Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long)

Subject: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long)
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2005 12:13:23 -0500


I suppose this isn't strictly about technical communication, but it's
tangentially related, and I know I can get opinions I respect in this forum.

I was approached by a quasi-literate but apparently successful
businessperson to ghostwrite a book about a subject he has some
expertise in. We decided I would record an interview and write a chapter
based on that. I told him my hourly billing rate for large projects and
that the pricing for the book would be based on approximately that peg.
However, I told him, first we would meet and talk, after which I would
submit a draft proposal; and we could negotiate from there.

After our first session (taped interview), I told him I'd write chapter
1, so he could see what the output looked like, and send him that along
with the proposal--which I did.

In the proposal, I offered two options. One option involved my taking a
lower initial fee and a piece of the action. The other option involved a
higher initial fee and no participation in the eventual sales. Both were
predicated on a price per thousand words (rather than per hour), because
I thought that having an objective metric would prevent disputes. I
indicated both versions were negotiable and I was open to another
arrangement he might suggest.

When I called to follow up, he said he was quite pleased with what I'd
written. However, he really preferred to pay me for work done as we went
along, because the project might stretch over several months, given his
busy schedule. I explained the two options I had sent in the proposal
(here's where the quasi-literate part comes in, I think). He said I
should base the invoice on the assumption that I would be paid in full
for my work and that we could still talk about participation later.
Sounded good to me. I should please send an invoice for work done to
date, and he would pay me from the invoice.

(Remember, I volunteered to send the first chapter as a writing sample,
with the understanding that I own it until he pays for it; and I
knowingly took the risk that I won't be paid at all for the 12 hours I
spent on the project. I'm a big boy, and I can live with that risk.)

So I sent the invoice, based on the higher rate per thousand words. He
was upset when he received it. He interpreted my initial discussion of
my hourly billing rate as applying only to time spent face-to-face in an
interview (approximately an hour), not to the time spent turning the
interview into a book chapter. So the invoice was an order of magnitude
higher than he expected. He did a little mental arithmetic and concluded
that the project, in the end, could set him back many thousands of
dollars before he sells the first book (true enough).

When we last spoke (just before he drove into a dead zone and we lost
the connection), he said he understood my need to make a living and that
everything I had said made sense. But he was still clearly upset. He
wanted to just pay my hourly rate for the 12 hours I estimated I spent
and then break off the relationship--a lose-lose proposition IMHO, as I
still want to complete the project. I think it has good potential in the

I have some options here that I've thought of. For example, I could
redraft the invoice at the lower rate per thousand words associated with
my participating in book sales. This would knock 40% off immediately,
possibly mollifying him. But it would still be way more than the initial
misunderstanding led him to expect. I could, in fact, just walk away
from the deal, making it clear he cannot use the work I sent him as a
sample (I already indicated that when I sent it to him--this would just
be reinforcement of that point). But I'd like to do this project; so I
don't like that option. I can offer to convert this to a book proposal
package and shop it to agents, with the hope of selling it to a trade
publisher (a remote possibility).

What I'm asking for is suggestions for options I haven't thought of,
negotiating strategies and tactics I haven't tried yet, specific things
I might say to help rescue the project, etc.

Any thoughts?




Accelerate the document lifecycle with full online discussions and unique feedback-management capabilities. Unlimited, efficient reviews for Word
and FrameMaker authors. Live, online demo:

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as:
archiver -at- techwr-l -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Send administrative questions to lisa -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Previous by Author: Re: How To Choose A Good TW Was Re: Giving a surprise test to interviewees?
Next by Author: Re: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long)
Previous by Thread: Re: Windows Font Problem
Next by Thread: RE: Ghostwriters anonymous pricing question (long)

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads