How to Be a Great Work-for-Hire Author

work-for-hire authors

By Sara E. Hoffmann, School & Library Series Managing Editor

People often ask me how they can get started as a school & library work-for-hire author—or, once they’ve gotten started, how to ensure they’ll keep on getting projects in the future. They wonder what qualities editors look for when we’re deciding whom to approach with writing assignments.

Smooth, engaging writing? Check. Evidence of top-notch research skills? Natch. Adherence to any specs we’ve provided for the writer? But of course!

But there’s one quality I think doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Even editors sometimes consider this quality a secondary thing, a nice-to-have “soft skill” as opposed to something that’s truly critical when it comes to landing and keeping writing gigs. For me, however, it’s exactly that. It’s what I like to call: the skill of letting go.

By this I mean: A willingness to go with the flow when it comes to editorial revisions. An understanding that many factors come into play when editors make the editing decisions we do, and so compromise is often necessary.

You see, in any one edit, a Lerner editor may be revising the text so it matches:

  • series guidelines
  • reading level needs
  • market needs
  • specific customer requests

…and this is just to name a small handful of things.

We do all this to make our books the best they can be—to help make sure the newly fluent reader picking up a Bumba Books title encounters writing that sparks their interest and that challenges them without being overwhelming.

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Or that the student turning to a Lightning Bolt title to learn about deciduous forests finds the information they need to write a report.

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The skill of letting go may not get as much attention as the ability to write dazzling prose or to delve into a topic with the investigation chops of Sherlock Holmes. But when it comes to creating a successful book, it’s essential. To call it anything other than a talent—indeed, a special gift, just as any aptitude for artistry and writing is a gift—is to give it short shrift.

For more nonfiction writing tips, read Millbrook Press Editorial Director Carol Hinz’s post on the element of surprise in nonfiction. 

5 thoughts on “How to Be a Great Work-for-Hire Author

  1. Jennifer Lane Wilson

    What is the best way to submit an application and writing samples to be considered for non-fiction work-for-hire jobs within your School & Library series? Thanks much!

    1. saraehoffmann

      Hi Jennifer! You can submit your resume, as well as previously-unpublished, K-6 nonfiction writing samples of about 2-4 paragraphs (or two to four printed pages), to info@lernerbooks.com. Should we find the materials to be a good match for upcoming work-for-hire assignments, one of our acquiring editors will be in touch with you. Thank you for your interest!

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