Today, I’d like to join up again with Nancy Sanders to have her continue our conversation about work-for-hire vs. royalty writing.  Nancy writes primarily for children, but work-for-hire and royalty contracts are available in both children’s and adult markets.

Often, writers don’t consider work-for-hire contracts when they think of writing a book, yet they can offer many benefits over royalty contracts. Today, Nancy will discuss what some of those benefits are.

By the way, I must apologize that on my first post of Nancy’s interview, I had some interesting tech problems and was not able to add Nancy’s picture to my post. This time, it seems to have worked!

Here’s Nancy…

Nancy I. Sanders

It’s nice to be back on your blog again, Renee! Thanks so much for having me join your readers and share my perspective on work-for-hire versus royalty contracts. I’ve signed lots of both, so I’ve had experience on both sides of the page. Today I wanted to share about some of the benefits work-for-hire contracts can offer a writer.

There can be key benefits to work-for-hire. One is that most work-for-hire assignments have fixed guidelines and a pre-arranged format writers are required to follow. Some writers prefer this. Editors who work with writers on these assignments also realize there is a learning curve for those who are new to their publishing house. They’re often willing to help and train newbies—an added bonus! It can feel like signing up to take a writing course, but being paid to take it.

Other benefits are that you learn to write what an editor wants and work on a tight schedule. Plus, it helps acquire published credits. These are essential ingredients of building a successful, solid writing career.

The one main concern you want to be careful of when signing a work-for-hire contract, however, is to never agree to write about something that is near and dear to your heart. Don’t sell all rights to the picture book about your nephew’s first birthday party or a middle grade novel series with your twin daughters as the main characters. Save those books for royalty-based contracts where the copyright is registered in your own name.

To get started with work-for-hire contracts, most publishers will expect to receive a query letter stating that you’re interested in being considered as an author for a potential assignment. List any published credits you already have. They’ll also need to see samples of your work, but if you haven’t yet written in their specific genre, mention in your query that you’re interested in preparing sample text for their review for a potential upcoming new project. That way, you can fine tune your writing sample directly to their in-house style and format. And if they like your sample, you just might be offered the contract to write that project.

[I’d like to add here that I believe wfh assignments are an excellent way to break in to a publishing house. In my opinion, it’s much easier if you are given an assignment and told how it is to be written than to try to break in as a new author by sending out proposals in hopes something will catch someone’s attention.

I realize that some writers hate the structure of wfh and would rather be free to create the way they want to, but even with royalty publishing, you still have to adhere to the editor’s guidelines and format.]

Thanks, Nancy for shining the light on work-for-hire vs. royalty contracts!

-Bestselling and award-winning author Nancy I. Sanders has signed numerous work-for-hire books as well as royalty-based contracts. She is the author of the ground-breaking new book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career, Award-winning Finalist of the National Best Books 2009 Awards.

For today’s post I’d like to bring back author Nancy I. Sanders. Nancy has written dozens of work-for-hire as well as royalty-based books, so I thought she would be a great person to help explain not only the differences with these two types of publishing but also the pros and cons.

Please welcome Nancy back to my blog…

It’s great to be visiting your blog today, Renee! Thanks for asking me to participate in a discussion about work-for-hire contracts versus royalty contracts.

Many passionate opinions abound as to whether or not a writer should sign a work-for-hire contract. A work-for-hire contract basically means that you agree to write a manuscript and give away all rights to it. Your manuscript becomes the property of the publisher and as such they can do whatever they choose with it. Many writers feel passionately that work-for-hire contracts should never be signed.

On the other hand, some writers love the world of work-for-hire publishing. Assignments can come at a steady pace. Deadlines are fast and furious. Nice paychecks arrive in the mail on a frequent, regular basis. These writers usually don’t like royalty-based contracts because they’ve learned from experience that it may take years for cash to trickle in from royalties on a book that doesn’t sell well.

Work-for-hire can be a great source of quick cash in the world of publishing, but it might be to your advantage to establish a balance of work-for-hire contracts along with royalty-based contracts. In between your work-for-hire contracts, take time to query publishers who offer royalty-based contracts. If you can land contracts for several royalty-based contracts each year, along with several work-for-hire contracts, it can help you financially in the long run. The beauty of writing royalty-based contracts, other than the all-important reason that you get to keep the copyright to your own work, is that over the years, as you build up your published credits, the royalties start adding up as well.

Stop back tomorrow and we’ll discuss some of the benefits—yes there are actually benefits!—of signing work-for-hire contracts.

Nancy I. Sanders is the author of the ground-breaking new book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career, Award-winning Finalist of the National Best Books 2009 Awards.

Today, I’d like to feature children’s author, Nancy I. Sanders. Nancy’s latest book, America’s Black Founders, has just hit the shelves…just in time for Black History Month.

Nancy is finishing up a virtual tour for her new book, and I am privileged to be a part of it. You can check out the tour here, and learn more about Nancy here.

When talking with Nancy, I focused on one aspect of her book, which was the many activities she had to incorporate.

Renee: Your new book, America’s Black Founders, features 21 activities. What significance are these activities to this era in history, and how did you go about writing them?

Nancy I. Sanders

Nancy: Each activity holds significance surrounding the history of America’s Black Founding Fathers and Mothers. For instance, there’s a recipe for Pepper Pot Soup. This was a hearty dish that George Washington requested be cooked for the troops at Valley Forge.  There were many black troops who suffered along with the other patriots at Valley Forge that winter, so this is a dish they probably ate.

Another activity encourages students to “pen a patriotic poem.” This activity is included in the book because of Lemuel Haynes, a black minuteman who marched with his company from Granville, Massachusetts, to join the Siege of Boston. Lemuel Haynes and his company camped outside of Boston.

While there, he was so moved by the account of the battle of Lexington that he wrote a stirring ballad about the event, called, “The Battle of Lexington.” His handwritten poem from 1776 is still in existence today! I located the poem and included the image of it in my book. I encourage students to follow Lemuel Hayne’s example and write a poem themselves to honor a great moment in history.

My book, America’s Black Founders, is part of a series of books called the “For Kids” series from Chicago Review Press. Most books in this series have 21 activities in them—that’s one of the characteristics that sets this series apart. The activities in this series must be of significant historic value. They’re referred to as “historic-based activities.”

I researched historical sites and explored the types of activities they did with students visiting their sites. I’ve written a number of activities for other books of mine. Usually, once I determine an activity has value, I’ll do it myself. Even though the step-by-step process to make these historic-based activities might not be exactly how they were made, the process is “based” on the real activity, and students “feel” like they’re making something real.

I often take a lot of pictures of each step of making the activity. For instance, when I stitched together a fanner, or basket used to winnow rice, I took photos of starting the fanner, making knots, and adding rows to the basket. I took photos of the fanner on a table for each stage of the process. I also took photos of holding the fanner and the needle in my hands to actually show students how they should hold it.

When I submitted my manuscript, I also submitted all these photographs. Many publishers ask for these photographs when activities are featured with a manuscript, so now I just automatically take the photographs when I make the sample activities and submit them. The publishers are always grateful to have them!

Be sure to stop by Nancy’s web site to check out all of her numerous children’s books.

To follow up on my most recent post, I wanted to finish my thoughts about what to consider when starting a critique group. The first three considerations were to select the genre your group will be working in, to decide whether your group is an in-person group or an online group, and to actually find the appropriate members for your group.

Today, I’ll finish with two more thoughts:

1. How many people should be in your group?

I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules to this, and you may have to do some trial and error to see what works best. My Picture This picture book group has eight, and we work to keep it at eight, so if someone has to drop out, we’ll scramble to find someone new. Eight works for us because each person submits every two months.

Considerations when you’re trying to decide on size will be: how often do you want people to submit their work, and how many is too many when it comes to critiquing your work? I’ve been in groups larger than eight, and I’ve found that having too many people can really slow the process down, although you then have the advantage of having more eyes look through all the manuscripts.

Bottom line answer: I don’t know! It’s truly whatever works best for your group. If you decide to have only a few people, you may find yourself stretched to get your work in on time, unless you have large gaps between submissions.

2. Form some loose guidelines for how your group will operate. This is simply to keep everyone on track and to let members know upfront what is expected in terms of participation. It’s not to create a critique group police state.

Simple guidelines that tell members exactly how to submit their work (if you’re sending online), when to submit (create a submission schedule that carries you through six months to a year), and that offers some critiquing tips is all very helpful, especially to writers who may be new to critique groups.

If you’re meeting in person, it’s best to send the manuscripts to the group ahead of time so that when you meet, everyone has had a chance to look through the drafts and write down their comments. You may want to include some guidelines as to how this process will work. Guidelines will help members be better prepared and will create a smoother process for your group overall.

If you’ve started a critique group or have been a “founding member” of one, what tips or advice can you share?

Be sure to stop back next Monday, February 15th, as I will be hosting award-winning children’s author Nancy I. Sanders on her virtual book tour for her new release, America’s Black Founders.

See ya then!