3

I work full time as a writer and a friend and long time collaborator of mine has asked whether I can help co author their book.

This job would entail two or three evenings a week on top of my job. I forsee that I would spend around 3-4 hours each evening on the task which would see me produce upwards of 2000 words.

I also need to consider how much to charge for a speech/blog post written that came to over 3000 words.

Considering that it's a friend and that I will be a listed author, I am imagining that I should and will offer a lower rate than if those two facts weren't the case.

How much would be appropriate to charge in this instance, preferably as an evening / hourly rate?

It would be good to consider both scenarios, one if it were not a friend and I were not a co author and the other as I have described.

  • The answer to such a question would vary by country. What country do you live in? (You don't have to share location information, but it is impossible to answer questions about money otherwise.) – Galastel Nov 4 '18 at 20:46
  • @Galastel I'm in the UK – Number2 Nov 5 '18 at 11:44
  • 1
    The other super important note is, this is the sort of thing that friendships are ruined over. Always put it in writing! The only person my husband doesn't have a contract with for even the smallest use of a picture or script or character design is me (I wrote some scripts, one several pages). And, ya know, maybe we should. – Cyn Nov 5 '18 at 17:29
  • Heard loud and clear - I'm most definitely writing up a contract. Thank you! – Number2 Nov 5 '18 at 22:24
  • Do you expect to retain any rights over the work or be involved with selecting a publisher or agent? – Adam J Limbert Nov 6 '18 at 1:37
0

I've faced this issue from both sides (as a writer and co-writer/editor) so hopefully I can offer some useful advice.

First off, be clear as to what your role/status is: to be blunt, is it a partnership or are you more like an employee? If you're effectively working for your friend, then an hourly rate (as others have suggested). The upside: you definitely get paid; the downside: it's unlikely to be a lot. In the UK, a typical advance for fiction from an unknown author will be £5,000-£10,000, so your friend won't have a lot of money to play with.

If it's more collaborative, then you need to agree on what percentage contribution you're making to the book, and write that into a contract. So if you decide on one-third, you get 33% of the advance and 33% of future royalties.

It's not clear how much work you're doing - do you mean 2,000 words in total? If so, then that's a tiny proportion of the total, and the 'collaborator' aspect isn't appropriate.

Hope this helps.

  • Absolutely! Thank you tremendously. I feel that in the first instance it is more of an employee status. These answers from everyone helped me clear up what to do greatly. If we manage to secure a book deal then it becomes an issue of talking percentages. – Number2 Nov 5 '18 at 22:23
3

I think this is VERY opinion based due to the situation, so here are my opinions.

First, I agree with @Cyn, put the deal in writing and in detail and signed and dated. Contracts are simple, and if either the best or worst happens, you will want to refer to what you agreed upon to start, before the work went to hell or broke records.

Personally, I would not do this without some share of the income; and my rate would vary from "minimal" at a 50/50 split, to "no thanks" if there is no split.

I would insist on co-authorship (second name is fine).

My personality is my own, but if I wrote half of a best-seller and my friend got $1,000,000 dollars and I got $50,000: I would resent that scenario. Fair is fair, and I don't think either "hours" or "words finished" are a good measure of creative contribution. They simply do not capture the difference between 300 pages of crap and 300 pages readers cannot put down.

For that reason, I would not go in as less than a 40% partner, and even then I'd have to truly love their plot or universe or characters or something about what they have already accomplished. Don't forget your opportunity cost, in those evenings you could be writing your own stuff, or hanging with people you love, or reading books (or books on writing), or watching TV.

And I can make exceptions to that rule if the expenses of marketing or selling the work are being shouldered by my friend; any significant financial risk is worth some % too.

Doing contracts for some company, I typically get 2.5x my "daily job" rate to give up that idle time, and I never take on the role of employee with a friend. With friends, it's a joint venture or nothing. If they want anything else, then I assume they don't think my contribution is really necessary to the success of their project, in which case I am not interested in the participation.

In short, working on this project will almost certainly change your relationship with your friend (same goes for working with family), and you need to engineer things so whether the project succeeds or fails miserably, you have not created resentment by either of you. So you won't resent your share if there is great success, and your friend won't resent what they paid you if the result is a terrible failure.

  • This is all really good info. I will say that a lot of people do not want to work for a percentage. My husband is a comic book creator and he does all the business end, ideas, and takes on all the risk (he has a traditional publisher). His artistic team just wants to be paid (after each issue). If he suddenly made $1mil from his comic (insert maniacal laughter), he'd likely send them all bonuses, but he wouldn't be required to. So ask for what you want, whatever that is. – Cyn Nov 5 '18 at 17:26
  • @Cyn If I am working for a stranger or company I don't mind "just getting paid (very well)". My advice on a % is primarily about working with a friend and long time collaborator. Your husband might enter new territory if an old friend invented a new comic book hero, and your husband produced it for $50/hr, and then the damn thing went viral, Marvel bought into it, a $100M movie got made, it did $500M in box-office the first year, a sequel was coming: And your husband is still producing the comic books for his friend at $50/hour, while his friend is shopping for a private island. – Amadeus Nov 5 '18 at 17:40
  • Exactly. You want to be assured of a cut if things go fabulously. So that's what you ask for. Not everyone wants that, not even friends and long time collaborators. There's no one formula that suits everyone. You know clearly what you want, and that's a very good thing. Write it out. You can even ask for your full (or discounted) pay then have it subtracted off the top of any royalties. Whatever you want the contract to say is what you should write up. Then you negotiate. Good luck! And may all our projects go viral! – Cyn Nov 5 '18 at 17:46
  • Thanks both for tremendously helpful comments! I have decided in the first instance to work per hour while we work on the book proposal - this is a short term deal. I think the rate that you suggest is something that I had considered if I'm honest, so that works for me. If the book gets the go ahead, then we can work out a percentage rate deal. – Number2 Nov 5 '18 at 22:21
2

Something in the range of $50/hour (assuming US dollars within the US or the equivalent in industrial countries) is reasonable for professionals. It's about what artists charge to do illustrations and the like. Some charge more, some charge less. My guess is anything from $20-70/hour is what people might charge, but it really depends. I have not seen polls or all that many rates, so it's completely a guess, just to give you a ballpark.

It is also reasonable to charge less per hour when you have a longer assignment. If it's a 1-2 hour job you should charge more than if it's a 10 hour job, since the parts you don't charge for (negotiating, setup, etc) will be proportionately less as you do more work.

If you give your friend a discount, put the full price in the contract then state the discount, so it's on the record.

If you decide to trade some of your fee in exchange for a byline or royalties, put that in the contract too.

If you weren't thinking about a contract, I urge you to rethink it. Don't do this verbally. Even if you're best friends, it's still easy to misremember a detail (which can turn out to be vital) or have a misunderstanding. Make it super clear. Especially in regards to royalties, credit, and reprint rights.

  • I just realised I tried to accept everyone's answer and I can't do that - sorry - I'm new here :D I absolutely agree a contract is essential, drawing one up now! – Number2 Nov 5 '18 at 23:28
  • Ha ha nope. But you can upvote every answer you like. And should! – Cyn Nov 6 '18 at 0:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.