7 Important Reasons You Don’t Get Well-Paid Ghostwriting Gigs

Carol Tice

Discover the Invisible Market of Well-Paid Ghostwriting Gigs. Makealivingwriting.comHave you been ghostwriting blog posts for chump change?

There’s a ton of this type of ghostwriting out there. You churn out post after post for $35 or maybe $75 or $100 if you’re lucky, never being able to claim a byline. Often, you don’t even have permission to use these in your portfolio.

It’s a bad deal.

Here’s the ghostwriting secret nobody tells you: Ghostwriting should pay a lot. You’re not getting credit for this work! So the only payoff to you is purely financial.

The good news is, there are situations where ghostwriting pays great. In fact, it pays $35,000 an assignment and up.

Yes, that’s the floor for this work! Not kidding. Well-paid ghostwriting projects are out there, but you need to know how to find them.


I’m talking about the world of professional book ghostwriters. Sadly, most freelance writers will never join this elite club.

Why? Here are seven big reasons:

1. You don’t know where to look

Well-paid ghostwriting book are not found on Craigslist, UpWork, or any of the other mass platforms where thousands of writers congregate.

They’re not a gig where dozens of writers are pitted against each other in a race to the bottom on price.

In book ghosting, the top priority is finding the right writer. A writer who has the talent and experience to pull this off — to create a book that sounds like the client wrote it.

Finally, there has to be a personal connection, where you hit it off with the client. They have to be ready to trust you with what they’re hoping will be a bestseller that transforms their career.

There’s a lot of interviewing and back-and-forth — I know, because I’ve sat for quite a few book-ghosting interviews. This doesn’t happen through online automation. It’s a personal process.

That’s why most of these gigs come through relationships and referrals. You might upsell an existing client’s CEO a book. You might work your network to find a good prospect.

Getting book ghostwriting gigs come from building your reputation, doing good work writing other projects, and positioning yourself as someone who could be trusted to ace a project of this size and scope.

2. You don’t know who you’re looking for

There are an amazing number of “ghost my book for $300” offers bouncing around the Internet. There are also a multitude of individuals, mostly elderly, who believe they have an extraordinary life story — and they’d like your help telling it.

They also have no money. Maybe they could scrape together $1,000 or so, tops.

They are not your client. If you want to land a well-paid ghostwriting book deal, you need to connect with the right people.

Who pays real money — the $35,000-$50,000 and up that’s typical for a professional book-ghosting contract?

  • CEOs, CTOs, and CMOs of major corporations and hot, well-funded startups
  • Wealthy retirees
  • Political figures
  • Well-off professionals — doctors, lawyers, alternative health practitioners
  • Accomplished academics looking to build their reputations
  • Successful coaches

Remember, every professional who’s trying to build authority who hires a marketing coach is being told the same thing today: “You need a book.”

In fact, in talking with top ghostwriting expert Claudia Suzanne recently, she told me her estimate is that 250 million Americans think they have a book in them. That’s a massive market!

Out of that large pool, there are plenty of people who can pay pro rates to build their authority or take their career to the next level — the book that turns them into a sought-after public speaker, or helps promote their company’s products.

So stop wasting time trying to convince somebody’s grandma to hand over her retirement fund. That’s not going to happen. Stop chasing prospects who’ll never have the money — and concentrate on the prospects who understand your worth.

3. You don’t understand what it takes

One reason writers are tempted to take that $300 or $1,000 book-ghosting gig they see on Craigslist because they are deeply ignorant of what ghostwriting a book entails.

It is a gigantic project. Think 4-6 months of your life totally gone, at a minimum — IF nothing goes wrong and there are no unexpected delays. Months during which you will be working hard to please this client, capture their voice, convey the right tone, and tell a compelling story.

Remember, you’re not writing a book you feel like writing — you’re writing what someone else wants written. There will be extensive back-and-forth, notes, rewrites.

That’s why book ghosting pays the equivalent of a decent working-class salary. It’s difficult to keep other freelance clients while you ghost a book.

Can you live for many months on $1,000, while this project slowly progresses? Probably not. Too many freelance writers find this out the hard way. They ask for more money halfway through. It doesn’t happen. Often, the project falls apart.

Deadlines can be fairly tight. There pressure to perform ranges from high to sky-high.

These projects also rarely go according to plan. There are delays, changes in direction. All the while, you’re waiting to hit your next payment milestone.

You need to be compensated for all the other potential business you’ll be turning down, the intensity of this work, and all the delicate handling of your client’s feelings you’ll be managing.

4. You don’t know what to charge

As I said above, the rock-bottom rates you’ll see for ghosting books and e-books on the low end of the marketplace can give writers a warped view of going rates.

Combine that with not understanding how much work is involved, and you’re all set to radically shortchange yourself.

Also, so many writers have low self-esteem that asking for $35,000 for a writing assignment is a physical impossibility. If you’ve been writing $30 blog posts for some CEO, it’s hard to believe there are well-paid ghostwriting freelancers charging these kinds of rates.

So you squinch up your eyes and, looking down, say, “How about $10,000?”

I mean, wow — that sounds like a lot of money, right? But divide by 6 months, and you get just over $1,600 a month. With no time to take other gigs.

Later, when you’re selling your belongings on eBay to make your rent — and there’s no end to the writing in sight — you realize you were way, way out of the ballpark.

5. You’re not laying the groundwork

I’ve met brand-new freelance writers without a clip to their name who cheerfully announce to me, “My plan is to ghostwrite books!”

I don’t want to be a burster of bubbles, but it’s highly unlikely that you can go from zero writing experience to booking well-paid ghostwriting gigs overnight.

You’ll need to build a portfolio of strong writing, possibly ghostwrite some smaller projects, and start building a reputation as a good writer.

Acquire many clients in the prime prospect categories above — the kind who might either want a book ghosted, or who might be able to refer you to colleagues who have book dreams. Connect with agents who put together hot, in-the-news personalities with ghostwriters.

Consider writing a book yourself, under your own byline, so prospects can see that you’re capable of book-length storytelling.

Then, build a massive referral network that can help you find clients.

6. You don’t have all the skills

There are many moving parts to a book-ghosting assignment. It’s not just good storytelling and basic writing talent.

You might begin with a small contract to write a book proposal the client will shop to agents or publishers, for instance. Ever written one of those? A lot of prospective clients are looking for writers with experience successfully selling book proposals. So that’s another thing you could practice doing with your own book ideas, to build a track record.

The most important facet of ghosting a book is the structure. The client may have an outline or chapters already written, but usually the narrative structure is a mess. Remember, they’re not professional storytellers!

It’s up to you to develop a compelling structure for this book, so that people actually read and enjoy it. To name just a couple important skills pro book ghosts have, beyond the writing.

7. You don’t have the right mindset

Most writers get into freelancing because they have a passion for a certain topic — and they’re byline junkies.

None of that applies in the world of book ghostwriting.

You write purely in service of your client’s desires, about their pet topic, for money, not credit or acclaim.

It’s a big mindset switch. For many writers, it’s one they can’t successfully make. You keep trying to convince the client to write it the way you think will work best — and eventually, they drop you and start over with another writer who will fulfill their vision.

But if you enjoy capturing someone else’s story and helping them tell it, and don’t mind being out of the spotlight, ghostwriting books can be the best-earning gig going.

Well-paid ghostwriting gigs are out there

If you think book-ghostwriting assignments don’t exist at these sort of price tags, I can tell you I get one newsletter, from a boutique agency, that announces a steady stream of these well-paid ghostwriting projects every week. Rates are never below $35,000. And that’s just one small agency, that mostly concentrates on projects in one city!

Everybody wants a book — and most people who want one know they can’t write it themselves.

If you want to earn more as a writer, this is a hot niche to look at for 2017.

Have you done any ghostwriting? Leave a comment and let’s discuss how it went.


  1. Mike Valles

    Carol, thanks for the article. I appreciate you showing writers worldwide what is possible if they write books. It will surely help some who are settling for less to have their eyes opened to greater prospects and a better income level – if they want to write books.

    I have written some books for clients, and many eBooks, but did not know that charging those kinds of prices was possible. The article helped me. I often read your articles.

    • Carol Tice

      It’s all about having the pro ghostwriting skills that we’re learning in the Move Up to Ghostwriting bootcamp that’s running in Freelance Writers Den right now, Mike, plus knowing how to identify the clients who pay pro rates for book ghosting. Gotta get off Craigslist and understand where the money is. 😉

  2. Felix Abur

    It’s so so very very (yes, deserves the emphasis) sad to read from my fellow writers from 3rd world countries about how poor writing and low-level language skills are enough to provide an amazing life. It makes it so much harder for an educated and ambitious fellow like me to market his skills convincingly. Each time they see I’m from a 3rd world country US/UK clients assume I lack the skills and exposure to relate to first world issues. And let’s face it, your writing is only effective if you can relate with your readers and target audience. Yes, I’m from a 3rd world country (or a developing nation if you believe our local politicians).

    But I do have exposure having traveled widely. English is my primary language, and like most of my countrymen I’m multi-lingual (which should be a plus). I buy products from all over the world, so I’m sure can easily relate to the experiences of someone looking for quality products no matter the country of origin.

    I don’t know why I would consider $3 articles while beginner writers from the US, Canada, Australia, UK, etc are earning 10 times that.

    So I’m asking all those 3rd World ESL writers out there justifying their low rates not to bundle me with the ‘ambition-less’ low-rate figures. You do not speak for everyone if you are comfy with a $3-rate. That’s the value you provide, not the value I provide. Stick to your line. Bid at Upwork for those jobs that give you an amazing life and stop bundling every other 3rd world writer to your low rate.

    Those of us who think we deserve more will aggressively engage in marketing, conscientiously provide real value to clients, and endlessly strive to expand our knowledge. I refuse to be limited by my geographical location. After all, why was the internet invented?

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for weighing in on that, Felix. I do think it’s hard for writers in the Third World who do a terrific job — but I coach some in Den 2X Income Accelerator, and I can tell you it IS possible to earn a LOT more than $3, if you understand marketing and are an exceptional, fully fluent writer, no matter where you live.

    • Edo

      I don’t get it why someone is a low-quality writer if he writes a 500-word article for $5. That’s the logical fallacy of argument from personal incredulity. If I do something that you think is not well-paid, doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a low-quality worker. However, you may express your opinion, even though some people won’t agree with it, but you can’t force it to become public opinion. I get angry when someone tries to disqualify me on a personal level just because he doesn’t agree with what I charge. Who are you to tell me what is a bad rate for me and what is a good one? Who am I to tell you what your hourly rate should be? Just because you write at an extremely high rate, doesn’t mean you are automatically a high-quality writer. You aim for higher rates, and that’s okay. With all due respect, I won’t allow you to tell me that I’m doing slavery jobs for peanuts just because you don’t like my hourly rate. Also, I won’t allow you to underestimate and humiliate my income source, regardless of what it is. I respect your decision to not like it, but please, you should also respect my choice, even if it’s a wrong one in your point of view.

      Sir Felix, you can’t claim that writers from 3rd world countries are the poor writers with low-level language skills just because you have been reading a few random articles that were poorly written. It is a logical fallacy called Ad populum. Instead, you should better try to improve your own skills rather than pointing a finger at other people and their work. Eventually, you’re not paying them, and therefore, you should not bother yourself commenting their work in a negative manner.

      “I don’t know why I would consider $3 articles while beginner writers from the US, Canada, Australia, UK, etc are earning 10 times that.” – Why are you comparing yourself with other people? I strongly recommend you not to do that because it’s bad for your confidence and self-esteem. Instead, try to always improve your work while aiming for better, and stop analyzing what other people are making.

    • Felix Abur

      That escalated fast.

      First, I was referring not only to what you posted but also what other ESL writers posted right here in comments. It was not a personal attack on you or your skill level.

      Secondly, have you checked out the title of this blog post? My input about what constitutes good pay is qualified, don’t you think?

      Anyway, I’m never here to start senseless wars with anonymous entities. To each their own, so best of luck with your writing, sincerely.

    • Edo

      Sir, we are not waging war here. We are just expressing our opinions and arguing, which is, I suppose, a common thing to do in comment sections.

    • Carol Tice

      Edo, I’m glad that you think of yourself as a high-quality writer despite your $3 paycheck…but you should know that most of the corporate world will automatically view you as a low-quality provider if you’re willing to work for that money. Expectations WILL be low…as will raise and promotion opportunities.

    • Edo

      I am neither a high-quality writer nor a low-quality writer. I am just a writer. Writing can’t be high-quality or low-quality. It can be either correct or incorrect. Determining the quality is a matter of taste and individual. I have been reading some of the best sellers out there, and a few of them I would rate as trash. However, it’s just my point of view, not a fact.

      Even if I am the best writer in the world, there will always be a lot of people who will dislike my work, not because they hate me, but because my work does not suit them. They don’t find it interesting enough. Simple as that.

      So, if companies conclude that I’m a worthless writer just because my rate is low, I would say that I don’t give a damn about their unfounded beliefs as long as I can make a nice living out of my work.

    • Carol Tice

      I deeply disagree — there’s so much to writing beyond mere accuracy.

      And I’m not sure how much longer you CAN make a nice living with the $3-post gigs (for those who ever could live on those rates!), because my sense is there are fewer of those every day.

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