Transcription is the art of taking speeches, audio, video, notes and other documents and putting them into new, clean documents. It sometimes, but not always, involves translation -- usually the goal is compilation or condensation of data, but data can be in more than one language. This work is attractive for those who need flexibility in their work or have an affinity for language. However, if you want to get started as a transcriptionist for books, you need to know how much to charge.
Methods of Determining Pay
As a transcriptionist for books, you have options for how you charge. These options can impact your overall earnings. If you're transcribing a book from audio or video, then a good way to charge is by minute of recorded data. You also can ask for pay by line, total project, hour or page. Because different clients may need books from different sources, you can use all of these methods if necessary, but each payment method should result in roughly the same rate so that you're fair to all clients.
Quality of Sources
Sometimes clients give transcriptionists source data that is in horrible shape. For example, they may give you handwritten documents with nearly illegible scrawl, or the audio may be full of static, feedback, distortion or echos. If you receive low-quality source material for the book transcription, it is permissible to charge a higher rate, as it will take you longer to decipher the material.
Book Transcription Type
There are different types of book transcription. For instance, one form of transcription is movie novelization. According to the 2011 rate guide from Writer's Market, this form of transcription has a rate of $5,000 to $15,000 per project -- the average is about $9,200. However, if a client hands you a handwritten manuscript and just needs you to type it out, the average rate is $0.95 to $3 per page, with the average rate being $1.67. Technical books receive about $0.04 more per word than non-technical books. What you charge for your book transcription services thus depends in part on the type of transcription involved to get the book manuscript.
You may charge more for transcribing a book if you are an experienced transcriptionist. Starting transcriptionists may charge as little as one to five cents per word, whereas experienced transcriptionists may charge double to quadruple that amount.
The Bottom Line
In most cases, rates for book transcription are approximately $0.01 to $0.20 a word or line, $1 to $3 a page, $10 to $50 an hour, and $5,000 to $20,000 per project, depending on the difficulty of the project and the experience of the transcriptionist. Of course, these are guidelines, as transcriptionists routinely negotiate their rates.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.