May 18th, 2011
Another look back to one of the pieces from the hacked blog, this one worth repeating periodically, actually, because negotiating prices for projects is always with the freelancer.
Art of the deal? Uh-huh. Right. As a beginner, I took what I could get—especially if the project was math-related, as I wanted to develop a “specialty,” typesetting equations. Having no real experience when I started, I created samples using various exercises from tutorials for both PageMaker and QuarkXPress.
During the time I was working on the science journals, I was contacted by the managing editor of a small religious press. I had not contacted him directly. Rather, he told me, I had contacted another publisher, a friend of his, with one of my blind email inquiries. The friend had no use for my freelance services, but he sent my information to the managing editor of the small religious press.
I worked on six or seven books for them, using the same simple layout for all the books that I designed for the interior pages of the first one. We agreed on a rate of $6 per page, pretty good for a simple book filled with plain text, no tabular material, and no math, I thought at the time. They had offered that price the first time we spoke; no negotiation took place.
About that time I began to think more about taking a more active role in deciding how much I was paid. I knew this would involve a willingness to decline projects occasionally, something I could not imagine doing without some discomfort. But I learned.
The way I come up with bids for a project is by starting off with ranges for each of the tasks involved. First comes the interior design phase. I consider everything—from initially speaking with the client about the project to get some flavor of it, reviewing some of the book’s text and any art that will be used in the book, to passing back-and-forth sample ideas and finalizing those sample pages into a template—part of this first phase. I figure this part of my price based on a range of flat rates.
The second part of the process is the layout of interior pages. For this I give clients a per-page rate. Sometimes this phase just flies by, and other times it seems to drag. But when a client sends me a clean file that has been marked up efficiently—this, of course, for straight layout jobs—I have the opportunity to work very quickly and, depending on the per-page rate, I can make out very well at times.
Designing and executing a cover, though not something I do as often as interiors, can be one of the more fun parts of a book. But as it is the first thing prospective readers see when they spot a book, a great deal of care must go into what the cover means to convey. Because of that, the time necessary to conceive and execute a cover, as well as the price charged, can fluctuate wildly.
I add these three figures together for a flat price for the project. And then, when putting the bid in, I note that two rounds of corrections are included, but that any author’s or editor’s changes that affect a sizeable number of pages will be billed at an hourly rate.
I also tell the client that I may be willing to show some flexibility with my price, especially if the project is one that I find interesting or of some import. I close by asking what they had in mind for a budget on my involvement in the project. After that, they either agree with my price, come back with something lower, or excuse themselves and I move on. If they come back with another price, I will either accept or counter. If they clearly have no intention of paying the minimum I think the job is worth, then I politely excuse myself and move on.