Carol has served as editor of several poetry and literary magazines. Her career experience includes extensive teaching of college-level creative and business writing, and conducting of writing workshops in prisons, libraries, elementary, junior and high schools, and senior citizen centers.