1.15.2006

More on Book Packagers

Hello Miss Snark,

I'm an editor at a packager. A while back, you had a question from an author about how work done for a packager (or any kind of work-for-hire) looks among writing credits. Earning my eternal gratitude, you said that work-for-hire can only help a writer.

I wanted to take this one step further. My company develops our projects in-house (we specialize in children's fiction series), and once a project is deemed sell-able (or has in fact already been sold) the time comes when we need a good, reliable, talented writer to attach to that series. But trends being what they are, more and more publishers want us to hire authors who have an established body of work--talent they can trust.

Of course, this often leaves me in a bit of a Catch-22. In the past, writers used to gain experience and amp up their writing credits by doing work-for-hire. Authors who already have experience, having published their own work, don't necessarily want to do work-for-hire, no matter how much creative control they might be given. But it's hard for me to "sell" a newer author to a publisher, who wants to see experience, and it's difficult for me to find parties with experience who are at all interested.

Now, Miss Snark, you normally work in one direction: taking an author's work and finding the right editor. Recently I've been trying to do the reverse: contact agents and find authors. Unfortunately, many agents are less than receptive (not all, some have been fabulous!). Of course, I completely understand that original work is more prestigious than work-for-hire. But isn't there a flip side as well? Work is better than no work. And I can't help but feel that hiring an established, talented author is good for everyone: the writer has work, their name out there on more projects, and the publisher is happy. And a happy publishers is a happy everyone else.

So, here's where my question comes in:

What are your thoughts on editors approaching agents this way? And what's a good way to get an agent to be receptive? I'm really curious to hear your snark-filled opinion on this one.

Thanks so much for your time!
~A dedicated snarkling
(wait...can I be a snarkling if I work for the other side? I really hope so.)


Of course you can be a snarkling! Snarklings are readers of the blog. It's an opt out feature: you are until you demonstrate you are something else, like a nitwit. So far, so good.

Here's the scoop on book packagers. I can't make much money with them, so they're pretty much at the low end of the priority list. My authors are merrily typing away on books that will generate ongoing revenue for them (yay) and me (double yay). Stopping to do a work for hire piece isn't my first choice.

That said, kids book writers are a different kettle of fish. They can do more books cause there are fewer words (it's not a direct ratio at all though....it's HARD to write fewer words).

If you're looking for writers I'd look in groups with lots of writers first:
Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators,
Authors Guild,
Freelance Editorial Association,
Womens National Book Association.

I'm all for writers doing this, but I'm even more in favor of me getting paid.

9 comments:

Sherryl said...

It's great to hear from an editor at a book packager of children's books. I did a sample for a UK packager last year and it was fun (the series got shelved, unfortunately). I know several other children's/YA writers with 20+ books to their credit who, like me, would be happy to write for a packager. We have the experience, the skills and know the market, and we like to pay our bills too. Often the problem is finding out how to submit, who to approach etc. Thanks for the website link, Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

Ms./Mr. Book Packager:

Please put your contact info up or provide a link to your company's website so that writers can contact you.

Kelly G said...

Most of us have to work somewhere, and write the rest of the time (even published authors). I - God help me - edit a rural magazine. Two weeks of the month I write about goats and tractors, the other two I write about pirate adventures (or whatever) for kids. Don't laugh. It's wacky, but it pays the rent.
But anything that helps you get better at writing has got to be useful, and learning the discipline of writing to order, whether it's kids' series or journalism, will help people sharpen their skills. Just being edited for the first time can help enormously.
But I guess you can't expect agents to help out too much, since they aren't getting any percentage and their client isn't getting any PR.

Simon Haynes said...

the series got shelved, unfortunately

Surely that's the BEST thing that can happen to a series of books?

Sorry, I couldn't help making another daft comment.

Christine said...

Uh, yeah, don't leave all us children's writers hanging!

I never thought I'd like to write what someone else told me to write, until I tried a story for an anthology with a list of guidelines. It much easier and more fun than I thought it would be.

So I'm game.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

One possibility if the book packager is looking for more experienced authors: Does your contract need to be work-for-hire, or could you get by with a less restrictive contract, like buying all rights?

E is for Editrix said...

Ms. Book Packager here. I just wanted to add, should Miss Snark or another agent see this, that more and more of our authors are coming through agents, and more and more have royalty contracts. Almost none of my series are flat fee anymore. Maybe that'll sweeten the pot.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I've seriously been looking for a good book packager to write for. Can you post a link to your site, or give contact information. I'm a multi-published author and would like this opportunity to make extra money. Thanks!

McKoala said...

Further to Kelly...my day job is writing. Not fiction, but ads and marketing materials. Collateral, I think you would call it in the US. It's more fun than most other jobs that I can think of.

As well as working with words every day, this has the additional benefit of meaning that I have no issue with writing to a brief/editing my own work according to guidelines. Fiction mag editors love this, and it recently led to a four-part serial for me - the editor wanted something on a particular topic and knew I could do it. Paid well too.