From the web archives: Writing for Hire
Since I'm smack dab in the middle of a very fun WFH project I thought this would be a good time to resurrect this post.
What is Work-for-Hire?Work-for-Hire (WFH) is work that a writer is hired to do. The writer prepares a manuscript to fit the publisher’s specifications. The author is typically given a flat fee. The rights belong to the publisher. That means that even if a particular title becomes a best seller, you won’t get any extra money. Of course, there are exceptions. Some publishers give royalties and retain rights to your manuscript. Read your contract carefully.
WFH comes in many flavors to suit your taste.
• Fiction or nonfiction for magazines
• Test passages and questions for educational publishers
• Teaching or technical manuals
• Captions for museums, zoos, etc.
• Series books (both fiction and nonfiction) for book publishers and packagers
How Do I Get Started Writing WFH Nonfiction Books?
Many publishers cater to the school and library market. These nonfiction books are for children to read by themselves to gain information, either for pleasure or for book reports. You cannot find these books at bookstores, but you can buy them directly through the publisher.
Go to your library and read many of these nonfiction books. Pick out the ones that you like. Could you write some of these books? Note the name of the publisher. Check their guidelines either in a market guide or their web site.
Most WFH publishers require you to send a resume, writing samples and a list of references along with your cover letter. Do let them know what kinds of books you would like to write, whether you have any expertise in specific areas. Perhaps you are a former scientist or history teacher.
If they like your work, you will get an assignment. Generally, you have to submit an outline. Once that is approved, you can begin writing. Work-for-hire is usually on a tight schedule. You must be able to write quickly and to specification: grade level, word limits, etc.
Is the Process Similar for Writing WFH Fiction Books?
Yes. You send in samples of your writing. If your style is a good match for a particular series, and if the timing is right, you will be hired.
What About Magazines?
Depending on magazine guidelines, you propose an idea in an outline form or submit a complete manuscript, either fiction or nonfiction. If the magazine buys all rights to your manuscript, it is considered WFH. Many magazines have wide readership and you can be sure that your story will be read by tens of thousands of children. It is also an excellent way to learn to write to the publisher’s specifications in a timely fashion.
WFH is not always glamorous. Sometimes you don’t even get a byline. However, if you enjoy writing about various topics and in different styles for children, WFH can allow you to earn a living from it, especially if you have several different publishers that you work with. This may take away time from your own creative projects. It’s a decision you have to make.
This article is also posted on the SCBWI Blueboard.
Writing for the Educational Market by Laura Purdie Salas
Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam et. al.
A Treasure Trove of Opportunity by Melissa Abramovitz
Children's Writer's Word Book by Alijandra Mogilner
Educational Markets for Children's Writers by Evelyn Christensen
Writing for the Education Market (a place that connects publishers and writers)
21st Century Children's Nonfiction Conference
I offer in-depth workshops both on magazine writing and writing for hire. Contact me for rates and availability.