You’ve seen them lining the shelves in the kids’ section of your local library. Perhaps your own children read them. Simple books that teach, explain, examine, and enthusiastically describe the world to children one simple subject at a time are everywhere. Luckily for us, someone needs to write them.
Aspiring writers dream of seeing their names on the best seller lists and signing contracts with six-figure advances. Why not? Keep the dream alive! However, the reality of earning money from writing isn’t as much the shock of a giant payday as the repeated joys of many small ones. Writing children’s non-fiction books as a contract-for-hire author is a great way to add to your income while getting your name on book spines.
There are dozens of publishers out there who are cranking these books out like crazy. Each has a stable of writers that they typically use to get the words on the page. The trick is to get your name onto that list. If you happen to know an editor in such a position, don’t hesitate to express interest in writing as a contract-for-hire author. Note any special interests or knowledge you have that could make you a particularly good fit. Are you a baseball junkie? Let them know. Sports books are some of the most popular books on those library shelves. However, if you don’t have any special expertise, it’s not a big deal, the ability to do quality research is more important.
How do you find these publishers? Of course, there are guides like The Writer’s Market out there, but simply perusing the imprints at the library works well. Once you find some titles that look interesting to you, you can track down the publisher and editor information easily enough. Then it’s up to you to convince them that you’d be a good addition to their regularly used writers.
So, what does contract-for-hire writing mean? The bad news is that it means no advance and no royalties. You get paid a set fee per project. Most often it is paid out as half with rough draft and half with the approved final draft as well as a few author copies of the book once it’s published. You probably won’t be able to live off the money at $500 to $1600 per title, but you can certainly pay some bills, or finance that conference you’ve been eyeballing. It’s very realistic to pull in an extra $10,000 or more in a year this way. It sure beats a part time job sweeping the floor at the theater.
Because these books tend to be in series, the publisher will likely provide set guidelines for you that basically break the book into chapters with strict word counts. The hours required for actual research and writing time to get that first draft can vary per book. The writing itself is fun. Since you’re writing for kids, you don’t need to delve into your thesaurus for complex words. Just use fresh, fun and exciting language that fits the appropriate reading level.
Here’s the best part. These books come out in hardcover (usually) with beautiful pictures and your name right there on the cover.
Writing kids’ books as a contract-for-hire author won’t get you that mansion on the beach. It will teach you how to work with editors, and keep deadlines, while paying you to work as a writer. That’s the real dream, right? With a little luck, it may even open a few doors for you on the way.
Tyler Omoth is a professional marketing writer who is still dreaming of writing novels from a beach house patio. He has published 18 kids’ books as a contract-for-hire author with 5 more currently in process. He also scribbles short stories, picture books, and articles whenever the muse stops by to say hello.