Ready for Work for Hire?


Over the years, people have stated to me that they want to do certain types of editorial work. These statements usually occur after the person hears of a project I’m working on—copy editing; line editing; developmental editing; indexing; ghostwriting; devotional writing; fiction writing; nonfiction picture book writing; curriculum—whatever.

Wanting to do something and being ready to do it are two completely different things.

What does that mean? you might ask. If I want to do something, that means I’m ready to do it.

Not necessarily, if you don’t fully know what you’re getting yourself into. Forewarned is forearmed as they say.

Work for hire, being hired to perform a specific task, has certain demands. Since work for hire is a broad topic, I’ll narrow it to writing. Many publishers hire freelancers to write series they have developed, curriculum projects, etc. You’ve seen many of these online and at stores like Walmart and Target. For many of these projects, you either have to know an editor who is hiring or have an agent who can get you in. But sometimes publishers cast a wide net and advertise that they are looking for writers.

So you want to be a freelancer? Ready to stick your oars into the waters of work for hire? Here’s a quiz to test that readiness.

• When it comes to writing, I like to have total say over whatever I write. True False
• If I have written something, when the final product comes out, I want to see pretty much what I’ve written—nothing (or not much) altered. True False
• I see deadlines as guidelines, rather than hard-and-fast rules. For example, if the deadline is Monday, I have met the deadline if I get the work to the editor by 9 p.m. True False
• If I have written anything, I want to receive a royalty for it. True False
• I cannot write for someone else’s vision. True False

If you answered True to most of the above, work for hire might not be the direction to steer your boat toward. Usually, a flat rate is offered for the work. This is not a royalty contract (for which a certain amount in advance is given). Once paid, that’s all you get, even if what you’ve written sells hundreds of thousands of copies. Also, since you are not the copyright holder, whoever holds the copyright has the right to make whatever changes are deemed necessary.

On some occasions I looked at the finished product and barely recognized a single word I wrote.

Welcome to the world of work for hire. Still, I have worked on many fun projects. Since all of them were done under my given name (L. Marie being a pen name) or someone else’s name (in regard to ghostwriting), don’t expect a list of them here.

As for why I brought up the deadline issue, many editors are sticklers about the deadline, which means handing over the manuscript during the workday (not after five p.m.). Some editors are a little more lenient, especially if you have an excuse for being late (illness, family emergency, etc.).

So that’s just a small taste of the work-for-hire life. I didn’t get into the tax aspect, because that’s a whole ’nother ballgame.

Now Hiring from shareicon.net. Royalty image from somewhere on Pinterest.

29 thoughts on “Ready for Work for Hire?

  1. Yes, I think it’s easy to romanticise the idea of jobs connected with writing just because we all love books and reading so much. When I stopped working full-time, I toyed with the idea of doing a proof-reading or editing course. But then I realised how much time I’d be spending reading, perhaps, not very good books, and how tactful you have to be while still getting your message across – tact isn’t always my main attribute! So I decided I’d rather stay an amateur reader…

    • 😄 😄 You would have been a great editor, because you are very observant and savvy. But some of the books probably would have driven you to consume more chocolate than is good for you. (Perhaps that might drive you toward editing.)

  2. This is interesting. I’ve never wanted to write a book, writing a blog is enough for me. BUT I like knowing how the system works. I cannot imagine handing in a project after a specific deadline, but then I’m conscientious. Thanks for sharing this here.

      • L. Marie, that I might do. I have no desire to write fiction, nor do I want to go through the emotional process of writing a memoir. I do have some cute old letters I wrote as girl when I was around age 12-13. Maybe I could mix them in with current blog posts!

  3. Thanks for teaching me something new. I had no idea you could be hired to write something that has already been developed by the publisher. BTW, I took an editing course at the college here thinking I might offer services to edit for other authors. I thought it was going to be much like what I was already doing with my critique group. Umm, nope. It was much more technical. I decided it wasn’t for me. Our writer’s group edits for content, making sure the entire plot is coming together smoothly. We also work on awkwardly worded sentences that jump out at us. That’s about it. Oh, and we have a retired English teacher in the group who catches dangling participles and comma placements.
    Good luck with the freelancing and enjoy the weather this weekend.

    • Hi, Lori. My critique group offers the same kind of attention to manuscripts if that is the type of feedback solicited. But editing professionally entails a lot of responsibility, including fact checking. So I can understand being reticent to get into that.

      And yes, publishers hire writers for IP content, especially since their own people don’t have time to write said material. 😊

  4. Your craft. Your passion. Intertwined into your life’s work.
    That to me is the romantic part of it all…Bottom line: it requires lots of time, dedication and hard work to achieve quality and professionalism. You, L.Marie, are a shining example of living the life of a ‘creative’.
    peace

    • Thank you, Laura! 😄 I’m sure as a composer/musician you get the same hopeful stare from others who are inspired to leap into music. It’s hard to discuss the hard work involved, because that is not romantic sounding.

  5. I admire all your work helping other authors and publishers shine, L. Marie. It’s HARD work.

    I’m so thankful for beta readers, developmental editors, and copyeditors who helped make my memoir presentable. The beta readers did me a favor; I paid the editors. Recently, I put my heart and soul into reading a draft for an author/friend. She appreciated my thorough, close reading, which I didn’t charge her for. I’m sure she’ll do the same for me, sort of a quid pro quo arrangement.

    Doing such work full-time would require heart and soul. As I’ve read in comments above, this work is not for the fainthearted. As I said, I do understand and appreciate the hard work you describe here. Kudos to you, my friend, and a special HUG for all the hard work! ((( )))

    • Thank you, Marian! 😀 As with many jobs, you gotta love what you do.
      How nice that you could read your friend’s book and give good feedback. Does that mean you’re writing another book since you mentioned your hope of your friend reciprocating?

  6. Before I started writing, I was a painter. I did Chinese brush painting and batik painting. I had some ideas for children’s books. So while I was living in the Philippines, I took a correspondence course from the Children’s Institute of Literature. I thought I might possibly be able to write and illustrate a children’s book. Sometimes we have ideas that are not only beyond our ability but also beyond the rules of the business. I found out that publishers like to find their own illustrators. Anyway, I dropped that idea and took regular writing classes and eventually an MBA.

    Now I have experience writing and technical knowledge, but still, for my novel When in Vanuatu, I hired a developmental editor, and my publisher required a proofreader and a copy editor. Neither of them found much to change, but they knew the requirements of this particular publisher and followed them. Every job needs a professional who knows what she’s doing.

    • They probably had the style guide of the publisher, plus the Chicago Manual of Style. It is helpful to have a professional!
      I’m sorry your illustration dream didn’t work out, though I’m still holding out hope that it will someday.

  7. The information you have shared is very interesting, probably the most honest discussion about work for hire that I have read. Very insightful and helpful

  8. Great post, L! So many people do not understand what a hustle it is to freelance. I answered False to all of the statements, but I’m not ready to work for hire. And it’s not just because I’m newly retired 😉 I honestly don’t have the discipline, not now or even 20 years ago when I entertained the idea of being a freelance editor. Now, will you be writing a post on taxes? I find that issue so intimidating.

  9. Freeeeee lance , editor : you teach me about this . And what about the author of the book?
    I have an american friend via Word press who is “editor ” .In France an editor is a society who prints and sells books presented by the authors . So a free lancer is someone workng for the editor and improving the writing of the author ? I am a bit lost, Linda .:)
    Love ❤
    Michel

    • I am sorry to confuse you, Michel. A freelancer is someone who is hired to edit or write books, but is not a salaried employee of the publishing house. Instead, this person signs a contract to work on one project at a time.

  10. It doesn’t look like my first comment posted. But, yes, I’ve done a lot of write for hire. It’s great if you’re good with deadlines, because some of these gigs (especially for big educational publishers) pay very well.

    • I’m sorry to hear that, Lyn. Will check. I have been having issues with the new computer, files, etc. And WordPress is stuck on the new version. I prefer the option of choosing the Classic Editor. I don’t see that option with this.

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