Recently, quite a few writers have asked me how I charge clients for my various services. This isn't meant to be an advertisement for what I do. Instead it is a gathering of hints for your own use if you are asked to edit, ghostwrite, collaborate, etc.
I’ve done all three. And how I charge depends on many factors. When editing, some writers estimate by rough pages and their predicted time, thus one figure guaranteed (be sure you set clear limits on rewrites or extra edits if you do this). Also, as I do with most my clients, you can charge for any type of consulting and reworking and editing by the hour. Rewriting ditto (and this should be well defined in your contract).
I’ve coauthored in many forms and this is the rundown on several ways I’ve charged: when ghostwriting I’ve been paid a set charge for the book/script; I’ve charged hourly; I’ve charged a percentage of a book's revenues (I recommend against this unless your subject is HOT or your “author” is a household name); and I’m about to start a project which will be a combination of a lower hourly rate and a small percentage of the book’s proceeds – it will be a marketable book/subject/author, yet not a household name, so the hourly portion simply guarantees that I make enough to cover my time. I’ve co-written screenplays where the work was split roughly 50-50. With two authors, Janet Fogg and Christian Lyons, I put the time in with the understanding and contract that we split all costs and proceeds and that marketing decisions must be agreed upon by both (be sure to spell out who will do what). I’ve also co-written a short educational film script where I got paid a set amount, half up front, the rest when done.
Writers have asked me what is a “fair” charge. That depends on your experience and how busy you stay. I raised my rates consistently over time as my experience and reputation grew. And when I had several writers wanting to hire me, meaning too much work to accept it all, I raised rates again. I’ve always offered a friend/family discount. I never undervalue myself; I'd rather hold out for a client that appreciates my work enough to pay me well. To reassure editing clients who've never used my services, I suggest they contract initially for 4 hours of my work so they can have a good sense of what I can do in that time. I’ve never had anyone stop at that point, but I feel it is fair to give them that option.
If you write the book with your name on it alongside your client's, that is a collaboration not ghostwriting; you are the “writer” and he is the “author.” If you truly ghostwrite the book, only her name is on it. There will be many issues to deal with in your contract, like who owns copyright, who pays expenses, how the names will be listed, etc. You can read about those fine points and considerations in my blog post of Oct 10, 2012 at Chiseled in Rock:
- That's all for now from the Inkpot