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Ghostwriting as a Business

Leave it to the Financial Times to write a great article on the business aspects of ghostwriting books this past Monday (Feb 22, 2010).  Check it out!  Here are some key points:

PUBLISHING IS A BUSINESS: The rise of the ghost, says Madeleine Morel, a New York literary agent who represents ghostwriters only, has been largely driven by celebrity culture and the publishing industry’s transition from a literary endeavour to a nakedly commercial business. … Books aren’t books any more. They’re products and this has been very good news for ghostwriters.”

WHAT IT TAKES FOR A GOOD GHOSTWRITER: “Trust is the key,” she says. “Once you’ve got that, it becomes better and better. You spend a lot of time with the author. You also speak to people’s managing directors, their wives and so on. It’s pretty intense and you go into a lot of detail, especially with early deals.”

DON’T FORGET THE SALES PART: “I do a lot of proposals too – it’s the concept that gets sold – so often I’ll work on that, then write the book,” she says. “Sometimes the proposal can take 18 months and the book six weeks. …”

DOLLARS AND SENSE: Ms Loberg says her fee varies – there are proposal writing fees, book writing fees and there may be royalties, but it depends on the individual deal.

“To get a good ghost costs between £10,000 and £20,0000,” says Mr Moseley. “With smaller books, the economics aren’t there.” The fee in the US, where the market is far larger, is about three times this. A star ghostwriter, such as sports writer Hunter Davies, can command about £80,000, says Mr Benham. [80K POUNDS ~$103K]

WHY A GHOSTWRITER IS A GOOD IDEA: Writing a 100,000-word book is a huge undertaking, especially for those who have never done it before – and, if you use a ghost, it is likely to be delivered on time and the manuscript will require far less work.


But the ghosting business is facing uncertain times. In the US in particular, says Ms Morel, the general distaste that Main Street has for Wall Street has affected financial titles. Book deals are not what they were, the bar is higher and the tough climate in the US media means that the competition to ghost from laid-off journalists and writers is much fiercer. The result is that authors and publishers can be far pickier. Ms Morel says: “People often say to me: ‘I only want a ghostwriter who’s had a book on The New York Times bestseller list.’”


One response to “Ghostwriting as a Business

  1. Great post. I quite enjoyed it.

    Ghostwriting really is s business (writing in general is), but it doesn’t stop at books. People are hiring writers for articles, blogs, letters, etc. That truly is good news for writers.

    Thanks for sharing!

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