Posted in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, The Publication Process

Work-for-Hire Resources

plug.jpgPlug into these resources:

ARTICLES/BLOG ENTRIES
Book Packaging: Under-explored Terrain for Freelancers” by Jenna Glatzer
How to Find a Work-for-Hire Assignment with a Book Packager” – (This is a sample work-for-hire article – see how no author credit?)
How to Write School Curriculum
Know Your Rights: Works Made for Hire
Template Work-For-Hire Packet
Tips for Writing for the Education Market” by Evelyn B. Christensen
What You Need to Know About Work for Hire” by Jan Fields
Work for Hire FAQ” by Vijaya Bodach
Work for Hire, or How to Get Work in Children’s Books Quicker” by A. Humann
Works Made for Hire Under the 1976 Copyright Act” – United States Copyright Office
Writing for the Educational Market” by Margo L. Dill
Some other posts on work-for-hire on my site:
How’d You Get That Gig?
Diane Bailey, Work-for-hire Champion


INTERVIEWS
Educational Publishing” with Joanne Mattern
Work-for-Hire vs. Royalty Writing (Part 1) and Work-for-Hire vs. Royalty Writing (Part 2) with Nancy I. Sanders


LINKS TO MORE INFO

A Children’s Writer’s Toolbox for Work for Hire
Molly Blaisdell
Educational Markets for Children’s WritersEvelyn B. Christensen

Guide in Links: Book Packaging and Work-for-Hire
Chandler Craig
Writing for the Education Market – a discussion and resource for freelance writing and working for the education market.

Posted in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, The Publication Process

Work-for-Hire Wisdom

Money

Here are more words of wisdom about work-for-hire.
Bridget Heos says she’s a big fan of work-for-hire for these reasons:
“1. It provides steady income. I know that I’ll be paid for what I write, since the publisher commissioned it. Also the publishers pay, in my experience, one-two months upon receipt of the manuscript, which is nice!
“2. It gives me more writing time. The more you practice something, the better you get. It’s nice to get paid to practice my craft, even if it’s less than I would make selling a manuscript that was my own idea. I can only sell a few manuscripts of my own per year, so it makes sense to supplement that through work for hire. Plus, a lot of the books I write for hire are lots of fun. And I get to work with more editors, which is always great. (Children’s book editors are some of the nicest people I know, and I’m not saying that to butter them up. I’m pretty sure the way to butter up editors is to meet deadlines.)
“3. Finally, I learn a lot. (I write nonfiction for hire.) This gives me good background information on a variety of topics. Often these relate in a small way to another nonfiction manuscript I’m writing on spec. Sometimes I also get book ideas from a small detail I learn through my research.
“My advice is to drum up work WHILE you’re busy writing. That way, you’ll avoid a vicious cycle of having tons of books to write followed by no books to write. And if anybody figures out how to do this, please let me know.”
Prolific author Joanne Mattern said, “I’ve published hundreds of books for the educational market and almost all have been w-f-h, so you could say it’s been the cornerstone of my career. Almost all of my experiences have been very positive. I like getting paid quickly and I love the diversity of genres and topics I’ve written about–many times I’ve gotten assignments on topics I would never have researched on my own. I often have to defend w-f-h to other authors but for me it’s been a wonderful way to work.”
By contrast Bobi Martin has done a couple of w-f-h jobs. She said, “One was a CD Rom product and the other was my travel activity book. I enjoyed both. The money was not stellar, but the projects were fun and the editors were nice to work with. In each case I was able to earn more money than the original contract amount because I got my work in ahead of the deadlines AND because I asked the editors if there was other work I could do on the project. In the case of the CD Rom product (Reading Search: In Search of the Lost Folktales produced by Great Wave) the editor let me do 11 vocabulary exercises in addition to the retold tales I was hired to write, and I was paid reasonably for them.
“In the case of Kidding Around San Francisco, I asked if I could do the word-based activities that would be in my book. My editor originally said no, but then called back a couple of days later and asked if I could do some simple crossword puzzles and a few ‘Silly Stories’ (these are like Mad-Libs). Once I’d sent those in, I got calls from the editors of other books in that series and I wound up contributing to 10 books in the series. The pay was nominal, but I got a copy of each book I contributed to and the editors listed me as a contributor in the inside credits of each book. When you’re beginning your career, writing credits are worth almost as much as a paycheck.”
Vijaya Khisty Bodach said, “My experience mirrors Joanne’s (minus the hundreds of books 🙂 I enjoy working on wfh books and it’s helped us financially. I always take on topics that I enjoy or want to know more about so writing is a great way to learn as well (and get paid for it). I have missed doing WFH books, but I decided to give myself a couple of years to learn the art of writing a novel … there are some things I’ve just got to write and they will not fit in the short story format.”
“I remembered another positive not mentioned: photos,” added Christine Kohler “I wrote a book about refugees for Harcourt Achieve, published in 2003. Every refugee I interviewed had photos of themselves in their Mother country and/or in the refugee camp. It was remarkable! So both the editor and I knew right away that this book had to be done with photographs, like an album, instead of illustrations. Toward the end of the process the editor asked if I could recommend a photographer in my area to photograph two of the refugees for recent photos. I said I could recommend a local news photographer, or I could do it; I’ve done photojournalism for newspapers. The Harcourt hired me to shoot the two recent photos. (ALWAYS negotiate a separate fee for photos. The editor would have to pay extra if someone else took the photos, so make sure you are getting paid extra.)
“At the time I didn’t think much about it, but five years later Houghton Mifflin bought Harcourt. I expected For a Better Life would go OP, which is common for that length of time on the shelves and during buy-outs. To my surprise, I got a call from a NYC agency requesting I grant permission to H-M to use the photos for another five years and send an invoice for payment on the renewal. I was surprised because I didn’t know my photos were on a separate, limited, contract from the text, which was wfh. I asked around, billed from a reasonable amount, and was delighted H-M was picking up my refugee book as a reprint. It’s an excellent book for ESL and citizenship classes, although it was intended for the public school market.”
“Be sure the contract mentions author copies. The first time I did w-f-h I didn’t think of that and was disappointed (multi-book contract, no less!).” – Paula Morrow
“My second through ninth published books were work for hire,” Chris Eboch said. “I would have had a 10-year gap in publication credits without WFH. Experiences and pay varied. The worst case was $3000 for a research intensive 25,000-word nonfiction book working with a terrible editor at one house. (Other jobs paid less, but for less work.)
“I also had two books killed with one publisher. In one case I got a kill fee, and the other nothing after writing and editing an outline and sample chapter, because they decided to discontinue the series and we hadn’t yet gone to contract.
“On the positive end, I enjoyed writing a “famous girl sleuth” book, and learned a lot from working with those editors, and I got $6,000 plus royalties for the Childhood of Famous Americans bios on Milton Hershey and Jesse Owens. (Not that they’ve paid royalties yet….) I’ve gotten fan mail on Milton Hershey.
“WFH is not ideal, but I would not have been able to survive as a writer without the pay, and the publishing credits also help when you’re trying to establish yourself as a professional.”
Amy Houts said, “The majority of the 40 picture books (both fiction and nonfiction, mostly for the education market) I’ve written have been w-f-h. I’ve had great experiences with supportive editors. The money varied, but mostly was good. I’ve only had one success in submitting a picture book proposal on my own. W-f-h has worked for me.”
Wow, what a nice variety of experiences. Thanks, Bridget, Joanne, Bobi, Vijaya, Christine, Paula, Chris and Amy for sharing. (Again, there are links to these authors from their names above.)
Next up: Work-for-Hire Resources

Posted in The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, The Publication Process

Work-for-Hire also known as WFH

cohdratimemoney2.jpgRecently, when planning a talk on work-for-hire, I asked some other writers about their experience. What they had to say was so good, I am sharing it here and in my next post, with permission.

Linda Carlblom said: “One of the things I love about work-for-hire is that once you’ve gotten that first writing assignment, you’re in that publisher’s stable of writers. When they have other needs, they contact you to see if you’re interested in another job. It’s like jobs just land in your lap! Since my first WFH job I’ve had 2 other assignments in the field I love (writing for children) that I didn’t have to even look for. It’s awesome!”
“Writing work-for-hire has stretched me so much,” Stephenie Hovland said. “I took on projects that I never would have done on my own in some tight deadlines I wouldn’t have thought possible (for me.) It’s given me lots of confidence.”
When someone asked a question about getting WFH jobs, here’s what Stephenie said:
“Here are two strategies that may (or may not) work for you. One worked for me. One worked for a writer friend of mine. (I could not make her strategy work for me.)
“1. Choose a publishing company or two (or three) who publish what you want to write. Send them samples that would fit into their current offerings and a writing resume with clips (if you have them.) Let them know you are available to write for them. Send it to a specific editor, if possible. Send via email and paper (unless you know the email was well-received. ) Check in every 6-12 months, letting them know you are still available. Watch their site and tweets like a hawk. Try out for any calls for writers that are anywhere near what you write. If they will have their editors at any conferences, make a friendly connection. If you have any writer friends who already work for them, let the friend know you want to write for that company. The friend may have information that can help you or know about needs that aren’t public.
“2. Use Guru.com and/or Elance. Start with broad topics, taking anything you can get, but only for a reasonable wage. Your goal is to get a good reputation, not to make money, but you don’t want to work for people who don’t value your time. The people who pay decently often give good, heartfelt reviews for writers who meet and exceed their expectations. Once you’ve accumulated some good reviews, you can start narrowing your focus. If all goes well, you will have a few clients who repeatedly invite you to bid. They want you to write for them. Using these sites is a good idea, because they handle the money and any disputes. Eventually, you may not need to search for jobs, because you’ll have several clients who look for you.”
“I would add only one other thing to Stephenie’s answer,” Linda said “. . . on how to get work-for-hire jobs. Stay well connected to other authors. I found out about the work-for-hire opportunity that landed me a four book contract through an author friend who had written for this company in the past. They sent out an email to all their previous authors saying they were looking for six authors to write a girls book series. My friend wrote for adults and wasn’t interested in trying out for this, so she passed it along to me, knowing it was exactly what I’d love to write. I would never have known about it if she hadn’t been kind enough to share her email from the publishing house with me. It pays to maintain friendships in the writing world! ”
Mary Scarbrough agreed. “I have had wonderful referrals from other writing friends who do wfh (Thanks, Amy Houts and Cindy Kane in particular!) and have been able to refer writers to editors as well. I’m not sure exactly how much of my wfh is attributable one way or another to referrals, but it’s been significant. One regular gig–a referral from Amy, in fact–is writing Sunday school curriculum. It has given me monthly income for the last 4 1/2 years.”
Thank you, Linda, Mary and Stephenie for sharing!
Note: their names link to their websites/blogs, so you can learn more about them if you like.
More quotes from other authors on work-for-hire will be on my next post.

Posted in Guest Post, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, The Publication Process

Welcome Diane Bailey, Work-for-hire Champion

Diane Bailey, who has more work-for-hire experience than I do, agreed to share some about her experience:
I like soccer as much as the next American.
Meaning, if someone had asked me what I wanted to write a book about, it wouldn’t have been the history of the World Cup. Same goes for Miley Cyrus. And the future of warfare. And yes, even vampires.
Actually, sometimes it’s nice not to have a choice. People generally tend to choose things that are familiar; we take the easy way out. But work-for-hire projects don’t always mesh with our interests or expertise. Instead, they require us to step outside our comfort zones. I’m usually happy to leave, because it’s also my boredom zone.
Work-for-hire writers specialize in being general. That’s not to say we don’t have a certain set of skills. To get hired in the first place, we’re selling our particular expertise: how to research and write a book, within the peculiar requirements and constraints of the library and educational market. But implicit in this set of skills is adaptability, a game-face approach to whatever an editor throws our way. We’ve got to be good at mustering up curiosity and manufacturing enthusiasm about practically anything. Of course, there are some wfh writers who might stick to sports or history or pop culture. But for writers who are trying to make a living at it, they’re likely to take what they can get. For me, this “grab bag” mentality is part of the attraction.
When I started writing, I worked as a journalist in the entertainment industry. I watched a lot of TV, I went to a lot of movies, and I interviewed a lot of celebrities. I won’t deny this had an element of glamor to it–and I did get free food–but after you’ve written a couple hundred actor profiles and inadvertently become addicted to Days of Our Lives, it starts to get a little old.
Brain surgeons cover pictureA couple of years ago, an editor contacted me with a list of books she was assigning, and asked which one I would like. One of the titles was about Bono, the lead singer of U2. Another one was a career book about brain surgeons. A lot of people might have jumped on the Bono book. But I wasn’t particularly enamored with that idea. I’d done the celebrity thing. I wanted something else. So I took the brain surgeon book, and loved it. It’s still one of my favorite books that I’ve done.
Other times you just plain luck out. Recently I got a list of titles to choose from. One of them was in a series about economics, and was called “How Business Decisions are Made.” I didn’t pick this one, even though it paid a little better than the one I did choose–a book about zombies. Because, seriously, how could I NOT write about zombies if given the opportunity? I mean, I COULD make a good business decision and earn a little more money by writing about business decisions. OR I could write about zombies. In this particular case, I turned to a higher authority and asked myself, What would Shaun of the Dead do?
With wfh projects, sometimes you get great topics; other times they’re not your first choice. But you rarely work on a project long enough to get bored with it. I often think of writing a work-for-hire book is somewhat like taking an eight-week course (or, depending on how organized your editor is, a three-week course). You learn the subject matter and then you write your final paper, which will happen to end up in a library binding. But you don’t have to get up early and walk to class in the rain. And you get to deposit your diploma.
And it’s only about writing. You don’t have to worry about any of that pesky marketing-and-promotion stuff. In a sense, work-for-hire is craft at its most pure: you are not saddled with the worry of deciding what will sell, or to whom, or how well. There’s something comforting in knowing that your job is to just write the book. It’s one thing to deal with an idiotic or irrational editor (I say this only hypothetically, of course: my editors are all normal!). I mean, we’re writers. We understand neurosis. But spreadsheet-literate people from sales? Yikes.
I got my first work-for-hire job through a tip from a colleague. I emailed my resume, and even though the editor I contacted didn’t have any work for me right then, she passed my name to another editor who’d had a writer drop out on a project. She needed someone, pronto, to write the book. I agonized over this 6,000-word book. I probably–okay, maybe–made minimum wage by the time you averaged out my hours. But that first book led to regular work from this company. Meanwhile, I researched other educational publishers and packagers and went through the drill: sent my resume and samples, and waited for my inbox to fill up.
This happened rather slowly.
Some companies didn’t respond. Some responded with the always-cheering, “We’ll keep your material on file.” I always thought they were lying when they said this, and maybe some of them are. But I know at least some of them aren’t, because I’ve gotten contacted for work months later.
One company I work for doesn’t pay as well as the others, but, you know, it’s a job. And it’s a packager. I mention this because my editor there may work for more than one publisher. Even if his budget on one project is low, the next one may be higher–and he’s already familiar with my name and my work. Either way, I’m still earning more than I would working at Wal-Mart.
And I get to write the word “zombies” on my resume. You can’t put a price tag on that.

Posted in Business Side of Writing, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, The Publication Process

How’d You Get That Gig?

I’ve heard that question and others like it when people found out about my sale of a picture book to the Korean publisher, Unibooks (유니북스), for their ESL program for young children.
Is it who you know?
Yes, and no. Yes, a friend of mine posted the information about the publisher, but it wasn’t directed specifically to me. It was posted on a list-serve in August (I think). Here’s what she said:

I have a writing opportunity that may interest some of you or some of your members. A respected Korean English language publisher is looking for writers to do work-for-hire books for grade levels kindergarten – Jr. high.
Books are nonfiction and fiction, based on set content area themes or topics, for example, upcoming social studies topics are “feelings” and “values.”
Word length is 250 – 1500 words and fee ranges from $300 to $1200 per book depending on target age range for each series.
If you, or a writer you know, would be interested in doing this kind of work, please shoot me an email so I can find a few good candidates to suggest to this company. Someone with some magazine experience or published credits would be preferable. I’d like to get something to them in the next couple of weeks. Writing projects would start immediately in October.

So that was about networking really. Talking and listening to other writers. Paying attention. Being open.
eee7.jpgWhat happened next?
I told my friend I was interested and gave her a brief bio. I think she received interest from at least 30 other writers. She asked us to answer some questions and then she sent the whole batch of info to the publisher.
November 3rd, someone from the publisher contacted me via email. (Normally I delete emails coming with any foreign language in the “from,” but fortunately, not this one!) She mentioned my friend sending her the info, had visited my website, told me briefly about the project and asked if I was interested. Of course, I said “yes.”
Next step, I received more details and suggested topics. I chose one, “Belling the Cat,” refreshed my memory on the original story, followed the publisher’s specific guidelines and wrote it up and submitted. Here’s what I got back on November 17th: “We like your script. It’s like a piece of musical. And embedded parts are well settled. At the same time, we feel you abbreviated the story because of word count. You can use up to 250 words. So we’d like to suggest you several things.” And it went into very specific details. Payment was discussed, but no contract.
I rewrote; sent it back. This time, November 29th, I got a contract . . . along with other rewrite suggestions. And encouragement to write one or two more stories for them. I’ve rewritten “Belling the Cat” again and am waiting for their feedback. I think it is much stronger and clearer, but what makes sense to me as a native English speaker may not make sense to Koreans who learn English as a second language.
Meanwhile, another person from Unibooks contacted me. She’s working on the next level up and read one of the first two versions of “Belling the Cat” and would like me to write something for them. Of course, I said, “yes.” I imagine the future books for both projects will go along a similar process: write on spec, make changes, and if they like them, I’ll get a contract, then make more changes.
What can you do?
So my advice to you is network with other writers, read writing list-serves, pay attention to opportunities, be willing to try out for them, and work hard on your writing and rewriting.