Unearthly Rates For Ghostwriters

GHOSTWRITING A BEST-selling business book is getting more expensive. Ask the Queen of Ghostwriters, Donna Sammons Carpenter. She and the two dozen writers at her Boston-based firm, Wordworks, helped pen the megasellers Reengineering the Corporation by Michael Hammer and James Champy, The Pursuit of Wow by Tom Peters, and The Discipline of Market Leaders by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. Wordworks, says Treacy, gives editorial assistance that publishers no longer grant. Wordworks can discreetly write, edit, or even research a book. Peters provides a manuscript that Wordworks CEO Carpenter edits. Others make tape recordings that Wordworks converts into book form.

Today's rates: typically $60,000 for a book proposal, or $300,000 to produce a title from scratch. The 1993 take for helping on The Portable MBA Desk Reference, edited by Paul Argenti: about $50,000. Also, Wordworks gets royalties up to 20%. "You'd have to be crazy to pay that kind of money," says Roger Straus Sr., CEO of Farrar Straus & Giroux. Upcoming Carpenter authors: Mike Milken and Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.). "We're expensive, but we're worth it," says Helen Rees, Wordworks president, who won't comment further on fees.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.