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Rates and conditions vary very widely across books, magazines and national and regional newspapers: each has its own section in this Guide.

Many freelances produce copy and/or work shifts across all the print media - for books, magazines and newspapers. Rates and conditions vary very widely. The standard method of payment for books is by royalties: a percentage of the gross receipts from sale of the books. The standard for newspapers and magazines is a flat fee for a licence to publish the work in one edition.

All freelances who write should register with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society to receive payments from secondary uses such as photocopying, and provide the Society with updated lists of their published works. Book authors, illustrators and translators should also register for Public Lending Right. See Rights and why they are important.

Any freelance is the first owner of their work simply by virtue of having created it. Publishers frequently apply pressure on freelances to "assign" all rights in their work - either because they have actual hopes of re-selling it for a lot of money or because their advisers simply do not understand authors' rights.

The NUJ has made a landmark agreement with the Guardian dealing with these issues, and groups of freelances have achieved agreements with various magazine publishers. The union has numerous house agreements with other newspaper and magazine publishers, and is working to add terms setting out minimum rates and conditions for freelances to these, but this will take time. See the detailed advice sections for each sector, below.

Shifts and sub-editing

Some freelances specialise in sub-editing: checking copy and making it fit house style and the page. Many writers also do sub-editing shifts for backup income - and often as a useful source of contact with commissioning editors. Sodd's Law guarantees that work will conflict wherever it can; it is generally considered bad taste to spend half a sub-editing shift on the phone to an editor at a rival publication going over the details of an article.

The suggested rates have been compiled from current agreements where they exist and from market information gathered through The Rate for the Job at www.londonfreelance.org/rates.

Print media contents:

Books

The book industry is as ruthless as any other business. Some might say that it is more so, for exploiting its residual gentlepersonly image, as though no civilised person would actually expect to make a living by work. Authors should take as much care over the details of a commission as they would in any other part of the media - or more, since the relationship with the client is more complex and longer in duration.

Contracts

The contracts book publishers offer are often complicated. They may refer to all kinds of peripherals, such as who supplies/pays for indexes and illustrations, who should negotiate for permission to use photographs, and much more. All items can be the subject of negotiation. Never agree to anything without being aware of its full implications. Be especially careful about "indemnity clauses" - see notes on negotiating book contracts. The Society of Authors (see the link below) publishes a useful booklet, A Quick Guide to Publishers' Contracts (£10 to non-members of the Society, free to members).

Minimum Terms Agreements

Many NUJ members write books, but the NUJ rarely negotiates terms for book writers. This is the job of the Society of Authors and, to a lesser extent, the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. In the past, these two organisations have negotiated Minimum Terms Agreements with some publishers, but not all. Book authors should find out if such an agreement exists for their chosen publisher.

MTAs include:

Other clauses cover minimum terms for sub-licensing rights to another publisher, foreign rights and US sales. While the agreements are effective where they apply, not all publishers subscribe to them.

Commissioned books

Contrary to the image presented of the lonely/heroic author hawking books around publishers, many books are commissioned by a publisher who looks for an author to write to a certain specification. The writer is in law just as much the author and has the same rights as any other author; but the fact of commissioning may muddy the negotiating waters somewhat. See below.

Royalties and the advance

The conventional - and preferred - way of paying authors is by means of royalties on copies sold - that is, a percentage of the cover price and therefore of "gross receipts". Often there is an advance payment. Contracts should specify that there will be further payments for film rights, foreign editions, serialisations in newspapers, television, stage or other dramatisation, and so on. The author usually retains both copyright and moral rights - but always check any contract carefully. Negotiate changes where desirable.

Much hangs on the size of the advance. If the book has a low cover price, a small first print run, or does not sell in large enough numbers for royalties to cover the advance, it may be all the author gets. Even if the book does generate an income for the author, this is unlikely to start flowing for at least a year after publication. So authors should try to get as big an advance as possible.

Royalties are a percentage, and whenever anyone sees a percentage they should ask: per cent of what?

Publishers may propose a royalty that is a percentage of "price received", also known as "net receipts" - the sum received by the publisher from the bookseller or other distributor - rather than of the recommended cover price. Publishers sell to booksellers at a discount, and distributors may get 55 per cent off. So 10 per cent of "price received" could be equivalent to 5 per cent of the cover price, or less. If the publisher insists on "net receipts", negotiate a higher percentage.

Such "price received" deals are not recommended. They are, however, fairly common in some areas, especially in educational publishing. Discounts in this case may be relatively small, which helps alleviate the problem. Authors should remember their hourly rate when negotiating a royalty advance.

Flat fees

Some publishers, especially in the non-fiction area, and even more especially in children's non-fiction, prefer to pay flat fees. They are frequently immovable on this, but there might be no point in moving them. If the fee is adequate, it could well be a better bet than royalties. Fees tend to be higher than royalty advances and, if print runs are too low to earn off an advance, the author could come out better off.

The big problem with fees, as opposed to royalties, is that they tend to go hand-in-hand with all-rights contracts. A publisher may say: "we thought of this book, we decided what it would be like (how many pages, how many pictures...) so we keep the rights, and we just pay you for the words." There is no more merit in this argument when it comes from a book publisher than when it comes from a newspaper.

Guidebooks

For example, guidebook publishers rarely agree to royalties. If it is a new series the chances are the flat fee will be better than royalties as there is no guarantee the series will be a success. If it is an already established series royalties in theory would be better - particularly since a few in a series may be spectacularly successful - but the publisher will argue that they have already established the template and the reputation of the series. This is another argument for "windfall" provisions - see below. See more notes on negotiating flat fees.

Making the best of it

It should be possible to accept a fee for a licence granting the publisher rights to do specified things with the work, rather than for the sale (or "assignment") of all rights. The author would then expect extra payments for any reprints, foreign editions etc. There is no reason why a flat fee should mean the author gives up their share in massive income if the whole world adores their book. (In Germany, the law states that contracts must be renegotiated in such "windfall" cases.) But the system has been entrenched in some fields of publishing for many years.

The Society of Authors shares the NUJ's stand on copyright (see Rights and why they are important). When a publisher demands copyright assignment, authors should offer to sell instead an exclusive licence for a specific period of time - at the same time ensuring that they have negotiated safeguards to prevent the publisher from altering their manuscript without their approval. It may also be possible to negotiate refresher fees paid, for example, when the book is reprinted or for editions in foreign languages.

Flat fees paid for technical writing should be at a higher rate - as should those children's books where extensive research is often involved and most of the work may go into producing fewer words. As a guideline, calculate the fee on the basis of the minimum hourly rate for editorial work.

The Society recommends that where an agreement is made to pay an author a fee per thousand words, payment should be made for the number of words commissioned rather than the number printed; and that payment should be on delivery of the manuscript rather than on publication, which could be months away.

Packagers

Packagers produce a book up to film or bound copies for a publisher to market under its own imprint. Packagers may have little flexibility in deadlines and payment. Publishers buying complete books from packagers should ensure that all contributors, such as freelance editors, have been properly paid - and if not, make the payment themselves. If a packager has not paid before the book is handed over, the author should approach the publisher immediately for payment.

Ghosting

Also known as collaborative writing, ghosting means working with someone else, often a celebrity, to produce a book in their name, Whatever agreement you reach about the income you get from your work, ensure that it is the publisher that pays you rather than the person for whom you are ghosting. This will avoid tensions between you and that person, and is generally a safer option. See the Society of Authors' Quick guide to Ghost Writing/Collaborative Contracts.

Photocopying etc

Authors are entitled to payments for photocopying of their work. To be sure of receiving this money, writers need to register with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society: associate membership of ALCS is free to NUJ members. See Rights and why they are important.

Public Lending Right

Book authors are also entitled to payments for lending of their work by libraries - simply by virtue of being the author and quite independently of copyright. See Rights and why they are important.

Networking

The NUJ and Society of Authors have set up an email network for authors of children's non-fiction: see www.londonfreelance.org/NibWeb. We are always happy to help set up another network if there are people demanding it.

Notes on negotiating rates for Books

Book contracts can be immensely complicated. (We would never suggest that the lawyers drafting them make them that way to prevent anyone reading them, them being lawyers and all.) We can give only general pointers here and in the the main advice section. And please send us your accounts of successful negotiations.

The suggested rates: Books (Know a better rate? tell us!)

This section offers some (very basic) advice for those writing books: we've called it just "books" to fit with the rest of the Guide - photographers and illustrators also contribute "content" to books, for example. There is a separate section for those doing book editing and production.

Royalty rates - Books -

Royalty rates are percentages. Whenever anyone sees a percentage they should ask: per cent of what? See the advice section for a discussion of royalties...

Electronic publication - publisher arranges markup - % of receipts 50.00%
Electronic publication - entire work delivered as multimedia - % of gross40.00%
Hardback (sales after first 5000)15.00%
Hardback (next 2500 sales)12.50%
Hardback (first 2500 sales)10.00%
Paperback (sales after first 20,000)10.00%
Paperback (first 20,000 copies)7.50%

Notes:

  • Flat fees paid for technical writing should be at a higher rate. So too should writing children's books where extensive research is often involved. As a guideline, calculate the fee on the basis of the minimum hourly rate for editorial work. Similarly, use the hourly rate to help calculate an adequate return for the work involved when negotiating a royalty advance.
  • The writer of the first edition of a guidebook or similar work should get a far higher fee than than an updater. They should argue for first refusal on future updates.
  • Do not underestimate the time it takes to do the research for a guidebook. For every place included another place will probably be tried and rejected as not suitable for recommendation. This is particularly the case if the book takes the "300 best places" approach, where places that would get a negative review are eliminated.
  • Listings take far longer to write than running copy. Insist that the publisher engages a fact-checker. Freelances who are required to check all listing information should charge an extra fee for this.
  • Picture research should be paid as an extra task.
  • Royalty rates for electronic publications are still very fluid. Some publishers offer the same percentages as for print editions - which is clearly unjust, since the reproduction and distribution costs are essentially zero. Net receipts should, in fact, be sale price less credit card fees and a small sum for server maintenance. We advise adding a clause into contracts for such works specifying re-negotiation after two years.
  • Freelances who submit work on an expensive medium (such as a Zip™ disks) should make sure the client agrees to return it after use and to pay for or replace any lost or damaged disks.
Writing and research - Books -

...and see also the advice section for a discussion of flat fees, which should be negotiated as royalty buy-outs.

Rate/1000 wordsGBP275.00

Notes:

  • Flat fees paid for technical writing should be at a higher rate. So too should writing children's books where extensive research is often involved. As a guideline, calculate the fee on the basis of the minimum hourly rate for editorial work. Similarly, use the hourly rate to help calculate an adequate return for the work involved when negotiating a royalty advance.
  • The writer of the first edition of a guidebook or similar work should get a far higher fee than than an updater. They should argue for first refusal on future updates.
  • Do not underestimate the time it takes to do the research for a guidebook. For every place included another place will probably be tried and rejected as not suitable for recommendation. This is particularly the case if the book takes the "300 best places" approach, where places that would get a negative review are eliminated.
  • Listings take far longer to write than running copy. Insist that the publisher engages a fact-checker. Freelances who are required to check all listing information should charge an extra fee for this.
  • Picture research should be paid as an extra task.
  • Royalty rates for electronic publications are still very fluid. Some publishers offer the same percentages as for print editions - which is clearly unjust, since the reproduction and distribution costs are essentially zero. Net receipts should, in fact, be sale price less credit card fees and a small sum for server maintenance. We advise adding a clause into contracts for such works specifying re-negotiation after two years.
  • Freelances who submit work on an expensive medium (such as a Zip™ disks) should make sure the client agrees to return it after use and to pay for or replace any lost or damaged disks.

Editing/producing books

The book industry is as ruthless as any other business. Some might say that it is more so, for exploiting its residual gentlepersonly image. Some publishers are particularly fond of engaging people to do editing and production work as though it were a civilised hobby or a finishing school, not a way to earn a living. Freelance editors should take at least as much care over the details of a commission as they would in any other part of the media.

Editing

Book editors are well advised to charge by the day, and if persuaded to negotiate a lump-sum fee must factor in a considerable number of days for crises and general faffing around. If it's not the author turning in the manuscript late, it's the publisher changing the schedule...

Packagers

Packagers produce a book up to film or even provide bound copies for a publisher to market under its own imprint. Packagers may have little flexibility in deadlines and payment. Publishers buying complete books from packagers should ensure that all contributors, such as freelance editors, have been properly paid - and if not, make the payment themselves. If a packager has not paid before the book is handed over, the freelances should approach the publisher immediately for payment.

Packagers may in turn want to further sub-contract as much of the work as possible to one person - for example having them do picture research and rights clearance as well as editing. Rates should of course reflect the range of skills demanded.

Abstracting

Once only seen in the domain of technical publications and journals, abstracting has become more common since the growth of the internet. Many sites publish condensed extracts of longer works. Abstractors tend to work quickly, developing a skill for scanning a larger publication and pulling out the salient issues and creating a succinct abstract of the work. Technical editors would expect to be paid the same rate for abstracting as for editing - and should be charging at the top of the range for this work, given the time and effort it takes to acquire the complete specialist knowledge required to do the job well.

Indexing

This is an area where publishers are wont to skimp. The now widespread practice of distributing proof copies of technical books for review before the indexer has started work is their main tool for getting away with it (a reviewer of technical books moans). Just because publishing software allows someone to click on random words in the text and generate something that looks like an index does not mean it is an index. Producing a really useful index requires as deep an understanding of the content of the book as do editing or abstracting; particularly to do it under the time pressures that publishers impose.

Notes on negotiating rates for Editing/producing books

These are some things to remember when negotiating rates for book editing and production work. And please send us your accounts of successful negotiations.

We especially welcome information on usual practice for extra licences for use of indexes in further editions.

The suggested rates: Editing/producing books (Know a better rate? tell us!)

Book editing and production is a separate business from book writing, which has its own section of this Guide.

See the notes below about the importance of clarity in contracts.

Production and book editing - Editing/producing books -

We cannot say it too often: be clear on what the contract covers. Additional days of work generated by others' changes of mind must, for example, be chargeable.

Project management, per hourGBP31.00
Specialist editing, such as classical languages or complex mathematics, per hourGBP27.00
Substantial editing and rewriting, per hour GBP27.00
Design, per hourGBP27.00
Copy-editing, per hourGBP24.00
Production control, per hourGBP24.00
Rights and contracts, per hourGBP24.00
Publicity, per hourGBP24.00
Full indexing, per hourGBP24.00
Picture research, per hourGBP22.00
Proofreading, per hourGBP21.00
Manuscript reading and reporting, per hourGBP19.00
Index adapting and simple indexing, per hourGBP19.00

Notes:

  • Flat fees paid for technical writing should be at a higher rate. So too should writing children's books where extensive research is often involved. As a guideline, calculate the fee on the basis of the minimum hourly rate for editorial work. Similarly, use the hourly rate to help calculate an adequate return for the work involved when negotiating a royalty advance.
  • The writer of the first edition of a guidebook or similar work should get a far higher fee than than an updater. They should argue for first refusal on future updates.
  • Do not underestimate the time it takes to do the research for a guidebook. For every place included another place will probably be tried and rejected as not suitable for recommendation. This is particularly the case if the book takes the "300 best places" approach, where places that would get a negative review are eliminated.
  • Listings take far longer to write than running copy. Insist that the publisher engages a fact-checker. Freelances who are required to check all listing information should charge an extra fee for this.
  • Picture research should be paid as an extra task.
  • Royalty rates for electronic publications are still very fluid. Some publishers offer the same percentages as for print editions - which is clearly unjust, since the reproduction and distribution costs are essentially zero. Net receipts should, in fact, be sale price less credit card fees and a small sum for server maintenance. We advise adding a clause into contracts for such works specifying re-negotiation after two years.
  • Freelances who submit work on an expensive medium (such as a Zip™ disks) should make sure the client agrees to return it after use and to pay for or replace any lost or damaged disks.

Magazines

The world of magazines is remarkably diverse, both in terms of what is published and how much is paid for it. It encompasses some of the best and some of the worst payers in the media industry. We divide the suggested rates into four bands - but note that publications like Vogue and almost all US magazines are off the top end of this scale and that Rabbit Breeder's Week may be off the bottom.

Setting fees

The nature of the publication; the value of a story in marketing a magazine; its exclusivity if that's what it is; the writer's experience and particular expertise; and the time taken for research all play important parts in negotiations over how much an article is worth.

It makes sense to expect a lot more from Cosmopolitan or Radio Times than from a small-circulation, fringe political publication. There are, however, "glossies" that pay relatively poorly, and prestigious specialist publications, with lower circulations and advertising rates, that pay top rates to the most highly qualified journalists.

The magazine categories used in suggesting rates are based on a combination of the publications' advertising rates, their circulation and prestige, plus reference to the open Rate for the Job market survey . They are imprecise, making individual negotiation all the more important. (Remember Rule One: let the client name a fee first, and start from there.) NUJ members can check with the Freelance Office to see whether any new house agreements have been signed.

Note that we can not guarantee writers will get the rates quoted for work on the titles listed - only that members have secured similar rates and that they are reasonable minima in the light of the rest of the market. Writers should remember that you might always get more if you ask - and you will not if you do not.

Provincially-based or fringe publications routinely pay lower rates than those suggested. The NUJ cannot recommend that anyone should work for such low rates, though we recognise that members may sometimes accept them for reasons other than financial reward.

Contract publishing

This fast-growing area is the magazine equivalent of book "packaging", in which one organisation produces a magazine under another's imprint. Examples include Redwood, which produces publications for Boots and Marks and Spencer.

The area is volatile: a client may ask a contract publisher to produce a glossy magazine from scratch in six weeks - only to cancel it the next day. So it's probably a good idea for a writer commissioned by a contract publisher to get a clear agreement that they will be paid in full for good work delivered on time, whatever happens to it. The range of publications produced in this way is as wide as that in the more traditional field of "publisher publishing" and the rates paid are as varied, though with a welcome inclination to the high end on the whole. If in doubt, use the guidance for Groups A to C.

Contract publishers may well ask for all rights. As with any publisher, follow the advice in Rights and why they are important and ask what rights/extra usages they actually need: writers should charge extra if they agree to anything beyond normal print usage.

Shifts

Most freelances who work shifts on a per-day rate are sub-editing. If the job turns out actually to be covering for a section editor, it should attract a higher rate to reflect the additional complexity and responsibility.

Magazines may also bring freelances in to do a day's, or a week or a month's, work writing news, for example covering for a staffer on leave. They may even pay on a per-day basis for a specific article, and this may be a desirable alternative to negotiating a per-word rate that would reflect the amount of work involved. Freelances should be aware that this clouds the issue, at least, of who owns the work.

See Shift payments - tax and time off for notes on taxation of shifts at source and entitlement to paid time off.

House agreements in magazines

The "Fairness at Work" legislation has assisted the NUJ in achieving house agreements with magazine publishers. However, only staff and, in some cases, people doing regular shifts are covered by the rights to union recognition and collective negotiation of terms. The union is working to include sections in house agreements that set out minimum terms and best practice for engaging freelances, but this will take some years, especially with those management that resist negotiating anything they're not forced to. In any case, freelances will need to negotiate what each article they do is actually worth, even where there are agreements that set out the minimum.

Freelance collective agreements remain more likely to be achieved where freelances form networks (some think of them as "freelance chapels"). These have negotiated in liaison with and supported by the Freelance Office, Magazines Organiser, the relevant staff chapel, Freelance Industrial Council and any appropriate NUJ branch (freelance or general).

In the case of EMAP Metro, a group of freelances has obtained significant improvements in rates and conditions through informal talks with a management that is clear that it will not recognise the NUJ for freelance purposes - which makes their dis-agreement one of the more successful pieces of dis-organisation by freelances.

See contacts for some email networks - we are always happy to help set up another if there are people demanding it.

Extra money for free

All freelances who write should register with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society to receive payments from secondary uses such as photocopying, and provide the Society with updated lists of their articles. See Rights and why they are important.

Notes on negotiating rates for Magazines

These are some things to remember when negotiating rates for magazine work. And please send us your accounts of successful negotiations.

Shifts

General

Magazine editors periodically suffer from extreme pressure to make silly budget cuts. Frequently this pressure dissipates after a month or so, when the Men in Suits have asserted their authority and wander off beating their chests - and everyone else can get on with producing a publication that people want to read and therefore to buy.

The suggested rates: Magazines (Know a better rate? tell us!)

The rates for words are for their first appearance in a UK magazine, or US as the case may be. If the publisher wants further uses, negotiate.

Magazines - category: A: large-circulation and glossy mags
Writing, per 1000 - prestige US magazines from $3 a wordGBP1900.00
Writing, per 1000 wordsGBP700.00
Acting as editor on publication: per dayGBP350.00
Section or production editor: per dayGBP250.00
Reporting or researching: per dayGBP220.00
Sub-editing and production: per dayGBP200.00

Notes:

  • Freelances paid a day rate risk being taxed at source and paying National Insurance as an employed person, though this can be challenged - see Shift payments - tax and time off.
  • Writing on a day rate may have implications for copyright. NUJ members should see Rights and why they are important and check with the Freelance Office.
  • Note that many small-circulation specialist mags pay rates in line with category C, or category B if their readership is particularly influential. A newsletter distributed to a handful of Chief Executive Officers who know that the subject is important, but not what it is, may pay silly money to a writer who does know what it is.
  • Contract publishers may pay considerably more for work used in a given category of magazine than direct publishers would - for example £700 per 1000 words for work that appears in a Category B magazine. See Advice on Magazine work.
  • Some magazines get away with paying less for sub-editing shifts. But they shouldn't.
Magazines - category: B: smaller consumer mags
Writing, per 1000 - run-of-the-mill US magazines ($1/word)GBP640.00
Writing, per 1000 wordsGBP420.00
Acting as editor on publication: per dayGBP275.00
Section or production editor: per dayGBP220.00
Reporting or researching: per dayGBP180.00
Sub-editing and production: per dayGBP170.00

Notes:

  • Freelances paid a day rate risk being taxed at source and paying National Insurance as an employed person, though this can be challenged - see Shift payments - tax and time off.
  • Writing on a day rate may have implications for copyright. NUJ members should see Rights and why they are important and check with the Freelance Office.
  • Note that many small-circulation specialist mags pay rates in line with category C, or category B if their readership is particularly influential. A newsletter distributed to a handful of Chief Executive Officers who know that the subject is important, but not what it is, may pay silly money to a writer who does know what it is.
  • Contract publishers may pay considerably more for work used in a given category of magazine than direct publishers would - for example £700 per 1000 words for work that appears in a Category B magazine. See Advice on Magazine work.
  • Some magazines get away with paying less for sub-editing shifts. But they shouldn't.
Magazines - category: C: larger trade and trade union mags
Writing, per 1000 wordsGBP310.00
Acting as editor on publication: per dayGBP230.00
Section or production editor: per dayGBP180.00
Reporting or researching: per dayGBP155.00
Sub-editing and production: per dayGBP155.00

Notes:

  • Freelances paid a day rate risk being taxed at source and paying National Insurance as an employed person, though this can be challenged - see Shift payments - tax and time off.
  • Writing on a day rate may have implications for copyright. NUJ members should see Rights and why they are important and check with the Freelance Office.
  • Note that many small-circulation specialist mags pay rates in line with category C, or category B if their readership is particularly influential. A newsletter distributed to a handful of Chief Executive Officers who know that the subject is important, but not what it is, may pay silly money to a writer who does know what it is.
  • Contract publishers may pay considerably more for work used in a given category of magazine than direct publishers would - for example £700 per 1000 words for work that appears in a Category B magazine. See Advice on Magazine work.
  • Some magazines get away with paying less for sub-editing shifts. But they shouldn't.
Magazines - category: D: smaller mags
Writing, per 1000 wordsGBP250.00
Acting as editor on publication: per dayGBP180.00
Section or production editor: per dayGBP160.00
Sub-editing and production: per dayGBP140.00
Reporting or researching: per dayGBP140.00

Notes:

  • Category D magazines cover a multitude of sins, down to those that are either very small or very stingy (not mentioning any New Statesmen in particular). The above are decent rates for words contributed that are achievable from many magazines. But some get away with paying £150 per thousand - especially those that hold a virtual monopoly on a specialist field or where the field is infested with enthusiastic amateurs.

National newspapers

National newspapers include daily and Sunday titles produced in London and distributed throughout the UK; also The Herald, Sunday Herald, Daily Record and Sunday Mail (from Glasgow) and The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh) - although the latter, and the Scottish editions of London-based nationals, tend to pay slightly less than their London counterparts.

Although the London Evening Standard is not a national newspaper, similar rates apply; likewise for Lloyds List.

The Belfast Telegraph, Belfast News Letter, Irish News, Belfast Sunday Life, Western Mail and Wales on Sunday are usually regarded as regional newspapers and their rates and conditions are comparable with those of provincial daily and Sunday newspapers. See Newspaper categories.

Features

The rates paid for features in national newspapers vary hugely, depending on the titles concerned, the expertise/research required and how much the publication wants the article.

Red-top or traditional tabloids often pay considerably more per 1000 words than the "unpopular papers" - more than twice as much - but pieces tend to be shorter. The price for the piece tends to be discussed with only a marginal reference to the number of words involved. Experience shows that there is more opportunity to negotiate with tabloids than with broadsheets and that, with them especially, genuine exclusives carry a very significant premium.

News

Freelances covering news will be paid either per 1000 words or by the day. Once again, rates offered by different newspapers vary widely and freelances should negotiate hard to get a fair return for their work. Remember again that exclusivity will have a huge bearing on the fee. Rates should be higher, sometimes much higher, for tabloids.

Extra payments

Certain jobs or stories command higher rates than others and it is worth negotiating significantly higher rates for them. For example if a journalist must work unsocial hours (after 8 pm, before 8 am) in order to file a story, they should add a minimum of £100 to the payment for the story as well as expenses.

Exclusives can command huge fees: a story in a national tabloid that appears in a prominent position, such as a page lead, should command more than £700 whatever its length. If a newspaper orders an exclusive story that is subsequently not used, the fee should be substantial to reflect the fact that once the story ceases to be current it may be impossible to sell it elsewhere.

Negotiate higher rates for material that appears in the colour magazines that accompany some editions of newspapers.

Rights and syndication

Som newspaper publishers attempt to gain all rights from freelance contributors. See Rights and why they are important and the NUJ's publication Battling for Copyright. Remember that use on a paper's own website constitutes a separate use from the paper version and should be paid for.

Sub-editing

Most newspapers have set rates for sub-editing shifts and these can be difficult to negotiate individually. Almost all shift work should by law attract additional paid time off. National newspapers commonly try to enforce deduction of tax and national insurance at source, but this can be challenged - see Shift payments - tax and time off. The best way for freelances to get improved shift payment is by working with the chapels to get minimum rates included in the house agreement.

House agreements

The "Fairness at Work" legislation has assisted the NUJ in achieving house agreements with newspaper publishers. However, only staff and, in some cases, people doing regular shifts are covered by the legal rights to union recognition and collective negotiation of terms. The union is working to include sections in house agreements that set out minimum terms and best practice for engaging freelances, and has achieved these with the Guardian and Express; but to get more will take some years, especially with those management that resist negotiating anything they're not forced to. In any case, freelances will need to negotiate what each article they do is actually worth, even where there are agreements that set out the minimum.

Freelance collective agreements remain more likely to be achieved where freelances form networks (some think of them as "freelance chapels"). These have negotiated in liaison with and supported by the Freelance Office, the Newspaper Organiser, the relevant staff chapel, Freelance Industrial Council and any appropriate NUJ branch (freelance or general).

See contacts for some email networks - we are always happy to help set up another if there are several people demanding it.

Extra money for free

All freelances who write should register with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society to receive payments from secondary uses such as photocopying, and provide the Society with updated lists of their articles. See Rights and why they are important.

Notes on negotiating rates for National newspapers

These are some things to remember when negotiating rates for work done for national newspapers. And please send us your accounts of successful negotiations.

See the advice section on print media and general advice for more discussion of these matters.

The suggested rates: National newspapers (Know a better rate? tell us!)

Rates for newspaper copy vary hugely and the following are decent achievable minima, mostly for what you might call "generic" stories. Exclusives and other big stories attract much higher fees. The rates for words are for their first appearance in a UK newspaper. If the publisher wants further uses, negotiate.

No-one knows quite how to categorise national papers now that the Financial Times and Telegraph are the only London national broadsheets. For the moment we have gone with qualities (tongue not entirely absent from cheek) and tabloids (straight up).

Shifts - National newspapers - category: Newspapers
Long sub-editing shifts (usually from 06.00 - 19.00)GBP290.00
Writing news: per dayGBP170.00
6 or 7 hour sub-editing shiftsGBP150.00

Notes:

Shifts - National newspapers - category: Newspaper supplements
Long sub-editing shifts (usually from 06.00 - 19.00)GBP290.00
6 or 7 hour sub-editing shifts (weekend)GBP180.00
Writing: per dayGBP180.00
6 or 7 hour sub-editing shiftsGBP150.00
Writing, reporting and researching - National newspapers - category: Newspapers
Page lead, tabloids - sky's the limit, rarely less thanGBP1000.00
Splashy features for "qualities", per 1000, fromGBP700.00
Normal features for "qualities", per 1000, fromGBP450.00
Tip-off leading to exclusive or large spread, upward ofGBP1000.00
Page lead, for "qualities", per 1000, fromGBP450.00
News, for "qualities", per 1000 words, fromGBP310.00
Ordered news story (eg 300 words)GBP110.00
Tip-off for news, "qualities" - much more for big storiesGBP200.00
Tip-off for diary - minimumGBP50.00
Commissioned online blog post - e.g. "Comment is Free" fromGBP90.00
Writing, reporting and researching - National newspapers - category: Newspaper supplements
Splashy features for "qualities", per 1000, fromGBP800.00
Per 1000 words, genericGBP450.00

Regional newspapers

Regional newspapers are morning daily papers with circulations covering large areas of the country, such as the Birmingham Post or the Western Daily Press and Sunday equivalents. Provincial newspapers are local weekly or evening publications. See Regional newspaper categories.

While some regional papers and a few provincials pay reasonably by the standards of their local economy, freelance rates in many papers (especially in provincials) have not risen in proportion either to the cost of living or to staff salaries, and it is difficult for the NUJ to recommend that members work for these. For a freelance, the only plus in this area is that it may provide journalists a chance to get their by-line noticed - useful if to newcomers, but not others. Individual negotiation is essential, but freelances who do decide to do work for one of these papers should remember to try the nationals first with good stories - they of course represent a much bigger market and a bigger cheque too.

Lineage

It is common for provincial newspapers to pay lineage - that is, payment for each line of text published. Many freelances circumvent this penny-pinching system by getting the paper to order stories, and then invoicing for them.

Rights and syndication

Some newspaper publishers attempt to gain all rights from freelance contributors. See Rights and why they are important and the NUJ's publication Battling for Copyright. Remember that use on a paper's own website constitutes a separate use from the paper version and should be paid for.

Sub-editing

Most regional newspapers have set rates for sub-editing shifts and so these can be difficult to negotiate individually. Some may insist on deducting tax and National Insurance from shift payments at source but this can be challenged - see Shift payments - tax and time off). The best way for freelances to get improved shift payment is by working with the chapels to get their rates included in the house agreement.

House agreements

The "Fairness at Work" legislation has assisted the NUJ in achieving house agreements with newspaper publishers. However, only staff and, in some cases, people doing regular shifts are covered by the rights to union recognition and collective negotiation of terms. The union is working to include sections in house agreements that set out minimum terms and best practice for engaging freelances, but this will take some years, especially with those management that resist negotiating anything they're not forced to. In any case, freelances will need to negotiate what each article they do is actually worth, even where there are agreements that set out the minimum.

Freelance collective agreements remain more likely to be achieved where freelances form networks (some think of them as "freelance chapels"). These have negotiated in liaison with and supported by the Freelance Office, the Regional Organiser, the relevant staff chapel, Freelance Industrial Council and any appropriate NUJ branch (freelance or general).

See contacts for some email networks - we are always happy to help set up another if there are several people demanding it.

Extra money for free

All freelances who write should register with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society to receive payments from secondary uses such as photocopying, and provide the Society with updated lists of their articles. See Rights and why they are important.

Notes on negotiating rates for Regional newspapers

These are some things to remember when negotiating rates for work for regional newspapers. And please send us your accounts of successful negotiations.

See the advice section on print media and general advice for more discussion of these matters.

The suggested rates: Regional newspapers (Know a better rate? tell us!)

Rates paid by regional, and particularly provincial and local, newspapers vary hugely. These suggestions are based on the decent rates that members have achieved.

Shifts - Regional newspapers - category: Regional daily newspapers
6 or 7 hour sub-editing shifts (weekend)GBP160.00
6 or 7 hour sub-editing shiftsGBP120.00

Notes:

Shifts - Regional newspapers - category: Weekly/local newspapers

Sub-editing shifts are one kind of work where many - but not all - local papers pay noticeable rates.

6 or 7 hour sub-editing shiftsGBP110.00
Writing, reporting and researching - Regional newspapers - category: Regional daily newspapers
Ordered story or feature, bigger papers, per 1000GBP150.00
Ordered story or feature, per 1000GBP120.00
Page leadGBP70.00
Lineage equivalent, first 100 words per 1000GBP65.00
Lineage equivalent, subsequent words per 1000GBP50.00
TipGBP20.00

Notes:

  • Some regional and provincial newspapers pay such low rates that the NUJ cannot actually recommend that such work is undertaken, unless the writer needs to make a name for him/herself locally.
  • We would particularly like to name and shame the Barnsley Chronicle (apparently independent); the Chichester Observer and other Johnston Press papers in England; and the Birmingham Post and other Trinity Mirror regionals.
Writing, reporting and researching - Regional newspapers - category: Weekly/local newspapers
Ordered news or feature, per 1000GBP100.00

Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. Comments to ffg@londonfreelance.org please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.