By Melanie Bowden
Many writers are so afraid of rejection that they jump at whatever fee an editor offers. Don’t do it! Writers are notorious for not getting paid what they deserve, especially when they are first starting out. We need to think more like my therapist who advises, “Honor the work you do.” His weekly therapy bill also motivates me to ask for more for my writing work. Whatever your motivation, stand up for the work you do and make more money.
In over five years of freelancing, I’ve only had one editor not raise the pay when I asked. Yet I’m surprised how many writers have told me they never negotiate for more money. They are missing the gravy train.
Clues That They Will Pay You More
So how do you do it? The ideal situation is when the editor throws out a fee first. I typically counteroffer with a rate 20% higher. Watch for words or phrases in the following examples that tip you off that an editor can pay more than the offered $100:
“We usually pay $100. Is that OK?”
“Our fees are a little low. How about $100?”
“I can offer you $100. Does that work for you?”
“You are a writing goddess! We wish we could pay you a million dollars, but it’s not in our budget.”—OK, that one was just for fun.
How Can You Reply?
Here are some responses I’ve used to editor’s offers that have garnered bigger paychecks
“That fee is lower than I anticipated. How about $120?”
“Make it $120 and we’ve got a deal.”
“Could we work on the fee?”
“I typically charge $140 for this length of an article. How about we compromise at $120?”
When They Don’t Give A Price
What if the editor doesn’t offer a fee up front, but wants to know what you charge? To get them to state a figure, try:
“What is the range you usually pay for this size of an article?”
“What is your budget for this assignment?”
“I’m looking forward to working on this article, but I’m sure I can work within your budget.”
“What fee are you comfortable offering?”
If they really balk at quoting a fee, seriously consider what you would be happy getting paid for the article. Then put that fee at the lower end of a range in a response like:
“I usually charge between $120 and $200 for this type of assignment.”
Do More, Get Paid More
Whenever an editor asks you to do something beyond the original agreement, ask for more money. This just came up for me last week. An editor who had contracted with me for a 1,500 word reprint article asked if I could provide a second, shorter version of about 900 words in case there’s not space for the longer article. Five years ago I might have said OK and spent time editing down the article for no extra pay—which, incidentally, is really the editor’s job. Instead I told her I’d be happy to do it, but here’s the fee for my editing time. Guess what? She responded that she’d be glad to pay me an even higher fee than I had suggested, that it was “more than worth it.” Now I could kick myself that I didn’t ask for more money to begin with!
Melanie Bowden of Davis, California, fantasizes about never having to ask editors for more money because her book, Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me? Real Women’s Stories of New Motherhood, is a runaway bestseller. What might make this fantasy come true? Finishing the darn book proposal! You can find more from her at Melandie Bowden’s Website