Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bring in the Money!

by author and RYS judge, Jennifer Swanson

No, this blog is not about a re-make of the movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr and Tom Cruise. No one is going to open their wallet and start throwing money around.
(Although if you want to, please feel free to throw some my way. I have one in college and another heading there. I will take any money for tuition I can get!)
This blog is about how to make money with your writing, even before you make it big! Let’s face it, we all know that the road to traditional publishing is long, difficult and at time frustrating AND  it is very worth it. I agree.
But what if it were possible to help yourself along the path while making money?
(this is beginning to sound like one of those late-night commercials, isn’t it?)
What I’m talking about is a way to break into traditional publishing. It’s called Work-for-Hire (WFH).
Now some see WFH as a lesser arm to traditional publishing. I don’t understand that. I know PLENTY of authors who’ve been published with big houses that did WFH before they got published and continue to do so afterwards.
WFH is a way to bring in a steady stream of income without having to wait for royalties. Like everything else, it has its plusses and minuses. But if you’re staring a tuition bill in the face and have no funds to pay for it, WFH looks pretty dang good!
What is WFH?  
WFH means exactly that.  A publisher sends you a contract to write a book to specific guidelines under a set timeline.
Who uses WFH authors?
The biggest employers of WFH are educational publishers and book packagers, although pretty much every major publisher has a WFH division.
Educational publishers are companies that write specifically to sell to schools and libraries. These books will probably not be found in book stores. They are very concerned with writing to exact grade and reading levels.
Book packagers are companies that are hired by other publishers to create books for their list. (I know, it’s a little confusing.)
51L0v+DtJFL._SL210_Here’s an example: Publisher A wants a series on earth science (volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc) but doesn’t want to take the time to find the authors, illustrators, and editors to do it. They hire Book Packager B. Book Packager B then hires authors, uses their own in-house editors and illustrators, and sends the completed manuscript to Publisher A for approval. The book is published with Publisher A’s name and the name of the author. (The book packager name doesn’t appear anywhere).
Major publishers usually use WFH authors for trademarked series like ones about super heroes or say Nancy Drew type books. These books are formulaic and stick to the series guidelines although each book has a new topic.
How do I find a WFH company?
Try some of these links. They are excellent sources for how to find educational publishers and book packagers.
How do I approach a WFH company?
You need to send a resume package to the publisher. A resume package consists of the following:
Query letter -- outlining why you are interested in working for this company. It helps if you have read a couple of their books or can point to a series they are doing that you are interested in working on.
Resume --  An up-to-date resume of your writing credentials. Include anything you’ve had published, even if it’s just on a blog. If you don’t have much, then put what you do – your job, your interests, whatever. It should be in a standard resume form and look professional
Writing samples --  These are really important. You need between 1-3 samples (check the publisher’s guidelines. Some tell you exactly how many you need to send). If they don’t tell you send at least two. These pieces should be VERY polished. They are your way of showing that you can write to their guidelines. It’s a good thing to study their books and write in a similar manner. Also, if you wish to write biographies, then send a sample biography. If you want to write science, send a science piece, and so forth. If you want to write fiction, send a fiction piece similar to something they have already published. If you want to write both, then send one fiction and one nonfiction piece. This shows depth.
What happens after I get hired?
First of all, Congratulations!  Second, get very familiar with your computer chair. The thing about WFH is that they work on fairly short deadlines. That means you may have a month or less to write a 3,000 word (or longer) book.  The one thing to know about WFH companies, is the deadlines RARELY shift. If you have a deadline for January 28, 2014, that is THE deadline. These companies roll out books by the dozens and have two cycles a year. They must stick to the deadlines to get everything done. That means you have to, too.
Another thing, get very familiar with ATOS Readability and Lexile reading levels. These will be your golden guides. Most educational publishers live and die by these reading level systems and your manuscript MUST be within the designated level and word count when it is submitted.
Drawbacks of WFH?
You receive a flat fee for your work and you sign over all rights for the book.  You do not receive royalties of any kind. Also, just a heads up, sometimes it’s easier to get hired by a book packager first, but they tend to pay half of what the educational publisher will because they are the “middle man.”
Plusses of WFH?
Someone has hired you to write a book! The book is published with YOUR name on it! You can use all of these books on your resume in the future – for more WFH or to approach other traditional publishers with your own manuscripts.  Most WFHpublishers are PAL publishers with SCBWI so you get all the perks that brings. You can go out and do school visits with your books and sell them at events, and so forth. Yes, you are a REAL author!
So, what do you think? Is this for you? If so, get to work writing those samples. Remember, in order to “Show me the money!” you have to start submitting resumes. The money isn’t going to show itself any time soon unless YOU send something OUT!
Jennifer is the author of over 20 fiction and nonfiction books for children. When she is not writing, she loves to read, walk on the beach with her family, and play with her two dogs. You can learn more about her at
this post was originally posted here