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Thursday, November 28

Writers: Is Work-for-Hire for You?

By Sherry Howard, @SherLHoward

Part of The Writer's Life Series


JH: Work-for-hire isn't for everyone, but for some writers, it's a great way to get your work in front of readers and make some money. Sherry Howard is back again this month with tips and advice on being a work-for-hire author. 

Sherry Howard lives in Middletown, Kentucky, in a household busy with kids and pets. She worked as an educator, and now has the luxury of writing full time. Her debut picture book, Rock and Roll Woods, released in October, 2018. And her middle grade NF, Deep Sea Divers, just released. She has more books in the pipeline for publication soon.

Sherry loves to meet other readers and writers, so be in touch on social media here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Take it away Sherry…

Sherry Howard
The pace of writing for traditional trade publication can make any writer a little bonkers. Combine that snail’s pace with a growing urgency on my part to get some writing in the hands of children and, for me, the answer was work-for-hire.

That term can mean different things for different people. I spend a lot of time in the world of Kidlit where much of the work-for-hire is for educational publishers. That’s the part of work-for-hire I’ll talk about here. That’s the part that helped me as a writer.

Have you seen the writers who say (honestly) they’ve published over 100 books? Often there are some work-for-hire titles in there, which is totally legitimate.

Advantages of Work-for-Hire


1. You get to work directly with an editor. I used to sometimes pay an editor to look at some work. This way, an editor is usually assigned to work directly with you. You get feedback to polish your writing while also earning money. If there isn’t a lot of editorial feedback on a job, then you’ll gain confidence in your writing. If there’s a lot of feedback, then you may have more revision rounds. Pay attention and learn about your bad habits.

2. The timeline is often very fast. You might see the books in print more quickly than traditional trade books. Payment is sometimes fast.

3. You might get the opportunity to do fun research on some topics that interest you.

4. It’s a great way to build up a resume with publishing credits.

5. It’s very exciting when your few author copies arrive!

6. You can choose the work you accept.

7. You can do it in addition to traditional publication.

8. Your name will often be on the book as author.

9. Sometimes, when you contribute to an e-book, the timeline is shorter. Payment might be faster for those.



Disadvantages of Work-for-Hire


1. Although you will have an editor, your work needs to be polished. You’ll usually have a template, and expectations are pretty high with some jobs. You often sign a confidentiality clause, so exchanging for critique is not an option.

2. The timeline is often very fast. The down-side to this is that at times you may have overlapping timelines, heavy duty edits, or rush jobs. You may have to sacrifice your other writing time during these busy times if you also write your own manuscripts in addition to work-for-hire. (I do.) Payment, on the other hand, can be slow with some companies.

3. The research can be time-consuming, especially until you get used to finding what you need more efficiently. Also, providing proof of sources can be tedious with some companies.

4. It’s a little challenging to get started sometimes. There isn’t a central funnel for work-for-hire. You apply and submit work samples to each place you’re interested in working with. That step is very time consuming and challenging. People assume you need to be a teacher, and that’s not true with every company, although it is with at least one.

5. Sometimes there’s a “kill” of a project. You may get a kill fee (an advantage), but you won’t see your work published (disadvantage).

6. Sometimes your choices are limited by the assignments you get. Once in while you pick your own topic and pitch it, but often the topic is chosen for you. In educational work-for-hire, the grade level is usually specified, and can be quite challenging to meet until you get used to it.

7. It takes time away from your other writing, whatever that is.

8. Sometimes your name may not be acknowledged on the book, or even at all.

9. Sometimes the work you do is e-book or passages only, and there’s no physical book.

If you’d like to give it a try, there are some great resources to help you get started. Evelyn Christensen has wonderful resources on her website. Laurie Purdie Salas has a great book that she recently updated. There are other great resources out there once you start exploring.

I run a support group for work-for-hire writers on Facebook. Apparently there was a need—I wanted a place for a few of us to chat, and we’re now over 200 members. It’s meant for people to be able to ask the questions they need to ask without pressure.

About Deep Sea Divers

Daring and Dangerous: Deep Sea Divers for grades 4–8 introduces young readers to the exciting world of deep sea diving. From the amazing areas that divers explore to the common dangers they face underwater, this 32-page fact- and photo-filled book offers young readers an opportunity to learn how divers stay save and what they discover about our complex, beautiful world.

The Daring and Dangerous Stunt Performers series is an action-packed escape into some of the most daring and dangerous activities on – and beyond – the planet. With topics ranging from stunt performers to space explorers, each spread in these books stands alone so reluctant readers can flip through until something catches their attention. Each book also features glossary words (defined on the pages in which they appear) and a memory game that encourages readers' recall as they are asked to match images to what they've read

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound | Kobo |

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