I’ve never written a book proposal and I don’t have an agent, but I’m the author of more than a dozen non-fiction books for kids. How did I do it? I’m a writer for hire!
Many publishers create certain series, concepts, or titles “in house,” but they often need help doing the dirty work – you know, the writing part of it. So they’ll bring in freelancers who can bring their ideas to life. I’m one of those freelancers.
A typical work-for-hire project looks like this: an editor will reach out to me with a concept and maybe a brief outline or a working title. They’ll ask if I’m interested and available – for the record, I’m always interested and available! From there, I hold a brainstorming session. Then I put together a book map or an outline. Once it’s approved, I start writing.
Some publishers give me an advance plus royalties and others just give me a flat fee for my time. Most of the books I’ve written include my name as the author even though I didn’t come up with the idea. Others were ghostwritten and you’ll never know that I was a part of the process.
As a full-time freelance writer, work-for-hire projects are just one of the ways I bring in an income. As with all good freelance jobs, these kinds of opportunities aren’t listed online. I’ve had to network my way into them. I chatted up one editor after a panel at an SCBWI conference in New York. Another editor reached out to me on LinkedIn. And I was fortunate to have worked for another publisher previously. I left on a good note, and soon after they reached out to me for freelance work.
Work-for-hire projects have always been a great experience for me. I learned about children’s publishing slowly, like wading into the shallow end of the pool instead of cannonballing into the deep end. I’ve made connections with editors, mastered the behind-the-scenes processes, and become a much better writer.
I eventually want to land an agent, get a middle grade novel published, and focus on children’s books full-time. I feel a bit more confident now that I’ve tackled more than a few books. And I’m finally making progress on a fiction manuscript – my first “Very Own Idea.” But if there’s one thing I’ve learned along the way, it’s this: I’ll never feel prepared enough. It looks like I’ll have to close my eyes and take that leap anyway. Cannonball!!!
Aubre Andrus is a children’s book author with a dozen books published by Scholastic, American Girl, and Capstone. She loves attending the SCBWI Los Angeles County events as well as the SCBWI conferences in NY and LA. View her website at www.aubreandrus.com or follow her on Twitter @aubreandrus.