Getting The Details Right After Your Article Proposal Is Accepted
At last, after sending your article proposal to a number of international publications, you finally get a yes! One of the publications’ editors e-mails a reply, and tells you that they love your feature idea.
Now what? What do you say to the editor? What are the things you have to keep in mind when negotiating with her? Well, as a guide, I made a checklist of the things to consider once your article query is accepted.
Most publications offer somewhere in the vicinity of 10 cents to 25 cents a word. 25 cents is about average and is considered a fair pay rate, and if you get offered 50 cents to 1 dollar per word, then congratulations! You just bagged what is called a HIGH-PAYING market. But usually, you will start out with a LOW-PAYING or MEDIUM-PAYING market. Later, when your portfolio has grown, it will be easier to find higher-paying markets. (But it’s never bad policy to aim high!)
Oftentimes, the payment rates are already included in the publication’s submission or writer guidelines which might be found in their web site or an online writing market directory. Sometimes, you have to e-mail the prospective publication –- usually the managing editor –- to ask for their payment rates. Editors usually are very prompt in replying to these types of inquiries. New writers mean new content for their publication, which means an easier job for them.
At any rate, after your proposal (also called pitch or query) is accepted, the editor will most likely give you an offer, like how many words she wants and whether she would like photos or not. If she doesn’t mention, or if she forgets to tell you how much you will be paid, then you should ask her. In your reply, you may want to ask indirectly, by asking something along the lines of, “By the way, what are your payment rates?”
So what happens during payment negotiations? Usually, you will be offered a certain amount for a particular number of words, or for the entire endeavor itself. The editor might say, “We’ll pay you 200 dollars for a 1,000-word article. How does that sound?”
If you’re just starting out as a freelance writer for foreign publications, you may want to accept the publication’s first offer, sort of notching this assignment to experience and to your resumé. Later on, you can leverage this experience in negotiating for higher compensation.
But there’s no harm in haggling with the editor even if it’s your first job as an international freelance writer. You may want to phrase it this way, “Would it be possible to make the payment 250 dollars?” The editor will then reply if it is possible or not. Usually, the reason given when your request is denied is that it is beyond their budget. But always bear in mind that the editor will offer you an amount which will be most advantageous to their publication -- in other words, the lowest possible compensation. So it’s always a good rule to ask for a higher fee.
Sometimes, the payment already includes the photos, and at other times, the payment rates for the photos are separate. Of course, it’s better if you get a separate quotation for the images. If the editor doesn’t mention photos in her reply, bring it up in your correspondence, and then try to negotiate for a separate payment.
Clarify too whether the payment is for outright sale of the photos, or for one-time use only by their publication. Try to negotiate for the latter so you can still use the photos for other assignments.
A kill fee is an amount -- agreed upon by yourself and the publication -- which you will be paid in the event that the publication decides not to publish your work (usually after submission of the article). Sometimes, a publication has a set kill fee, sometimes not. Whether a publication has one or not, this is usually not discussed during negotiations, perhaps because of the sensitivity of the subject. Editors would prefer the absence of a kill fee because they see it as disadvantageous to the publication. Their reasoning is that a writer can find another publication to which he can submit his article.
However, from previous experience, this claim is debatable. There was, for example, this regional editor of an online publication who totally ignored me –- as opposed to worked with me -- after I sent him my article. I didn’t hear from him for a month, and only got a reply when I wrote to his senior editor. The regional editor said that the article was not what we agreed upon (well, he could have said that after I submitted the article and we could have worked something out!) At any rate, the point is that I was left with an unpaid article, and I couldn’t find another publication to publish it –- perhaps because of the specific nature of the topic. (Although I’m not losing hope!) But the moral of the story is, it is better to have all your bases covered and ask for a kill fee. Usually, this is 50% or less of the agreed-upon payment.
And finally, don’t be shy to ask anything that is unclear to you, be it about the article itself, or with respect to the business side. That’s the advantage of being a freelance writer in a world of e-mail. It has made business and professional transactions easier!
Dino Manrique is the owner/publisher of FilipinoWriter.com. You may reach him at filipinowriter (at) gmail (dot) com.