What is a reasonable rate for writing a book?

Posted on April 29, 2010


I have been contacted by a woman working under a government grant to produce education-based fiction works for children. She wants me to write several books, 35 chapters and about 150 pages each, on various character education themes. I haven’t the foggiest what to charge. She would prefer to pay by the book rather than the hour. What is a reasonable rate for writing a book?

Because the woman is working from a grant, which is usually a one-time payout rather than a steady stream of money, the fee you receive per book will depend on the amount of the grant. Ask her how much she has budgeted for each book. Perhaps through that discussion you will get a general idea of how much she is actually able to pay.

You could also to do some research on freelance rates guidelines to help you decide on your fee.  How Much Should I Charge? by Lynn Wasnak is a good place to start. Wasnak has published a free 11-page ebook containing an incredible nine pages of charts with specific rate guidelines for all aspects of freelance work in the publishing business. Her data was compiled from surveys of more than twenty professional writers’ and editors’ organizations.

For children’s book writing (work for hire), $50-$75 is the standard hourly rate. But since the woman prefers to pay you by the book, the other alternative would be by the word. According to Wasnak’s data, the standard is $1-$5 per word. However when you consider that a 150-page manuscript is around 30,000 words, even the lowest rate of $1/word would add up to $30,000. While that certainly seems like a reasonable fee to me, I’ve been a freelancer long enough to bet the woman is not prepared to pay that much per book. Nonetheless, you could politely ask for that amount and point to Wasnak’s ebook as your frame of reference, then add that you are open to negotiation. She will either say yes or no. Moreover my hope is you would open the door to settle on a fee that satisfies both of you.

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