Authors should be paid for the work they do. Paying authors shows proper recognition of their professional status, skills and experience and allows them to maintain a career.
Authors should feel comfortable asking to be fairly paid and should not be put under pressure to work for free.
Fees are a matter for individuals to negotiate and competition law prevents us from recommending rates. However, we provide the following observed rates and links to useful resources as a guideline.
We recommend Andrew Bibby’s Ready Reckoner, which compares freelance daily rates to full-time salaries. For instance, a day rate of £283 equates to an annual salary of £25,000 while £426 per diem is equivalent to earning £40,000 a year.
The fee should take into account how long the piece of work will take – in terms of execution, preparation, travel etc. – and any costs incurred, such as extra materials or equipment hire.
When paying freelance authors, neither tax nor NI should be deducted. Most authors are self-employed (even where they invoice as a limited company) and a one-off engagement does not create a contract of employment. Authors who are VAT-registered are legally obliged to charge VAT on top of both the fee and expenses.
Authors may sometimes wish to donate their work or time but those engaging them should not pressure them to do so, especially where the product or event will be monetised – e.g. a ticketed event – or where other contributors or staff are receiving a fee.
Authors should also be reimbursed for expenses they occur undertaking work – including, but not limited to: travel, accommodation and subsistence.
Payment and reimbursement should be made within 30 days of delivery.
Always agree terms in advance and be clear on the level of fees and expenses that have been agreed.
Freelance writing, editing and proofreading rates
The National Union of Journalists issues a Freelance Fees Guide and its London Freelance Branch also collects rates actually being paid, and publishes these in the Freelance newsletter, which can be accessed by clicking here. These rates are reported by freelances, with those individuals’ assessment of adequacy; but standards of adequacy vary and include both highly experienced and less-experienced writers.
If you are a member of the SfEP it is also worthwhile checking the rate for the job in its members’ area. Here you’ll find the rates actually paid for copy-editing and proofreading by various companies, submitted anonymously by SfEP members and associates. This has been modelled on the National Union of Journalists’ rate for the job, which can be checked for other types of editorial work.
Anthology and quotation rates
Our Literary Estates department applies a set scale of permission charges and guidelines for internal purposes. You may find this useful when setting your own rates for such purposes.
- Permission for brief illustrative quotations outside the scope of ‘fair dealing’ will usually be granted without charge.
- Fees are usually charged for quotations of any length in an anthology. Our minimum fee is £75.
- Prose – £188 per 1,000 words. Where an extract is complete in itself (e.g. a chapter or a short story) an additional fee may be charged at half the rate applicable for 1,000 words. Rates are normally reduced for quotations to be used in non-commercial critical or scholarly works.
- Poetry – £155 for the first ten lines, £3 per line for the next twenty lines, £1.95 for the next twenty lines thereafter. Rates are normally reduced if the poem appears in a literary or scholarly journal, in an anthology which contains more than 40 poems in copyright, or in a book with a print-run of less than 500 copies.
Society of Authors speaker rates
Our own fees for speakers and workshop leaders at SoA events (physical and online) are based on the speaker’s role, and the length of presentation, and are quoted exclusive of VAT.
Rates are reviewed bi-annually and are not intended as guidance for events organised by others.
Educational visits – schools, libraries, colleges, universities
Authors delivering school, library, college or university events may be interested that the NASUWT 2013 salaries for Leading Practitioners (excluding London and the Fringe) are between £37,836 – £57,520.
For more information see our guides on these topics:
Bookshop appearances are generally part of a sales tour and fees are not usually paid. The event will usually involve a reading and a signing – as opposed to a bespoke piece of work – with the benefit of selling books (Terms may be different for sought-after celebrity authors, especially those whose celebrity is not principally as a writer e.g. a sportsman or personality.)
If the event will be charged for, one would generally expect that to be a modest charge to cover the cost of refreshments. If the event is intended to make a profit for the hosts, reasonable fees should be paid to the author as a matter of course.
Generally the author’s reasonable travel expenses should be paid. Such expenses are customarily paid by the publisher but it is prudent (as well as courteous) for that to be clarified with the publisher in advance. And if the event is cancelled for any reason other than the author’s default, the author should be refunded any direct expenses they have already incurred (e.g. train tickets booked in advance).
Authors on extensive tours or travelling far from home will need accommodation to be booked and paid for. That would usually be the responsibility of their publisher, but it is important to check.
Festivals and other commercial events
All festivals – especially those with commercial sponsors, and any festival where the public pays for tickets – should offer reasonable fees as a matter of course. Fees should take into account travel and preparation time as well as actual performance time.
In Autumn 2015 we carried out a survey of festivals. Although the findings were inevitably mixed – there are many variables, including size, form of funding and specialisms – some obvious traits emerged.
Of the 17 festivals that replied, 12 pay all authors they engage to take part as solo speakers or members of a panel. The majority pay all authors the same with fees ranging between £100 – £1000 plus expenses (mostly within the range of £150 to £200) although some admit to variations (from £350 – £1,000) on the basis of the fame of the author or distance travelled. 11 of the 17 pay chairs, mostly within the range of £75 – £150, some pay chairs more than speakers, some the same and some less. Most of the festivals surveyed pay expenses. Some festivals do not pay authors with books to sell, expecting publishers to have agreed the work as part of marketing activity and to cover the expenses incurred.
Since then and in response to our campaigning on festivals, many more have agreed to pay and anecdotal evidence suggests that rates may have slightly increased.
Most pay VAT on top of fees but some fees are VAT-inclusive: which is of concern because it means that VAT registered authors are paid 20% less than those who are not VAT-registered.
Pleasingly, the huge majority of festivals who responded say that they have an open and fair approach to rights. Those that seek rights, for example to use a recording of a talk on a website, do so in advance and arrange appropriate remuneration which is negotiable.
We recommend, where travel remunerations are agreed, that authors are reimbursed 45p per mile.
For more information please see our guides:
Street writers or ‘performance writers’
A network of typewriter buskers – or ‘street writers’ – have agreed standardised rates for performance. The suggested rates for corporate bookings are:
- £200 for the first two hours
- £80 per hour thereafter
- Full day (6 hours) at a discount of £460 (plus travel and accommodation)
- Further discount for block bookings
Remuneration is a matter for negotiation between the translator and publisher.
In our experience, translators and publishers negotiate fees starting in the region of £100 per thousand words [updated March 2022]. This fee may be considerably higher, depending on various factors including the translator’s experience, the timescale for the translation, the difficulty of the prose, the amount of research required and the availability of translation funding.
The word count can apply to either the source or target language.
The agreed sum may come as a flat fee, an advance against royalties, or a fee plus royalties from the first copy sold.
For poetry we have observed payment in the region of £1.10 per line with a minimum of £35 per poem.
When negotiating a contract you and the publisher will want to consider a number of factors. How long will it take you to complete the translation? As well as the word count consider your experience, the complexity of the translation and if any additional research is required. Does the publisher need the translation by a very tight deadline? Is there grant funding available to support the costs of your translation? Will you get a royalty on sales?
The Society of Indexers recommends that indexing rates start from:
- £25 an hour or approximately £2.75 a page
- £7.50 per thousand words for an index to a straightforward text
It is recommended that these figures be used as a basis for estimating the total cost of an index. It should be noted that experienced indexers working on specialized texts will normally charge well above the minimum rates quoted above, which are applicable to non-specialist texts and less experienced indexers.
In negotiating fees, whether based on hourly or page rates, indexers should consider the complexity of the text and other factors as listed on the Society of Indexers website. For a subject-searchable directory of indexers, click here.