Respect yourself and your work: Expect fair payment 5 Comments

As a writer, you need to respect yourself and your work by demanding fair payment.

The world of writing is already horribly underpaid. The last thing you should be doing is accepting commisions that drive it any further into the ground. If a publisher likes your work, they should be willing to offer a fair payment for it.

Writers, watch out for scam offers

Monkey at a typewriterI recently saw an online publication offering a flat fee of £10 story. Now, granted these guys have fairly low standards and accept things most publications would reject, but £10 is insulting.

What sort of Price per word is £10?

An average short story is anything up to three to four thousand words. At that size, you are being offered a fifth of a penny per word (0.2p/word). Or 1p every five words.

Aeon, for comparison pay for a feature article of 1600 words £250. See what other rates are paid.

Clear Voice suggests that even beginners should be getting US$0.05 a word, that’s 2p-3p/word.

What’s the hourly rate on that?

beta readingI don’t know about you, but I spend up to four hours thinking about a story and a further one to two hours planning it. Even if inspiration strikes and I just wing it, I’m probably going to write for at least two hours.

That’s not the end. After writing, a story must be proofed and edited. Proofing can be done by taking it to a writer’s group – that’s at least two hours right there. Editing can take as long or longer as the writing process itself.

Your short story, if you include thinking time, could have taken over ten hours. £10 flat rate is an offer of £1 an hour for your time. Once you’ve sold the rights to a web-based publisher, no one else is going to touch that story. You are done.

Don’t forget hidden costs

British PoundsYou might be working from home but your computer and your electricity are not free.

  • Research
  • Proofreading
  • Editing
  • Computer time
  • Computer software
  • Electricity
  • Heating & lighting

Take into account the cost of writing the story – the electricity you used why typing at the very least – and that price tag drops further. That £10 is a taxable income, so you are going to have to declare it.

In the end, you might be working for 40p an hour for something that publisher is going to use, and keep using forever. They profit and you are worse off than if you were flipping burgers. Have some respect for yourself and some pride in your work – you are worth more than that. Demand fair payment for your writing.

How to earn £25 for a half hour of writing

author typingIf you really need the cash, grab some magazines and flip to the letters pages. The average payment for a letter is £25. You can knock one of those out in about thirty minutes.

With a decent stack of magazines, you could spend one day a month writing letters and get paid a lot more.

Don’t let some cowboy operation steal your best work for a tenner. Real magazines pay a whole lot more.

What should you charge?

The recommends that you take your base salary as an hourly rate, add 25% on top to account for NI contributions, PAYE, and all the other things your employer does for you. Then, top it up by a further 10% to cover the cost of your computer, electricity and the possible costs of filing a self-employed tax return.

Once you know what you are worth, find the publications that are willing to pay – pitch to them first.

Only even consider the pocket change publishers when you are certain that what you have written is unsalvagably third-rate. Even then think about your reputation and don’t do it.

If you fail to treat your work as if it has value then no one will treat it as if it has value. It is only reasonable to ask for fair payment.


About Matthew Brown

Matthew is a writer and Geek from Kent (UK). He is the founder and current chair of Thanet Creative as well as head geek for Author Buzz. His ambitions include appearing on TableTop with Wil Wheaton and seeing a film or TV series based on something he wrote.