FAQs for Editing and Ghostwriting
Q. How much do you charge?
A. There are no fixed industry standards for writing and editing services; prices are all over the map. The Editorial Freelancers Association provides a pretty good list of guidelines.
I charge by the project, aiming for $30, more or less, per hour. I find it somewhat difficult to estimate total cost before actually seeing a manuscript (and sometimes even then), so I ask potential clients to send me the first ten pages, which I edit free, and I quote a fee after that. Several variables go into this decision: for instance, with ghostwriting one factor is the amount of information the client provides. If there’s a written draft, the price will be on the lower end; if a book is based primarily on verbal communication, it will be higher.
Q: When and how do you get paid?
I prefer to be paid one-third of the total fee upon signing of a contract, one-third at the mid-point of the project, and one-third when it’s complete. Payment can be made via my Paypal account or by certified check sent via a secure service.
Q: What does the ghostwriter’s fee cover?
A. The fee covers interview time between writer, client, and any other participants necessary to obtain information. It includes research time, writing, editing, and rewriting. The ghostwriter’s fee does not include travel or lodging, although travel time is included.
Q: How does ghostwriting work? How do you know what to say in MY book?
A. We’ll begin with a conversation, during which I ask questions and take voluminous notes. You send me any notes, outlines, rough drafts—any and all words you’ve ever written down pertaining to the topic or the book. From there, I might start by writing an outline, and send it to you for feedback—or I might jump right in with an introduction.
I’ll send you the finished first draft of each chapter or section with notes and questions for clarification; when you send them back to me, I revise. If we’re lucky, and working well, I won’t have to return to these until the entire manuscript is finished, at which time I’ll do a final—hopefully lite—revision.
Q: Do you handle all genres, or do you specialize?
A: I prefer working with full-length books to shorter pieces. In terms of non-fiction, I’m fairly eclectic, but some topics interest me more than others. I know a little bit about a lot of things, and a lot about a few. Areas of some expertise are disability, baseball, motherhood, and human sexuality. I write in every genre, with the exception of screenwriting (which I’ve done, but badly) and I can work with anything other than heavy technical language.
Q: How long does it take you to ghostwrite a book or edit a manuscript?
It depends on the size of the job, as well as how clear you are about what you want. An editing project can take anywhere from a few days to two or three months. Writing a book usually takes four to six months. A faster turn-around is possible, but might raise the fee. If you have a draft of your book, or extensive notes, the work will go faster. If a lot of research is required, more time is needed.
Q: If I’m a good writer, why do I need an editor?
See my post Every Writer Deserves an Editor. Notice use of the term Deserves, rather than Needs–but feedback from a good editor/writer is not only invaluable, it’s necessary, even if your name is Stephen King. The late Doris Lessing, who won the 2008 Nobel Prize in literature, once said, with genuine regret, that she has to scrutinize her own work carefully, because editors no longer edit her (out of intimidation, I suppose).
Q: What if I’m not satisfied with your work?
There’s a clause in my contract allowing either of us to cancel our agreement at any point in the process. I do expect to be paid for work already done, but if you decide my writing—or my New York accent or deep voice—doesn’t work for you, there’s no obligation to continue.
Q: Do you guarantee publication?
No. It’s impossible for me—or anyone—to do that. The vicissitudes of publishing are too complex and uncertain for any guarantees. But I can help you produce a more publishable book.
Q: Do I need an agent?
If you want to publish a novel with a major publishing house, you should have an agent. If your book is nonfiction and geared towards a specific market, you might not absolutely need one—but it’s still advisable. If you plan to self-publish or publish electronically, you don’t need an agent, nor do you need one to submit shorter pieces such as stories, articles, or poems. In my experience, it’s almost as difficult to obtain a good agent as it is to get a publisher.
Q: Will you be my agent?
No. I am not an agent. An agent either lives in New York or goes there frequently to chat up editors and publishers at lunch and cocktail parties. I admire people who have those networking skills, but unfortunately I’m not one of them. What I can do is make your book the best it can be. I can also recommend a few agents and editors for you to approach.
Q: Do you use a contract?
Yes. My contract is adapted from one recommended by the National Writers Union for Independent Contractors. It includes the working title of the book, amount and schedule of fees, copyright agreement, and confidentiality clause. It also includes stipulations regarding termination of contract, arbitration in case of disagreement, and miscellaneous matters such as complimentary copies and deadlines for portions of the book, if any. Contracts are open to negotiation; the client can suggest additions or changes before signing.
If you have any other questions, just ask! I’ll do my best to answer them and add them to this list.