Posted by: nancyisanders | April 25, 2008

Work for Hire–Now!

If you go to a writer’s conference or read a writer’s magazine or talk with other writers, you’ll hear a variety of opinions about writing on work-for-hire projects.

So today you get to hear mine! Smile.

My first book contract was a work-for-hire project. So was my second book contract and my third and I think my fourth and my fifth.

And I’m glad they were. To a brand new writer like I was, the structure and training a work-for-hire project provide landed me on solid ground as a writer. Work-for-hire projects are usually under tight deadlines. You’re forced to write. Work-for-hire projects usually come with unbelievably detailed writer’s guidelines. You’re forced to examine punctuation details and spelling preferences and word count. Work-for hire projects have to fit a certain series as tight as a glove. You’re forced to step out of your fairy tale castle wanna-be-a-writer world to learn the nitty gritty details of writing what an editor wants.

And the amazing thing was that as I listed more and more published books on my resume, whenever I contacted an editor for a royalty-based, stuff-of-your-dreams kind of book contract, that editor didn’t come back to say, “Stop! Were those books you’ve written work-for-hire?”

No. On the contrary. The editor would say, “Wow! You’ve published ten books! We want to sign a contract with you, too!” Wahoo!

In fact, I still write books for work-for-hire in between my sweet royalty-based dream books. It’s good training for me as a writer and an extra perk is that it gives me quick cash to pay my bills.

So, how do you land a work-for-hire book contract? If you haven’t yet had many books published, start with small publishers. Step out of your favorite genre and look for something you think you can write rather than for something that you want to write. Get out of your box and look around at what’s out there for work-for-hire writers.

Sunday School curriculum, school library books on animals or science or personal profiles, craft or puzzle books, recipes books, gift books, books about pet care, how-to books. Look for books that don’t make it to the New York Times best-seller list but are written to meet the everyday needs of ordinary people.

Google their publishers and look them up in market guides. Search the publishers’ websites for information about how to contact them for work-for-hire projects. It might take some searching. Often, first find a little link and click “Contact us” and then click another little link that says “Submissions.” When you find an actual editor’s name, only contact those who list an e-mail address. State simply in your initial e-mail that you are interested in writing for their work-for-hire projects. Tell them you’d be interested in sending them a writing sample.

One thing I’ve noticed is that some work-for-hire publishers ask for a writing sample. I’ve sent these in and don’t land a contract. I think it’s because what I’ve already written doesn’t match the style they are looking for. So instead, I tell the editor that I’d prefer sending in an original writing sample that I write for a topic and series she’d like to give me. Then I’m writing something for her exact need and she can better see if it’s what she’s looking for.

So–have some fun! Go out there and start a new journey today. Make it your goal to land a work-for-hire contract! And then another!


  1. Nancy – I love your ‘just do it!’ attitude. It is exactly what I need…to get out of my head and put pen to paper. Thanks!

  2. I’m so glad you’re getting inspired, Carol! I’m hoping to interview some “work-for-hire” authors in the days ahead to share several success stories, too!

  3. Nancy,
    I, too, LOVE your down-to-business, no nonsense approach as opposed to the “fairy tale castle wanna-be-a-writer” refrain we hear way too often. Well said! And you’ve proved over and over that it works!

  4. Thanks, Marge! I still enjoy my fairy tale castle dreams, but while I’m waiting for them to come true, it sure feels good to get stuff published on a regular basis.

  5. Nancy, when I read your posts, I believe I can do most anything. Now to put it into practice!

  6. You can, Gloria! I’ve seen your writing and it’s good. Go for it!

  7. Nancy, I just love reading your blog. Just a thought, but would you consider writing about resumes? What does a writer’s resume look like? I have all kinds of things that I’ve done, some are writing related and others aren’t. What do you put in and what do you leave out?


  8. Thanks a lot, Doraine! And what a great idea!!!! Yes, I’ll give some thought about the resume and will definitely post something about this topic as soon as I gather my thoughts together. Thanks for suggesting it.

  9. Nancy,

    I totally agree with you. As a first grade teacher I am always making up my own review questions for the students. While waiting to hear back about two manuscripts for some novels, I decided to compile my questions, did some research and sent my manuscript to one of the top educational publisher who accepted my manuscript in three weeks! They asked me to write more! Now I am waiting for three of my workbooks for first, second and third students to come out in spring 09. No royalties but the pay per book is rather nice believe it or not. I am still going to try to get my young adult and my romance novel published.
    I feel as if now I have my foot in the door.

  10. Congratulations on your success! What a wonderful way to progress as a writer while you’re still working on your manuscripts from the heart.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: