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 Royalty image from somewhere on Pinterest.


Ever audition for anything? If you’re a musical artist, perhaps you’ve auditioned for an orchestra, a band, a choir, or some other venue. Perhaps as a visual artist, you’ve auditioned for illustration, animation, or Web design work. Or maybe you’re an actor who regularly makes the rounds of auditions for plays, commercials, or movie gigs.


Writers, especially freelance writers, also have to audition. Like for work-for-hire gigs. That’s what I’ve been doing a lot lately. (Querying an agent or publisher about a manuscript is another form of auditioning. Been there, done that recently, too.)

If you’re unclear about the notion of work-for-hire projects in the book publishing world (and I shouldn’t assume that everyone knows all about it), in general, this is a contract you sign for a project that nets you a one-time fee, rather than an advance on a royalty. For example, fiction, nonfiction, ghostwriting—you name it. Some work-for-hire projects (but not all, mind you) have led to others that paid an advance. This happened to me awhile ago when I co-wrote a book with a friend. (Another post on someone who auditioned for a writing project can be found here.)


Um, this is not exactly what I mean.
But I couldn’t resist posting this picture.

Even though someone recommended me as a possible book writer or regular article contributor, and I have experience in, say, writing books for kids ages 4–8, I still had to audition by submitting a writing sample to the editor or project manager working for a publishing house or book packager. This is a very humbling process. I have much more respect now for actors, illustrators, and musicians who go through many, many auditions. Which means they might hear “no” a lot. But you have to wade through a lot of “no’s” before you get to the yeses.

After two of my latest auditions, I was told, “Submit a rewrite.” Sounds promising, right? I have a second chance to make good. Perhaps the rewrite phase can be compared to an acting “callback.” I burned the midnight oil to finish two rewrites. Which is why I didn’t post on Monday.

Preparing for other auditions (writing, querying) is the best way I know to pass the time as I wait for the results of other “callbacks.” Well, it beats my usual coping mechanism: consuming mass quantities of chocolate.


Does taking on a work-for-hire project mean I’ve given up on the projects I’ve initiated? Nope. But it is a way to gain an income and continue doing what I enjoy doing: writing.

For what, if anything, have you auditioned?

For what, if anything, are you waiting these days?

Audition sign from Work-for-hire sign from Pinterest. Callback sign from