As a writer, I sometimes have issues with *work-for-hire books.
Even though many of my hard-working writer friends have gone this route which often made up most of their early sales, if not their ONLY sales, and are proud of that, and I know full well it’s NOT easy to write to someone else’s formula, within a crazy tight deadline.
But like with a lot avenues one can take in this business, not everyone can do it, and that’s OKAY, though the “wayward businessman” in me still finds it hard to walk away from a market that needs writers, even if I know I don’t have the interest or skill to write for it.
*NOTE: For those of you non-writers, work for hire books are often on a very tight schedule, often long open-ended stories, books on average written within weeks or months of each other, as opposed to the YEARS non work for hire books can take, like my debut middle grade novel (pub. date unknown even to me, right now at the time this blog post was originally written, not bragging, just making a valid point…)
Now I know in other mediums, such as film or television, there’s inherent collaborations involved, even in the scripting stage, where multiple writers work on ONE screenplay for ONE film or television pilot (Which may or may not be the first episode of the finished show), but many writers like me prefer working on novels because we like having more control of the story we tell, and I can understand the frustration with work-for-hire books for writers who are struggling to have their original work read and represented.
Not everyone can afford to self-publish right, and in the U.S. at least, having an agent is becoming more necessary if you want to have a fair chance at going the traditional route with a publisher, and not all small presses are as opened to unagented writers as they once were.
Aside from aiding authors through the business aspects (Which some of us AREN’T as great at on our own for whatever reason, but still TRY because we must), they also give editors at publishers a way to screen submissions they receive so they’re less likely to get manuscripts that can’t use, again, for whatever reason, which isn’t always that “This is horrid” answer writers may first think.
Sometimes it’s just timing, oversaturation of a genre, too many similar books in the market, either in general or just with that specific publisher, the list goes on.
My point is that like in the writing process, there’s more to a great book in reader’s minds than the writing, even though that DOES matter, too.
While some writers feel readers don’t care about how stories are written in the ways authors do, I know many readers who aren’t writers or in publishing who have HIGH standards for language, even if story is most important to them, so I don’t always feel the “Story Trumps All” mindset is accurate or fair to describe readers anymore than writers, and it certainly DOESN’T change the fact that most writers have to turn in fairly tight and realized stories, no matter how much editing or revision we do later, and that’s something I don’t think many lay readers and story-centric writers understand.
But to play “Devil’s Advocate” it is true that things can be well-written but not a story. I just don’t think writers can escape quality of the writing overall to get agents, editors or lay readers on their side as much as some like to think. Or at best oversimplify from the writer’s view.
after recent events post chatting with Janice about storytelling vs. writing. As she stated above, the reason some books succeed despite less attentive (Note I didn’t say horrid) writing, is because the voice of a character or group of characters make up for that.
As a pre-published or non-brand name writer struggling to be read, this is frustrating at times, but for readers (Though I know some critical readers who aren’t writers [or in publishing] that would disagree), it’s not always as big a deal.
Don’t forget, we as authors want readers to be engaged, and we don’t have to write elegant prose to do it. (But I personally do like well composed prose, that doesn’t mean story matters less to me, I just like books that can do both, that’s all…)
For many writers, including myself , who struggle to write solid stories under our real name, and can’t/don’t want to hire out “staff” writers feel a little off put by the ever rising surge of popularity of work-for-hire books, such as Goosebumps, Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High, while those of us outside that market are struggling to break in, and though I’ve learned in the right approach and in the right hands, it doesn’t have to be as bad as I feared (As I noted in my review of the first Geronimo Stilton, which is also an overview of the series, that may or may not be work-for-hire, so don’t hold me to it), from a lay reader’s standpoint, the writer in me still has issues to work out there…
But what do you think?
How did you react when you found out a series you love is WFH?
Did you find there are more well-written WFH than you first thought? Do you feel the gems in this arena rise above the “junk?” (That’s subjective to point, of course)
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.