Work-Made-For-Hire Writing: Five Reasons Writers Should Do It


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Over the years I've written several articles about Work Made for Hire contracts (follow this link to see some of them). Many writers run away from such work and refuse it. These people believe they are protecting their rights and want to publish royalty projects instead of selling all their rights to someone else.
My literary attorney has told me that I've signed more Work Made for Hire agreements than anyone she knows. I've also been a working writer in the publishing community for decades. The truth is sometimes it is better to earn the money upfront from a publisher rather than hope for royalties (which may or may not happen).
In this article, I want to give five reasons to write Work Made For Hire projects. I call them projects because they are not always books. Sometimes they are articles or white papers or any number of other types of writing. 
1. You Get Immediate Work. Often in the publishing world, you have to write your article or book with the hope that you will find someone to publish it. With Work Made For Hire, you have found paying writing work which you can do right away—and get payment.
2. You Get Paid for Your Work. Depending on what you negotiate in a Work Made For Hire agreement, often you get half of the money upfront. This fact helps your cash flow as a writer—especially those of us who write full-time.
3. You Can Build Your Reputation and Get a Writing Credit. Some Work Made For Hire is ghostwriting (no credit). On other occasions, my writing is credited. Sometimes this work appears in the tiny print on the copyright page. Other times my name appears on the title page of the book and not the cover. On other books where I've co-authored the book for someone else, my name appears on the cover as “with W. Terry Whalin.” To the publishing world, this “with” credit indicates I wrote the book. If you are new in the publishing world, this credit can be an important part of building your reputation in the publishing world.
Several of the children's books that I have published were Work Made For Hire. The finished children's books had high quality illustrations and were a beautiful finished product. In some cases my name only appears on the copyright line (small print) but in other cases, my name appears on the cover. How it turns out for you is all about watching the details of the agreement. Several of my devotional books which I wrote as a Work Made For Hire have sold over 60,000 copies (which is a great credit for any writer—and something I use from time to time). 
4. Provides A Way to Work for a Publisher. For many new writers, it's a challenge to publish with traditional publishers for your own work. Sometimes publishers need a writer to complete a manuscript in a short amount of time. Years ago I wrote a book for a publisher in a short amount of time and exceeded their deadline. My name is in the small print on the cover of this book and it continues to sell. When I checked a few years ago, this book had sold over 100,000 copies. As the other examples in this article, I wrote this book as a work made for hire and haven't been paid anything additional but it is a great credit for a writer.
5. In a hard environment, provides a way to seize an opportunity. I know some publishers are making cautious decisions about what to publish (for a number of reasons including the pandemic). This caution has made it hard for writers. Work Made For Hire is writing that will always be needed and is a way for you to seize the opportunity, get published and get paid. If you find it, my encouragement is for you to seize the opportunity.
Do you write Work Made For Hire or have you avoided it? Let me know in the comments below.

This prolific editor and author gives five reasons to write Work Made For Hire. Get the details here. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to SucceedOne of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 200,000 twitter followers


Karen Cioffi said...

Terry, this is such useful information for writers. Often authors don't make much from their own books. I've been writing for hire as a children's ghostwriter for years as well as being a published author. The pay for writing for hire far outweighs royalties from being an author, at least in my case. Thanks for sharing.

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for this comment and letting us know about your work made for hire with children's writing and ghostwriting. The variety of work-made-for-hire possibilities is endless for writers but they he open to it in the first place. I've seen many writers turn up their noses at this type of work--something I don't understand.


deborah lyn said...

Thank you Terry for these insightful points and encouragement for writers. I've wondered about Work-Made-for-Hire and held back --- thanks for the push forward.
best, deborah

Terry Whalin said...


Thank you for the feedback and I'm delighted you found it helpful. Work-made-for-hire has been a significant part of my writing career.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Terry, please follow up with an article on the steps an author might take to get this kind of work and how you manage it with your own publishing (two articles). This sounds like a love way to fill our time between projects by doing what we love to do--write. I have done a lot of freelance work, but this is a little different and--I suspect--requires a bit of different positiontioning!
You're always there with great information, Terry. Yay!

Terry Whalin said...


Thanks for this suggestion for a follow-up article. Work-made-for-hire is a little different and I'm happy to explain to point out some of these distinctions--next time.


lastpg said...

Thank you for the terrific article, Terry. Your article offers helpful encouragement to try work-for-hire assignments as a good way for authors to gain experience, build confidence, and make money. I plan to check the link you included to explore the possibilities, something I wouldn't have thought about if I hadn't read your article.

Chris Eboch said...

The reason my bio can say "Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for young people" is because 55 of them were work-for-hire. It took a while to build up regular sources of work, but then I was making $25,000 to $30,000 a year from work for hire for several years. Unfortunately, a lot of educational publishing seems on hold for the moment.

Terry Whalin said...

Thank you for this comment and feedback. I hope knowing about Work-made-for-hire and the opportunity will open many new doors for you.


Thank yo for your comment and I'm delighted you have made these biographies pay for you and your career. Keep up the good work.


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