Dear Miss Snark,
I've written five guidebooks for an independent publisher as "work for hire". I visited the locations, lived on a bowl of watery rice a day for months, slept in a cardboard box underneath the viaduct, wrote all the book (except the introduction), took all the photos, and sent prompt dispatches via carrier pigeon. As it was work for hire, the editors' names are on the front. Yeah, I know, that's what work for hire is. My name is inside the front cover, along with the other minions who did the layout, and made the coffee. I'm called a researcher.
All was cozy and huggy, until, when the fifth book was published, they stopped paying me. To cut a long story short, they're struggling against bankruptcy, and I had to find an attorney to get me some money. So, it's safe to say I'm not exactly their favorite person. And I'd like to set Killer Yapp on them.
However, now I'm pitching for other guidebook writing opportunities. I've got the experience in buckets, and I obviously give the names of the Publishers From Hell as my previous publishing credits. But, so far, no luck.
How do I get around the fact that if they google the titles, there is NO mention of me in connection with these books, other than on my own website? I seriously doubt that the Publishers From Hell would give me a reference, or even acknowledge that I worked for them. That's assuming anyone can find them. My attorney's still trying. I've photocopied the inside front cover that does have my name, and any cover letter I send includes a URL where
they can see it. I've cut my fingers off to avoid bad-mouthing them in public forums.
What's the best way to address this situation in my cover letters?
You've got the correct phrase right there: work for hire, credited as a researcher. Agents and publishers understand this means your name isn't on the cover. Most work for hire happens that way.
Just make sure you say those exact words in your letter and you'll be fine.
Not badmouthing the publisher is also a very very smart move.
You can also have the books on your website with covers, listing you as "researcher". Don't state you wrote the books cause if the only place someone sees that is your website, they'll wonder.
One way around that is to talk on your website about the story behind the story. What was living under a viaduct like? How did you write? Use some of the stuff that didn't make it into the book, particularly photos. It will be interesting, show your writing style and substantiate your position as the writer. Of course since this is work for hire, the publisher owns the rights to all this stuff, but s/he'd have to come out of lurkdom to sue you so that's a bonus as well.
Killer Yapp is available for drive by chewings but he does require a limousine, bodyguards in leather pants, and retains all film and reality TV show rights.