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  1. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    how much to charge for a poem?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Mckk, Sep 23, 2020.

    A designer friend of mine wishes to basically "hire" me to write poems for digital prints that she will sell. It was initially a business idea we came up with together, but honestly I don't have the time nor the same passion or commitment towards it, so she's suggested simply taking over and paying me for my writing.

    Sounds good to me. But how much do you charge for a poem? I've never been paid for my writing before. These will be poems based around a given name for a baby. I'll be paid per poem. I have an idea of what she will charge for the print unless she's significantly changed the prices since, and she's a friend and mum of three, so I wouldn't wanna overcharge her, as she's a friend first.

    And actually, what about continued sales of her prints afterwards? Do I ask for a percentage of whatever she sells thereafter? How much?
     
  2. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    I’d suggest not worrying about what it’s worth to her. Work out what it’s worth to you to spend the time doing it.

    A baseline for stuff like this is:
    • Decide how many hours you’re likely to spend per poem.
    • Add on a couple more hours because you guessed too low. You always guess too low.
    • Decide how much you want to be paid per hour.
    • Multiply the two together.
    If we were looking at this as actual freelancing rates I’d be telling you to add on a bit extra for a safety margin, but if this is a one-off job for a mate you might not care so much about that.

    Generally I don’t like profit share agreements, they’re a bastard to police. One-off fees are cleaner. Think about it if:
    • The figure you get from the above is far higher than she’s going to want to pay, and you don’t mind reducing it a bit for a gamble on the ongoing earnings.
    • You’ve got some way of checking the figures so you know what you’re owed.
    • You don’t mind being roped in to ongoing marketing. For any % worth having, you probably will be.
     
  3. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    It doesn't matter what you want to charge, it matters what your friend is willing to pay. You have to talk and come to some kind of agreement. You can charge a billion dollars a poem if you want. You just won't ever get a sale.
     
  4. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    how many hours per poem - it could be anything from 10min to 3 hours. Just depends on the name and how easily it lends itself to a theme that inspires me.

    My hourly rate times 3 would roughly equal to how much she's selling the print, which she will print herself and have framed. She'd be making a loss if she paid me what I wanted lol. Basically, realistically, I think she'd be ok with the cost of one hour of my time, and not much more.

    Could you expand on the bit about the ongoing market, @NigeTheHat ? I know she wants this thing to become a source of passive income - it's why we thought it was such a good idea to begin with. Make the prints, and thereafter if people wanna buy it, it's almost no extra work for us. She's a professional designer, artist and marketer, so I do believe if she put in the time, she could make this thing take off, and there's a huge market for parents who are wanting this sort of bespoke gifts for their babies.
     
  5. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    First of all, I wouldn't worry about charging her more than she's going to be selling a print for. The whole point of this exercise is that she'll be selling multiple copies of a single print - or if it isn't, the business plan needs serious work. As an extreme example to illustrate the point, the most I've been paid for a sales letter is $18,000. The product it sold cost $67. You're a one-off cost which she'll make up through selling units.

    Of course, that's irrelevant if she doesn't have the cash to pay you. The question then becomes: do you want the job anyway? If so, think about offering a profit share.

    By 'ongoing marketing' I mean that you're likely to end up doing work beyond just writing the poem. Usually this means marketing, but the specifics don't really matter. The key point is that when you're in a profit-share agreement, the incentives change. It's far harder to just be done, because if you do help out with things, you'll probably make more money - and because that's the case, she'll be happier asking you to help out with things. Usually this tends to involve you pimping it across social media, maybe writing some ads. Conversely, she'll be making a bit less from every sale, so she's not going to be incentivised to work as hard as she otherwise would.

    There's also the accounting side - are you going to just trust her figures when she says how much you're paid? Is she going to give you access to whatever system she's using so you can see the numbers for yourself? How are you going to account for refunds?

    Obviously I'm talking in generalities here. Maybe you'll feel fine about just saying no to helping out any further, maybe the fact that you're getting some cash from every sale won't change how she approaches this at all. Maybe you can divide the money based entirely on trust between friends. All these things are possible, but if you don't think about this stuff in advance then you will run into some of this bullshit eventually.
     
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  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I give my friends writing when they're in positions to acquire works. I don't need to be paid for everything I write. But I am a professional. I would just talk to your friend. I mean you said she's a friend first. If she's taken out a second mortgage on her house to fund this project while she stays home with six kids, give her the poem. If you're friends, she should want to be fair. Your should, too. Is she really going to get rich off this? Probably not. I would keep that in mind. Also, it doesn't sound like you're a sought-after poet. I would keep that in mind. She could be doing you a favor, depending on how you look at it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
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  7. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's a good reality check. I think I'll go the lower end. From past experiences, she (and her customers) are quite easily pleased, because how bespoke can poetry really be when it's based off a name and nothing else, when I don't know the child or the family? It feels like I'm writing poems for Valentine's cards or something similar, generic and not terribly great. Because of that, it really doesn't take that long. Up to 3 hours if I really wanna make it good, but to be honest it's often more like 30min.

    It's a good business because it's low investment and the parents are primed to love the poem, simply because it's about their child. It's also why I lost my commitment for the business - I felt disingenuous. But I don't think that's how my friend sees it - she seems to genuinely love the poems and find them personal.
     
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  8. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    It also depends what you're willing to accept. Charging ten bucks because it's affordable to the buyer may not be worth the effort to the seller. It's not just about making a sale. It's a value proposition. How much is my work worth and is it worth selling at X price. When I, for example, commission a composer, they sometimes come down to fit the budget requirement, and they sometimes tell me no. Yes, they lost the sale, but for them it wasn't worth it.
     
  9. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    Sure, but if you and the reader or the purchaser cannot come to an agreement, then there is no sale and you don't make any money for your poem. Like all business dealings, the two sides have to agree.
     

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