I received a question via the Freelance Writing Jobs contact form today that is probably fairly common among freelance writers. A seasoned journalist sent me the following note:
“An opportunity has been presented to me to write a book. The problem is I have no idea how to price such a venture.”
How much should writers charge to write a book for a client? There are a few things to consider in order to know what the going rate is to write a book.
First, you need to know who is publishing the book. If a major publisher asks you to write a book, then there are a few factors that will affect the advance and royalties that publisher is likely to offer you. First, the amount a publisher is willing to pay you depends on:
- Your platform — meaning how well you can prove to the publisher that you can sell a lot of copies of your book through your extensive connections.
- Your experience — have you authored a book before? How well did it sell? The publisher’s offer to you will be higher if you have a track record of selling books.
- The market for the book — publishers evaluate the potential sales of a book and adjust payments to authors based on expected sales performance.
A publisher that picks up a book from a new author could offer an advance anywhere from $5,000 and up. The “and up” part depends very much on the three factors listed above. It’s up to the writer to determine if the secondary opportunities that being published through a major publisher provides is worth the amount of time vs. the payment.
What if the book is to be written for a client that will self-publish or try to sell to publishers? In these situations, you may or may not get a byline as the author. How much should you charge?
It depends on the amount of time it will take you to write the book and whether or not the client agrees to give you a percentage of sales earnings. If the book is about a topic you know well and would not require a lot of research, then you can write it faster than a book that would require a lot of research. If you can reduce the number/extent of edits that you’re willing to make, that will also reduce the amount of time it takes you to write the book. The desired word count also affects how much you should charge.
So what should you charge to write a book for an independent client? A safe place to start is $0.10 per word. That’s fairly competitive with the rate that most work-for-hire publishing contracts offer (meaning an advance is paid to the author but no royalties). For example, for a 70,000 word manuscript, you can charge $7,000. Just be sure to include a clause in your contract that limits the editing process so you don’t end up spending too much time editing again and again. Also, book writing is a situation where you should definitely require a deposit, a payment at 50% completion, and another payment upon submission of the final manuscript. Alternately, you could charge upon signing the contract and at the 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% completion stages. Splitting payment up is common even among major publishers. It’s a good idea to include a clause in the contract that states the next stage of writing won’t begin until payment on the prior stage is received. This helps ensure an independent client pays you before you invest too much time in the project.
I hope this helps. Of course, it’s important to evaluate each opportunity independently to determine whether it can help you in more ways than just money. Depending on the opportunity, you might want to charge more or less. The $0.10 per word recommendation is a guideline but not a strict rule.