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.

Interested?

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.

68 Comments

  1. Sascha Rutledge

    If people can’t write, then they should expect to hire ghostwriters at the standard rates, or stay out of the business. The people that want to be an author but don’t want to do the work nor pay for it fairly usually expect a 100% high quality, “make me a bestseller on Kindle” ebook.

  2. Edo

    But what if someone can provide the same value or even better, and for a much lower price. There are plenty of highly qualified experts from third world countries who can do a great job for a half of price than a client would pay to some expert from top economy countries such as US, UK, New Zealand, Switzerland, Netherlands, etc. That’s what I’m talking about. I can have a great life with $800-$1000 a month, so I’m virtually not forced to charge more. However, US writer is definitely forced to charge much more than me, if he wants to survive.

    • Carol Tice

      Edo…ghostwriting your precious life story, a book you will only publish once in your life, is simply not a gig most thought leaders are going to take a flier on outsourcing to an ESL writer. As far as I’m aware, that’s just not happening.

      BUT…the opportunity for writers in other countries is to seek out book deals in their native language. The pay scale may not be the same, but there should still be terrific opportunities there to do bigger projects for a lot more than $50.

    • Edo

      Also, at the rate of $3 per hour on Upwork, I don’t even have to seek for clients and do any kind of marketing. I can just sit back and relax because the clients themselves are coming for me.

      However, if I would like to get those highly paid writing projects, I would have to invest a huge effort and apply various marketing strategies, especially if I am a newbie. Sometimes that can be a real pain and stress, and no one can guarantee that you will actually succeed.

    • Carol Tice

      I guess I think for most writers, it’s worth a little pain and stress at the start to launch a truly professionalized writing business if you can earn $50,000-$100,000 a year instead of $10,000.

      Of course, for those who want to just sit back and earn a pittance, UpWork is there ready and waiting to exploit your laziness and suck you into the race-to-the-bottom pricing marketplace.

      My sense is that the trend is that the vast majority of writers on all these mass platforms will be outside the US/UK, since most writers in developed nations won’t have anything to do with the sort of lowball clients that hang around these places. More and more writers have already had the sad experience of wasting hours bidding on gigs they’ll never get, and once they see the rates, they move on. The mergers and closures of many mass job platforms tell me that demand for dirt-cheap, mediocre writing is decreasing rapidly.

    • Carol Tice

      Edo, I don’t know if you’ve been following our US elections, but the steady stream of manufacturing moving abroad may be coming to an abrupt halt, as Trump plans to change the laws that make that easy for corporations to do.

      You might want to read this post about the fate of writers who can’t provide much English proficiency, since the era when substandard posts were helpful to websites has ended: https://makealivingwriting.com/open-letter-esl-writers/

      The pool of $3 an hour writing gigs online where quality doesn’t matter is drying up fast.

      I totally agree with you that ESL writers should move into other types of freelance gigs, where perfect English isn’t so important. And that if $3 an hour won’t work for you, you should stay off UpWork, since that’s a typical rate, and sites like this are a place where lots of Third World writers hang out.

      Staying off UpWork and prospecting to find your own quality clients is the key to earning a living wage in the US/UK and many other countries, so I stand by that advice.

  3. Edo

    No client will award you a $35.000 job without interviewing some other writers. Just a fool can throw his money just like that, and not even think about whether he could possibly find someone better who will maybe charge a few thousands less. So, there is virtually no job without competition.

    • Felix Abur

      Edo,

      I think you’re approaching this the wrong way. Low-end clients will bargain on price but I think for a writer garnering for a $35,000 gig, they’re seeking out clients who bargain on value rather than price. And these are the kinds of clients who will pass up a $35k writer and the next day they hire a $50k writer. So what does that tell you?

    • Felix Abur

      *gunning, not garnering

    • Carol Tice

      Certainly, book ghosting isn’t a gig with no competition…just one with far less competition than many other writing assignments.

  4. Tammy Farrell CPA CFE

    So excited for this ghostwriting bootcamp! I haunted Claudia’s website a while back and kicked myself that I don’t live in the Long Beach area to attend her class. This is even better. 😉 I’ve got the webinar playing now.

    As you saw in last week’s post, I’ve got an ongoing gig ghostwriting blogs and articles for a CFO and would love to step up to ghostwriting a book for an exec. Can’t wait to learn more.

    • Edo

      Different countries have a different life standard. If we are both experts in a particular field, and we apply to a high-paid project – the client will, of course, select the one who charges less.

      Your problem is that you cannot charge what I can. In my country, with $800 a month, you can live an amazing life. However, in US or UK, you simply can’t.

      So, you will write a fantastic article related to medicine, and you will do it for let’s say $150. Well, I will do the same job for $50, and it’s a super daily salary for me (in my country). That’s why you can’t compete with me!

      For instance, Indian writers usually charge $2 or $3 per article, and it’s considered as a great salary in their country. I know, I will never be able to compete with those guys.

      And today, the competition is huge!

    • Carol Tice

      Edo, the key is to position yourself as a specialist in writing not everyone can do.

      I’m thinking there aren’t a lot of ESL writers landing $50,000 English-language book-ghosting deals, because it’s a highly relationship-driven business. These are far more sophisticated projects than ghostwriting a blog post, and the client’s reputation and future success are resting on the book’s quality.

      That’s why, for First World writers looking for a way to compete against those willing to write for less because their cost of living is less, ghostwriting books for top clients is a great niche. It’s hard for writers in India or other far-flung countries to build a strong network of American book agents, CEOs, celebrities…the type of network that tends to lead to landing these contracts.

    • Carol Tice

      Tammy, I believe her college course is virtual! Not sure you have to be physically present…just need $4,000 and nearly a year to work on it. 😉 That’s why I’m so excited for our much more affordable ghostwriting bootcamp. 😉

  5. Elizabeth Peirce

    First-time commenter from Canada here! I enjoy your posts, Carol, and appreciate the encouragement sent to my solitary garret (ha!) I wanted to share a story that may give a new meaning to the term “ghostwriting”. I was working with a local, regional publisher, editing an historical fiction novel. It was truly a heavy edit– the writing was uneven, to say the least. Halfway through the project, the writer (whom I never met) unfortunately passed away, and so my role morphed from editor, to ghostwriter, to co-author (the publisher of course needed someone to promote the book). Because it was a book about piracy, and murder on the high seas, I can truly say that I felt something “ghostly” about the experience, though it was also highly enjoyable!

    Thanks again for your virtual encouraging presence!

    • Carol Tice

      Ha — funny story, Elizabeth. And nice to see you here on the comments!

      I hope you’re coming to the Webinar tomorrow with Claudia Suzanne — she should definitely have some tips on how to get more leads!

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