Sunday, April 22, 2007

How Much?

With a new client for a book, there’s always a bit of preliminary skirmishing before we get to the interesting question of “how much?”
And, unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this very relevant matter.
Any artistic endeavour is pretty hard to boil down into hard numbers. Take Leonardo da Vinci, for instance.
“Hi Leo, what’s up? Oh, designing a flying machine? Boy, you really crack us up with your nutty ideas. But listen, we’re doing refurb job on the Sistine Chapel and Popy felt that the ceiling could do with a bit of a paint job, you know, a few cherubims and seraphims like. How’re you fixed?
Yeah, yeah, we’ll lay on the scaffolding – and the backache pills, ha, ha. No, that was a joke, I thought you had a sense of humour after that flying machine gag. Too tough to estimate? OK, I’ll give Mike a call and see if he can come up with a number.”
And, as they say, the rest is history and Michelangelo got the job. Leonardo’s problem, apart from not liking to work flat on his back, was that he had no idea how long the job would take.
It’s the same problem a ghost writer has. The writing part is easy – it’s the thinking that takes the time.
There’s no set formula and the best I can come up with is to place an approximate figure as a “not to exceed” price and hope for the best. Looking at the websites of some of my competitors, I think many have an inflated sense of their own abilities judging by the prices they quote.
Much depends upon the amount of research that may be required. The more the subject can input into the project, the lower the price. Writing the life story of a celebrity is one thing, they are probably incoherent and unable or unwilling to contribute very much, and there will probably be ample cash to compensate. But most of those who require professional writing assistance will be on a much more slender budget.
So until there is a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Ghost Writers, I’ll just have to muddle along.
I wonder how much Michelangelo got for doing that ceiling? It took him four years!


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