susanwrites wrote last week about her struggle to turn down work-for-hire projects. I SO related to everything she said. I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of work-for-hire work come my way recently (and these are, for the most part, GOOD work-for-hire projects that pay well and are actually pretty fun to do!). But I’ve accepted so many of them that I’m having a hard time getting new books of my own written. There are only so many hours in a day…and it’s a constant struggle figuring out what my real goal as a children’s book author is.

I always thought my goal was to “make a living as a children’s book author.” Well, I made a good living last year…but probably half my income was work-for-hire projects. Which is fine (it wasn’t that long ago that I would’ve been THRILLED to get this much work)…but I’m just starting to build a name for myself as a children’s book author…so it feels like I should cut back on the work-for-hire and spend more time on my own writing. So late last year, I decided I was going to turn down all work-for-hire projects in 2006 and just concentrate on my own writing (because my real goal is to “making a living WRITING MY OWN CHILDREN’S BOOKS.”) That lasted all of five minutes. Because 1) I like to make money; 2) I like that people come to me with work; 3) each individual project doesn’t take very long; 4) it’s good to keep these possibilities open in case I find myself in a position where I actually NEED to make more money; and 5) most of these projects are FUN.

So now I have the opportunity to do four different projects (2 classroom plays and 2 second-grade mysteries). Again…fun projects (though I’m still trying to get more information on the mysteries…this is a company I haven’t actually written for before). Good pay…I could hire a cleaning lady to come every other week for two years with the money I’d make doing these four projects…which seems like a VERY good use for the money to me, and I would GLADLY accept the assignments if I could get the rest of my family to agree to let me hire a cleaning lady…but those negotiations aren’t going so well. And accepting these assignments is going to set me back on my other projects a bit. So, I don’t know…

What to do…what to do…what to do…

Pros and Cons of Work-for-Hire

8 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Work-for-Hire

  • April 30, 2006 at 5:44 pm
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    Good luck with your decisions! A cleaning lady sounds great to me as I look around and see our normal end-of-weekend clutter šŸ™‚

    How does a person break into this sort of work? It’s mind boggling how much I have to learn about this business!

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    • April 30, 2006 at 6:17 pm
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      Well, first of all, “work-for-hire” is a pretty broad subject…what kind of work-for-hire are you interested in? I have done ghostwriting for popular children’s book series, I’ve written beginning readers and classroom plays for educational publishers, and I’ve done work for testing companies. I have limited experience writing children’s nonfiction work-for-hire (that’s not really my area)…but I know lots of people who have done that…I really can’t talk about work-for-hire outside of children’s publishing…

      BTW, when I say “work-for-hire,” I’m talking about paid assignments that you do according to an editor’s specifications and you’re paid a fair wage for doing…I’m NOT talking about sending a manuscript you’ve poured your soul into to a publisher who turns out to be a work-for-hire publisher rather than a royalties publisher. I will do work-for-hire for someone else when the situation is right (i.e. I’m interested in the project and the “hourly wage” is high enough), but I would NEVER sign a work-for-hire contract on my own work!

      Reply
      • April 30, 2006 at 8:22 pm
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        work for hire

        I know just enough about this to be dangerous, as the saying goes!

        I’d really like to get started with writing easy readers or elementary text book stories/materials. I know Anastasia Suen has a class for the easy readers, but I won’t be able to take that until fall. I just really don’t know where or how to research this–how to find the markets, how to make initial contact, what their requirements are, etc. Would I even have a chance doing this type of writing without an education degree?

        I’m just doing so much reading at this level and will be for several more years (with my kids in that early reading stage) that it seems like a logical step for me.

        I’m hoping I can get one of our local organizations to do a workshop on this topic in the coming year.

        Reply
        • May 1, 2006 at 12:42 pm
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          Re: work for hire

          You don’t need a degree in education — I don’t have one. I started out by writing test passages for Harcourt. How did I find the work in the first place? I answered an ad…I sent them a resume and writing sample, and then they asked me to do a piece on spec. After I did a bunch of passages for them, I answered ads to do the same thing for McGraw Hill and Pearson.

          I started to feel not very good about what I was doing, though…because I don’t like this high stakes testing that has come about as a result of “No Child Left Behind.” So I started to look for other kinds of educational writing opportunities. As an active classroom volunteer, I was pretty familiar with the readers that were used at my son’s school…so I just sent a resume, writing samples and letter of inquiry to some of those publishers. It took a long time to hear back…I don’t think I got an assignment from any of those companies less than a year after I first contacted them. Some came a full two years later!

          I’ve found that the more of this stuff you do, the more you CAN do. I started to build a pretty nice resume, and then over the last few years, I’ve been updating my resume and sending it out again every 6-12 months. Now I get regular calls from several publishers (more than I can handle, really). Like Debby says, the pay’s good…and it does help you grow as a writer.

          Reply
          • May 2, 2006 at 6:10 pm
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            Re: work for hire

            Thanks for taking the time to share all this info!

          • May 2, 2006 at 6:23 pm
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            Re: work for hire

            I hope you got my e-mail…I sent it three times yesterday and the first two came back as undeliverable. I haven’t gotten the third one back yet, so HOPEFULLY it went through…

  • April 30, 2006 at 6:46 pm
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    Oh, the first thing I said to my husband when I took this work-for-hire gig I’m doing right now is that a hunk of the money is going to go to house-cleaning–and he readily agreed.

    Good luck with your own negotiations.

    Reply
  • May 1, 2006 at 1:26 am
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    My every other week cleaning service is the greatest thing in the world. I think I’d rather go hungry than have to clean my toilets again. But maybe that’s just me, who hates cleaning with a fierce, undying passion. For family members who they don’t want a cleaning person hired, show then the broom and the mop and the toilet bowl cleaner, and tell them to go to town with that.

    I’ve done work for hire stuff too, and am sort of going through what you’re going through. It’s definitely impacting how much of my own stuff I can write. But then again, I enjoy it, the pay’s decent, and I feel like it’s helping me be a better writer.

    Reply

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