It’s common – at least once a week – that someone contacts me and asks if I charge to write. For many of my readers you understand that this is my career and so, of course, I get paid. However, if you are not familiar with my blog or the writing industry, paying someone to write your story may not seem right. After all, most traditionally published novelists are paid after the work is completed and has gone through a trying journey to find someone interested in publishing. Though, what many people don’t realize is that most of those books published by CEOs, celebrities, and media influencers are written by a paid writer who either a publicist, agent, publishing company, or the person writing the book hires. You’ve seen the bylines written by… “and Jody Mabry, with Jody Mabry, alongside Jody Mabry, etc. etc.”
Most of the cost in hiring a writer is for time. A book is a lengthy manuscript, and it takes a lot of time to write it. But, that doesn’t mean the average person, even someone with a low starting budget, cannot afford to hire a writer or ghostwriter. Here’s how to do it.
What is a ghostwriter?
Before we get into the how, I’d like to clarify what a ghostwriter is. Years ago, a ghostwriter was a writer who wrote a book that someone else received credit for. This hasn’t changed entirely, though there are some differences between years ago and now. You’ll see that I don’t often use the term “ghostwriter” anymore. Though early in my career I used ghostwriter frequently. I even had a now defunct website/blog called Life of the Ghostwriter. But, as time changes so do titles and ghostwriter, often pulling a negative connotation, was thrown out of the window and replaced by titles such as freelance writer, angel writer, collaborative writer, and personal historian. The last of which I often go by. There are several reasons for this change. One is that it is now considered “okay” for someone to hire a writer to collaborate on their book. It offers a degree of professionalism. Second, with the internet it is very easy to figure out if a book is ghostwritten and few people want to be in a position where they said they wrote a book only to be unveiled later that they may not have. Third, most people simply want to give credit where it is due.
While the terminology has changed for writers, that does not mean the average person who wants to write their life story knows that a ghostwriter is now referred to as a personal historian. If I didn’t do this for a living I would have never known – I would have never received the memo.
What are you paying for when you hire a ghostwriter?
When you sit down and think about it, this question can be a “duh” moment for people. Someone like me writes as a career. My rates will pay for mortgage, utilities, food, kid’s tuition, car loan, insurance, retirement, and medical expenses. Remember that by working for myself I do not have the luxury of reduced medical benefits, paid leave, vacation time, sick pay, etc. This is how I earn a living. So, when someone gets mad that I won’t reduce my rates because they don’t have the budget or are trying to get a deal, you need to look at it from your perspective. If your company approached you and said, “Listen, I’m tight on cash because I took a nice vacation a couple weeks ago, so I’ll need you to work for half your salary this year,” how quick would you say, “no problem, let’s do it?” You’d probably be out the door. So, in short, my rates are to earn a living.
While this is my career I admittedly offer mid-level rates for my experience. This is because long ago I decided I wanted more people to be able to tell their story. There are a lot of good stories out there, and most of them are people who can’t afford $20,000+ to tell their story. So, I have a sliding scale of sorts, though that scale does have minimums.
So, you get it. I won’t reduce my rates below what I currently charge. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t afford to hire me, nor does it mean that we can’t figure out a payment plan or alternate form of payment to assist. Here are a few of them:
Stretch out your payments
I do have a couple stories about people who have hired me and stretched out their payments – for a long time. One person I refer to often got a job at McDonalds and worked overtime at his current job to slowly pay for his book. At first he was paying me for one hour a week. Over time he could not pay some weeks and others he could. It took him about five years to complete his book, but he kept at it despite having several years that he couldn’t afford anything.
For most people I recommend if you are stretching out your book to keep it within two years. Though, I will stay with you as long as you need. For a general idea, it can take between 100 to 200 hours for most as-told-to memoirs or autobiographies. Complicated stories will take longer.
Ask what work you can do
As mentioned earlier, the price you are paying me to write your book is time related. One way to decrease your cost is to participate. I have worked with many people to reduce the cost of their book by 25% to 50% based on their skill sets, or simply following “homework assignments” I provide to help complete the book.
Pre-pay for your book when you can
Similar to stretching your book out, I began the pre-pay program when I was working with a lot of real estate agents, many I still work with. Real estate is a career that doesn’t always provide a steady income. So, with a deposit to begin the project and pre-paying for hours or milestones, I work at the pace of my client. With pre-paid work I will ask for a specific dollar amount as a deposit and then request at least five hours of work pre-paid for each invoice.
Pre-paying is similar to stretching out payments, though while stretching out payments is for someone who’s budget is based off a set hourly rate or salary, pre-paying tends to be for people who’s earnings are not consistent. They may make $10,000 one month and nothing for the next two months.
Trade for services
While the least common of accepted payments, there are times where I will consider trading for services. For example, if someone came to me today and said, I’d install new floors for you, yep, I’d take that. Or, if you offered a reliable Jeep, yep, I’d be good with that too! The caveat is that the person making the offer needs to be highly experienced or in the business for me to consider the offer. I will not accept offers from someone offering web services, free advertising, etc. The services I accept are generally labor related and local.
Other forms of payment
When you look at my rates and services page you will see that I accept various forms of payment. Some of them are non-traditional. For example, I accept cryptocurrency and valuable tangible assets such as precious metals (gold and silver) and collectible coins. There may be other things I consider.
While I am not keen on accepting something that you love and don’t want to part with, I do want to point this out as many people do have a few gold coins or silver bullion that they wouldn’t have considered as being able to pay for services. I will determine current value and we can use these for payment.
I began offering a referral program years ago and have had at least three people pay for an entire book by participating. I also have three people right now who are participating in the referral program, two of which apply their payments toward their projects.
The way it works is that I pay 10% back (minus transaction fees) to someone who referred a person who hires me. The payments are made each time I am paid. For some, this has become a passive income, for others they are able to write a book without using their own money.
For someone who doesn’t have a big budget for writing a book, this is a great opportunity to tell your story for little to no money.
One of the reasons I started writing is to provide a relatively inexpensive way for people to tell their stories. Though, I also understand that I provide a luxury service. I try to work with clients as much as possible to arrange plans that fit within their ability whether that is short-term or takes years.
I am always open to discussion, and I can say from discussions with my colleagues, they often are as well. The best thing you can do to hire a ghostwriter when you don’t have obvious means of payment is to talk. Often, there are ways to help.
I am a full-time freelance writer specializing in books, though I also write blogs, web-content, and handle several other types of projects. To see what I offer visit my rates page or contact me with specific queries and questions. I’d love to work with you, and if you know anyone else looking for a writer I offer a generous referral fee.