Getting Paid to Write Someone Else’s Life Story

This Pricenomics feature about the mysterious business side of ghostwriting is fascinating:

Jerrold Jenkins, president of a publishing services firm that has ghostwriters on staff, describes ghostwriters as falling along four tiers. The lowest tier, which his company rarely hires, are found on massive freelancing websites like Elance and earn $5,000 to $15,000 for a book. Writers at the next level have some book experience that earns them $15,000 to $30,000. These ghostwriters sign nondisclosure agreements promising to never reveal that they worked on a book. Only scrupulously honest clients thank the ghostwriter for his or her “valuable contribution” in the acknowledgements. 

Excellent ghostwriters who may have even written a bestseller earn $30,000 to $50,000 per project while a small elite with a track record of handling multi-million dollar memoirs command from $50,000 to more than a million. They may also receive a share of the royalties and writing credit. 

It’s also a nice complement to yesterday’s NY Mag profile of Lean In ghostwriter Nell Scovell. Read them both! Contemplate a career change!

The only thing I’ve ever ghost-written is an article about candy in Iceland, and it was a nightmare, so I think you’d have to pay be a lot more than $50,000 to write your memoir (in case anyone is offering).

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3 Comments / Post A Comment

andnowlights (#2,902)

Oddly timely for me. Had a guy call my (writing related) workplace yesterday asking for students that might be interested in writing his story as a ghostwriter. He wasn’t willing to pay anywhere NEAR that, but it’s interesting to see the numbers behind it.

aetataureate (#1,310)

Why isn’t this about real Ghostwriter though.

(Second graf should be “pay me” and not “pay be”?)

In the early days of Elance.com, when it was actually easy to get gigs, I had a pretty drawn out assignment to ghostwrite a handbook on management consulting for some Icelandic company. I was a junior in college. Weirdest $200 I’ve ever made.

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