How much should I charge for writing children’s stories?

Posted on October 31, 2008

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I was recently hired by a children’s clothing company to write short children’s stories based on a cast of characters they created for the line. The stories will be posted on their website as part of a “kids club” section. However, they have given me no payment guidelines. How much should I charge for writing children’s stories?

First of all, you really should bring up payment guidelines to your supervisor, or whomever you are working with on this project. I have worked plenty of freelance jobs like this and frankly the sky is not the limit. They always have payment guidelines in mind on their end. You can save yourself a lot of embarrassment and worry if you can glean some idea of the range they expect to pay.

Will you have a byline on these books?

Who will own the copyright?

How much research in involved?

The answers to these questions are also the key to what you can expect or ask for in payment. For instance, when I wrote film scripts for a small company, they owned all rights and paid no royalties. I had no byline and was expected to do all the research. So I charged an hourly rate, and turned in my hours every two weeks like an employee.

If you’re a member of SCBWI, go to the Publications section of the web site and click on the link at the top of the page for “Members”, then scroll down to Answers to Some Questions About Contracts, which is a good primer for understanding children’s book payment structures and book contracts.

Lynn Wasnak’s article How Much Should I Charge? offers a complete list of guidelines for what to charge for all kinds of different projects in the publishing business. Wasnak’s recommended rates are hourly, therefore you might have to estimate how long it will take you to write a book and base your fee on that. For example, the low range for book writing is $20/hour. So let’s say it takes you 2 weeks to write a book, the math would look something like this:

40 hrs/week X 2 weeks = 80 hours
80 hours X $20/hour = $1600

Next, you need to determine two things:

Is this a fee the company is willing to pay?

Does this seem reasonable to you for the amount of work involved?

How Much Should I Charge as a Freelancer? by Moira Allen is another good reference. While it’s geared toward articles it offers a good frame of reference and some excellent advice. Be sure to check out the links at the end of the article.

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