As I look both in the past and in the future of my writing career, hopes and dreams and reality are mixing together like oil and water. Eight books into my writing life, I had hoped to be generating more income and actually make more than I spend on promoting my work. There are good stretches and bad, but the constant is, I still love writing as much as I always have.
So what’s the problem, you might ask. Isn’t the love of writing enough to keep me going? Most days it is, but I currently have a full-time job that allows me to keep up my writing habit while I’m still allowed to afford things like a home, food and clothing.
As I look down the road at the viability of writing as a career, I am also looking at peripheral writing activities that lack the glamour of publishing the next great novel. One of those activities is ghost writing.
So, like everything else I undertake, I decided to make a list of pros and cons and, in the spirit of transparency, I wanted to share it with my fellow authors that might be contemplating something similar.
- It’s writing – I enjoy writing so much that I can justify ghost writing by saying that it doesn’t matter if someone else takes the credit, I still get to write and that’s all that matters.
- It can be lucrative – You can ensure that you get paid for your writing and it likely won’t be dependent on sales.
- Writing a book proposal may be charged at an hourly rate ($40 to $200) or as a flat-fee per project ($5,000 to $15,000, depending on the division of labor)
- Research for a book is charged at an hourly ($15 to $150) or daily rate ($450 to $600)
- Rewriting charges are hourly ($25 to $200) or at a per-project rate
- Writing a children’s book for hire may be charged at an hourly rate ($50 to $125) or a per word charge of $1 to $10 per word.
- Ghostwriting fees for a book could be charged hourly ($30 to $200), per word ($1 to $3) or per project ($5,000 to $100,000). More experienced ghostwriters tend to charge per project, with additional hourly fees if the project scope expands. Books for which the ghostwriter receives no credit are usually charged at a higher rate.
- Freedom/Education – It’s likely that the writing would be outside of my area of expertise and I could learn from it and open up future writing opportunities through new experiences.
- Availability of Work – Everyone who’s anyone is writing books to supplement other careers as politicians, celebrities, business people, etc. You don’t need to be an expert in their field, you just need to be a good listener and be able to write in a tone they are happy with.
- Not Getting Credit – I don’t mean lack of recognition here. What I mean is that many ghost writing opportunities come with non-disclosure agreements (NDA). This means that you can’t list specific books in your portfolio and use them to enhance your credibility as a ghost writer.
- Researching Unfamiliar Topics – You might think I listed this as a pro above in the sense of learning new things, but learning takes time. Time is money when you’re writing as a profession. The time to research will eat into your time that you hoped to be writing and earning money.
- Having Clients – When you write your own work, yes, you try to please the mythical ‘reader’, but the main person you seek to please is yourself. My career as a consultant has taught me how precarious is can be trying to please a client. You may write something that the subject of the book doesn’t like even though your being truthful. Also, people who are worthy of being the subject of a book are often a bit high-strung, so there’s that.
- Time – You’ve heard me whine that I work 50-60 hours per week and I travel. Adding something like this, and being able to devote enough time to do it right, are down the road a bit, but I have to consider it if I’m going to make writing something that contributes to my income.
Anyway, now it’s your turn. Have you ever considered ghost writing as a way to supplement your writing income? Have any of you done it? I’d love to hear your pros and cons as well.