Monday, June 24, 2013

On the Couch with Nonfiction Authors Anonymous

Whack! Whack!

I now call the first meeting of Nonfiction Authors Anonymous to order.

Hi. I'm Peggy Thomas. I'm the author of 13 books written for the educational market and ... 4 (sniffle) were ... work for hire.

While speaking to a group of nonfiction writers, I got to laughing about how dysfunctional we all seem to be. We apologize for having done work for hire instead of being proud that we are capable of researching and writing a book in 3 months or less.  I jokingly said that perhaps at the next conference there should be a group session with a therapist. Isn't it enough that we sometimes feel like the geeky yet genius stepchildren as we sit at book signings next to perky picture book people and the moody YA click? We shouldn't turn on each other by buying into a ranking system of nonfiction.

We have bought into the idea that a jacket-wrapped hardcover trade book is the "corner office" of children's NF. If it is, then only in a creative sense -- you get to write what you want, how you want it (sort of). But it isn't necessarily so financially. Many trade books don't pay out their advance. Some may be pulled off the shelf before their time.  I have earned more money on one article -- which sold in reprints and then was bought by a testing company for a 5 year period, and renewed after that -- than I have on some books.

So get on the band wagon. Shake off the senseless shame we feel for the important work we do, the work that feeds our families, heats our homes, and guess what? Educates and entertains millions of school kids every day!!!  Not many people can make that claim.

As long as you know that you did the best job you could crafting that book within the guidelines a publisher set, then hold your head up high.

 Nonfiction Authors Anonymous UNITE!


  1. I hope your post begins the breakdown of the disdain for work for hire. A kid who loves a nonfiction book doesn't care how it got on the shelf. Writing for hire can be even more challenging than for trade. The same level of quality, appeal, and integrity is expected--but in much less time.

    PS I received "Anatomy of Nonfiction" at the Highlights Nonfiction Seminar and it turned on the lights for me! My first nonfiction book, written after reading your book, was recently acquired by an agent. Thank you!

  2. Hi Pat,

    Welcome to NFAA! And hooray for Work for Hire -- perhaps we need to call it something else. Start thinking of a better term.
    I am so thrilled that you found "Anatomy" helpful. And congratulations on getting an agent. Keep in touch, and let me know if you come up with a better word for WFH, or flat fee.