Re: Contract for a book

Subject: Re: Contract for a book
From: Beth Agnew <beth -dot- agnew -at- senecac -dot- on -dot- ca>
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 2006 15:14:02 -0400

It's not about how much you make, but how much you keep. Hang on to that intellectual property tightly! If they are giving you author credit, make sure there are very few strings on what you can do with that book later. Also try to work it so that if they need updates, they have to come to you. You may never do anything outside the company with the book, but you never know... books with a more commercial spin are great calling cards for very lucrative future work. Find out how much of that book you'll actually "own", if any of it, and what other ways they plan to use it. You will also have "moral rights" to the book if your name is on it. Maybe not a concern if it's highly technical but worth thinking about. Will this be simply a work for hire? That's okay, if you can liberally show the book afterward as your creation.

Apart from that -- which you may or may not be able to accomplish depending on subject matter and the purpose of the book -- I'd quote on a project basis. Ask them what their budget is, flat out. They'll probably tell you. Then figure out if you want to do it for that. (I think the money is probably unimportant anyway, you'd get more value from having done the book and leveraging it as a portfolio item.) 50 pages -- just off the top of my head $2500.00. If that gives them a heart attack, then say, Well, most books like this cost that much to write, but since I already have much of the material together, I could probably do it for less. What did you have in mind?" Then you have a basis for negotiation.

Quoting on any job is a complex dance of what you'll do it for, what you need to keep the rent paid, what the market will bear, what you think you can squeeze out of them, and what would make both parties happy enough to do it again. Hence the analogy that writing is like prostitution. :-)

R. Armstrong wrote:

I am on my way out the door at this job, but before I leave, the Marketing
department wants me to write a book for them. They want it to be a short
'Dummies Guide' (48 pages,) but are willing to let me keep author credit
and pay me a contract rate. If they went with someone else, they would have
to spend more time and money on training that person. I'm already an SME on
the theme for the book.
Since this is the first time I've ever considered this type of proposal, I
am completely stumped when it comes to how much I should charge for writing
the book. I know that the book is to be used 'mostly' as marketing
collateral, so asking for a percentage of sales would be rather worthless.
I have though about charging per page, or per hour. I know it should take
about 3 weeks of full time work to do the research and writing, so I could
have a decent estimate on the cost if I charged by the hour. Unfortunately,
I'm not sure what that hourly rate should be.
Any pointers would be greatly appreciated. I seem to remember a similar
thread some time back, but I couldn't find it in the archive.
Beth Agnew
Catch the Buzz:
STC Presentation archived at:

Professor, Technical Communication
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology
Toronto, ON 416.491.5050 x3133


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Contract for a book: From: R. Armstrong

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