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How Much Can You Sell Crosswords For?

One of the most common questions that people have when they start writing crosswords, is what the going rate is.

However there is no clear answer, as it varies on so many different factors. These include:

- The grid size: generally the larger the puzzle, the more you can charge. If there are twice as many answers in a grid as another puzzle then you would typically look to charge twice as much, for instance. Therefore a good jumbo can fetch a lot more than a quick crossword, for instance.

- The publication you are writing for: some have set rates and will share these for you, whilst others will have a deal negotiated with each individual writer. Remember that the wider the audience and the better the reputation of the publication, typically the more you can charge.

- However, there is greater competition for prestigious newspapers and magazines, and it can be very hard to get on the roster; or they may use a range of writers who just create a few a year each.

- The harder the puzzle is to create, the more it can fetch. Thus a themed puzzle can expect to get more than an unthemed puzzle, and a tricky barred cryptic crossword can expect to get more than a standard cryptic puzzle.

- Generally cryptic puzzles are prized more than quick puzzles, with general knowledge puzzles somewhere in the middle between the two types.

- Different publications will put different demands on the material provided, and this can impact on price too. For instance, if you have to sell full rights and copyright to your puzzle and can't use it elsewhere, then you could typically expect to get better remuneration than if you simply syndicate a puzzle or don't give away any rights, meaning you can resell the puzzle or reuse it as you wish in the future.

You should certainly check all of this out with a client in advance: if you offer a puzzle exclusively then you should negotiate a better deal than if you are providing the puzzle to several different publications.

- The more demands the publisher places, again the more you could expect to be paid. For instance, if you have to use a specific grid pattern, or have an exacting house style to follow with several rounds of revisions you are expected to make at the behest of an editor, then you should again charge more.

- Rather than committing yourself to a large number of puzzles at a certain rate straight off, it might be prudent to do one or two and see how long it takes you, then adjust the rate as necessary. Many people underestimate how long it takes to create a good puzzle and end up creating it for less than the minimum wage: if a puzzle takes you half a day or a whole day to create then you will want to get remunerated accordingly. You could decide what your hourly rate is - for instance 20 an hour, and then if a puzzle takes you five hours to create you will know you need at least 100 for it to cover your time in the creation.

Are you a crossword writer, or an aspiring one? How do you set your rates? Do you have any questions about the commercial side of being a crossword writer? Feel free to share your thoughts and questions on this area that is not often discussed in the comments section below.
Date written: 24 May 2015

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