Pricing Book Writing Services

I received a question via the Freelance Writing Jobs contact form today that is probably fairly common among freelance writers.  A seasoned journalist sent me the following note:

“An opportunity has been presented to me to write a book. The problem is I have no idea how to price such a venture.”

How much should writers charge to write a book for a client?  There are a few things to consider in order to know what the going rate is to write a book.

First, you need to know who is publishing the book.  If a major publisher asks you to write a book, then there are a few factors that will affect the advance and royalties that publisher is likely to offer you.  First, the amount a publisher is willing to pay you depends on:

  • Your platform — meaning how well you can prove to the publisher that you can sell a lot of copies of your book through your extensive connections.
  • Your experience — have you authored a book before?  How well did it sell?  The publisher’s offer to you will be higher if you have a track record of selling books.
  • The market for the book — publishers evaluate the potential sales of a book and adjust payments to authors based on expected sales performance.

A publisher that picks up a book from a new author could offer an advance anywhere from $5,000 and up.  The “and up” part depends very much on the three factors listed above.  It’s up to the writer to determine if the secondary opportunities that being published through a major publisher provides is worth the amount of time vs. the payment.

What if the book is to be written for a client that will self-publish or try to sell to publishers?  In these situations, you may or may not get a byline as the author.  How much should you charge?

It depends on the amount of time it will take you to write the book and whether or not the client agrees to give you a percentage of sales earnings.  If the book is about a topic you know well and would not require a lot of research, then you can write it faster than a book that would require a lot of research.  If you can reduce the number/extent of edits that you’re willing to make, that will also reduce the amount of time it takes you to write the book.  The desired word count also affects how much you should charge.

So what should you charge to write a book for an independent client?  A safe place to start is $0.10 per word.  That’s fairly competitive with the rate that most work-for-hire publishing contracts offer (meaning an advance is paid to the author but no royalties).  For example, for a 70,000 word manuscript, you can charge $7,000.  Just be sure to include a clause in your contract that limits the editing process so you don’t end up spending too much time editing again and again.  Also, book writing is a situation where you should definitely require a deposit, a payment at 50% completion, and another payment upon submission of the final manuscript.  Alternately, you could charge upon signing the contract and at the 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% completion stages.  Splitting payment up is common even among major publishers.  It’s a good idea to include a clause in the contract that states the next stage of writing won’t begin until payment on the prior stage is received.  This helps ensure an independent client pays you before you invest too much time in the project.

I hope this helps.  Of course, it’s important to evaluate each opportunity independently to determine whether it can help you in more ways than just money.  Depending on the opportunity, you might want to charge more or less.  The $0.10 per word recommendation is a guideline but not a strict rule.

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2 responses
  1. Laura Cross Avatar

    Hi Susan:

    I’ve been a professional ghostwriter for more than 18 years, and also train freelance writers how to run profitable ghostwriting businesses. Perhaps $0.10 per word is the going rate for article writing, but that rate is way off the mark for ghostwriting a book for a client. The average rate for professional book ghostwriting is $50,000 to $100,000 per project. Veteran ghostwriter and ghostwriting teacher Claudia Suzanne states the industry standard at the very low-end to be $30,000 plus 50%. And an article published by Media Bistro last year noted that most agents recommend l ghostwriters receive at least $50,000 minimum for developing a book. Even an “easy” book with little research would command more than a measly $0.10 per word or $7,000 for an entire book! Even if it’s the first book-writing assignment for the “seasoned journalist” who sent you her/his question, she/he should receive a rate within the industry standard. The rate is based on the value delivered – not the hours it takes to do the work or whether the author is self-publishing or not. The value of becoming a published author is significant – it has a direct correlation to an author’s revenue, credibility, clientele, and media attention. I’ve ghostwritten books for clients that have garnered them appearances on The Today Show, CNN, and even Oprah, and allowed them to charge and easily acquire much higher fees. How much is that worth? The value is much higher than $0.10 per word.

  2. Susan Gunelius Avatar

    Laura, My suggestion is for the work-for-hire writer, not big name/established platform ghostwriting. $100,000 as an advance to write a book would be best-seller territory. Good for you! Even J.K. Rowling only got $115k from Scholastic for the first Harry Potter book after it had already started gaining popularity in the U.K. That advance was unprecedented for her genre at the time. Most work-for-hire publishers like the “Everything Guide to” series typically only offer $15,000 max to first-time writers. Of course, if you’re ghostwriting for a person who already has a big platform, then all bets are off because the publisher knows sales of the book will more than cover a sizable advance. They have to sell a lot of books to cover $100,000, and in today’s publishing market where the free sharing and downloading of books online is a huge problem, that seems harder to do every day.

    Keep on bringing in the big bucks! Thanks for taking the time to leave your comment here on FWJ. There are few writers who earn as much as you do who would take the time read the posts here on FWJ let alone join the conversation.

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