Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fiction Pay Scale: Cents Per Word

Most small fiction markets universally pay their authors in cents per word. A lot of writers, myself included, don't like to do unnecessary math, so I decided that I would do it for you. The above scale is in American dollars and cents, so if your writing for a foreign market you will have to do your own conversions.

The pink represents token pay which means that the market that you are doing work for is probably a writing contest. Contests are meant to encourage amateur writers with their first works. The goal here is directed more towards the experience and the exposure and pay is a small concern.

The blue is the semi-professional level. At this level a writer's should be expecting proportionately tighter scrutiny on their work.

Finally, green represents professional pay level. Some people will tell you that you should have extensive enough experience and know how before you start submitting to this level, but I say shoot for the stars, you might get lucky. Keep in mind though, rejection is just part of this business and if you get rejected don't make a point to argue with a publisher because that is just going to get you black listed. I'll discuss more about rejection later.

Cents per word isn't the only paying scheme out there for fiction. Obviously people like Steven King and R.A. Salvatore are not being paid cents per word. Longer works, especially novel length, authors will be paid in three major ways. A lump sum of money at the conclusion of a project, an advance of money which is paid before the author even finishes the work, and royalties which are a percentage of total book sales paid to the author every time his or her work sells. Also there might be a combination of two or maybe all three of these pay schemes depending on the author's agreement with the publisher. This is also a topic I'll talk further on in a later post.

My final thought to impart today is, don't get greedy. If you fluff up your work with additional filler words to get more money it will show and it will cause your writing to suffer. Publishers will refuse an entire project if they think you are doing this.

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