Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Getting Started In Educational Publishing Work for Hire

Last week I provided an overview of educational publishing. Today I’ll go into more detail about how to get “work for hire” (WFH). This article was originally published in Children’s Book Writer. Publishing professionals mentioned may have changed jobs, so please do your research before submitting any work.

To be considered for WFH assignments, most publishers request a resume, a list of previous publications, and a writing sample. At ABDO, Hedlund says, “We want to know what you are interested in writing about and what makes you qualified to write for that area – education or avid interests are helpful.”

Bender Richardson White accepts submissions from potential authors, but networking can be more valuable than writing samples. “Overall, I use authors I have met and know,” Bender says, “those that come as recommendations, and those that I track down and get to know. At book fairs, book exhibitions, and writers’ conferences such as SCBWI, I am always on the lookout for new authors to extend our range. For specialist subjects, I will seek out authors via the Yahoo Group NFforKids, or by reviewing books on the market and tracking down the authors via the internet.” Note – Bender is one of the organizers of the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference, June 10-12, at Iona College, New Rochelle, New York!

When writing for a series, individual titles must fit perfectly with the overall series, so writers may be asked to write a targeted sample. “I definitely like to see a sample at whatever grade level we are asking for before we go forward with a project,” Heller says. “If there is an outline available, I ask them to write off that, just to make sure the writer really has a grasp on the voice and tone for the individual project. It also helps to have a list of some previous work-for-hire experience to see what might be a good fit.”

Building up to Steady Work

Breaking in can be a challenge, but a successful first project can lead to steady work. “We are lucky to have a core group of writers that have worked on many of our series for some time,” Heller says. “We consult with other editors as well to see if they have worked with good and reliable freelance writers.”

Whether writing nonfiction or fiction, the best work for hire writers are flexible and have a broad range of skills. “We love it if a work-for-hire writer is able to write across age-ranges,” Heller says. “It opens up more possibilities for both them and us if they can transition from chapter-book to middle-grade, for example.”

Duke shares additional WFH tips. “Be willing to revise and do what’s necessary and what the editor asks promptly. Meet your deadlines. Don’t be needy or a pest. Be professional and make your emails short and to the point. Ask questions early on if there’s something you need to know about the assignment. Make the subject line of emails specific. Make the editor’s work easier in any way you can by doing your job well.”

Why write for hire?
  • Get published and release more books
  • Hone your writing skills
  • Find new opportunities
  • Write on diverse topics
  • Get to know the editors and work with them
  • Books are published quickly
  • Most companies pay quickly
  • Opens the door to school visits for pay

Why Not?
  • Short deadlines (often 1 to 6 weeks) require fast writing
  • Detailed research and footnoting required
  • You may need to provide an index, glossary, captions, and sometimes photo research
  • You don’t control titles or content
  • It takes time away from your own trade writing
  • Usually no royalties

  • Writing Children’s Nonfiction Books for the Educational Market, by Laura Purdie Salas
  • Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career, by Nancy I. Sanders
  • The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) provides a listing of educational publishers to members. 
  • The US copyright office has legal information on “Works Made for Hire” online:

Stop by next Wednesday for a look at another kind of work for hire, writing for standardized tests – or subscribe to get posts automatically and never miss a post. You can use the Subscribe or Follow by E-Mail buttons to the right, or add to Feedly or another reader.

Chris Eboch is the author of You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Order for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

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