Author Topic: work for hire - HELP!  (Read 936 times)

Juan Dolor

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work for hire - HELP!
« on: June 24, 2011, 02:58:02 PM »
A friend in the movie business has approached me about writing novelizations of film scripts.  He wants to know what I would charge.  I'm very flattered, but I have no idea what would be a fair price.

For the record, this friend has actually written and produced several movies.  None of them have made a ton of money, but they've had theatrical releases. He's a professional.  He's on IMDB.  He's also a nice guy and I would like to help him.

As for me, I have never finished a novel before, and have only published one short story, for which I was paid nothing.  (it was in a university literary magazine.)  So I would think I couldn't ask for much.  But on the other hand, I am on the academic job market this coming year and am working on getting published in my own field.  So my time is precious.  (I am also getting married.)

What do you think, random internet strangers?

Renoard

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2011, 05:41:16 AM »
Well that depends on your ability and the genre. A fair amount seems to me may be 3-5K advance and 1% on gross sales. Flat rate, might be 10-15 k initially and if it works out then increase the amount as you become a famous best seller.
You can always get what you want if you never count the cost.

Jason R. Peters

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2011, 05:51:21 AM »
Renoard's advice works if you actually expect the work to succeed, and if that's what you can get for an advance. I'd imagine most people in your friend's shoes would be amenable to the percentage of sales without the advance. (That's low-risk for him.)

If your friend is making another non-hit movie and you are not emotionally invested, I would recommend a ghost-writer approach. You get paid by the hour, and when you're done it matters not one iota whether the movie is a flop or a blockbuster.

For royalties, you stand to lose the most  if the movie is a flop. (Low risk for your friend, he doesn't spend up front.)

For an hourly wage, you stand to lose the most if the movie is a blockbuster. (High risk for your friend, he spends money up front.)

For an advance, see "hourly wage" above.

Before reading Renoard's response, I actually though you were talking just about Ghostwriter rates.

My Writers' Market 2010 (sorry I don't have newer) has a section called "How Much Should I Charge?" I don't see a section for ghostwriting screenplays, but for ghostwriting a novel it recommends the following price points:

Ghostwriting "as told to", High $100/hr, Low, $50/hr; high, $51k for a whole project, low $5.5k for a whole project.
Ghostwriting for no credit, High $100/hr, Low $30/hr; high $45k for a whole project, low $1,500 for a whole project.

Jason R. Peters

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2011, 05:53:23 AM »
Found the entry for "original screenplay". The low end is $56,500, average is $81,285, high end is $106,070 according to the 2010 Writer's Market.

dhalagirl

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2011, 06:08:59 AM »
Renoard's advice works if you actually expect the work to succeed, and if that's what you can get for an advance. I'd imagine most people in your friend's shoes would be amenable to the percentage of sales without the advance. (That's low-risk for him.)

I actually disagree.  Asking for a percentage of the sales is a lot more risky.  You're gambling on the movie actually making money.  Accountants in the movie industry are very good at making even the biggest blockbusters look like total failures. 

Definitely go for the advance, that way you'll actually get paid for your work.

Jason R. Peters

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2011, 12:39:23 PM »
Renoard's advice works if you actually expect the work to succeed, and if that's what you can get for an advance. I'd imagine most people in your friend's shoes would be amenable to the percentage of sales without the advance. (That's low-risk for him.)

I actually disagree.  Asking for a percentage of the sales is a lot more risky.  You're gambling on the movie actually making money.  Accountants in the movie industry are very good at making even the biggest blockbusters look like total failures. 

Definitely go for the advance, that way you'll actually get paid for your work.

I meant that royalties are low-risk for the producer, high-risk for the (potentially unpaid) writer who sank a lot of time and effort into an unprofitable venture.

Asking for an advance moves the risk onto the Producer.

Juan Dolor

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2011, 12:35:50 AM »
Thanks, everyone.  That's a lot to think about.

And for me the most valuable part of this may not be the money, but having my name on a published novel.   So that's something to think about, too.

Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2011, 01:12:26 AM »
I agree with what other people are saying. I think Renoard's high-side estimates are very close to what you can ask at your experience level. If you go the royalty option, that would be the percent of cover price for actual copies sold. Not the gross per Hollywood accounting. Well, assuming paperback publication, you should ask for at least 5% as your starting bargaining position. But since it's an adaptation 1% might be fair as an end result.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2011, 01:15:34 AM by Peter Ahlstrom »
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Silk

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2011, 01:33:14 AM »
Having your name on a published novel might depend more on whether the project is successful sales-wise than whether you've simply done the work. How your friend plans on publishing these novels (is he planning on going through a trade publisher? self publishing through a printing press? etc) might also make a significant difference in that regard.

Don't have much to contribute to the actual number-dropping going on, other than to say that I feel your pain--I've just started a bit of freelance work/been approached about freelance work in a few different areas in the last year, and I struggle with this question a lot. I would caution you against the "I'm not a professional, so I should work for cheap" ideology though (and yes, saying so makes me a hypocrite). Definitely be reasonable considering your own experience and all the rest of it, but your time IS valuable, and if you're confident enough in your ability to accept the work, you should be fairly compensated for your effort. :)

Juan Dolor

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2011, 04:15:12 PM »
Good points, all.  This has been very helpful for me. 

I told my friend I was interested in exploring the project, and that we should talk about payment.  Haven't heard back from him yet.  When I do, I'll post here.

Juan Dolor

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2011, 02:41:15 PM »
So I heard back from my friend.  His offer is actually in the ballpark of what Renoard and others were suggesting would be a fair price.   I think we're going to do this thing.  Hooray!

dhalagirl

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2011, 04:02:20 PM »
Good luck to you!

Silk

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Re: work for hire - HELP!
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2011, 07:38:15 PM »
Awesome! That makes things a whole lot easier. Best of luck to both of you. :)