Getting published is all about setting goals. Longterm goals keep you progressing toward a successful career as a writer. Shortterm goals keep you motivated day by day to continue with the craft. As the New Year is approaching, I'll be posting tips in upcoming blogs about setting realistic goals. These will be based on a mini-workshop I'll be doing at a local writers' schmooze in January.
One longterm goal is to aim on landing royalty-based contracts. I know of quite a few writers who have written various work-for-hire books--but seem to be stuck in that endless cycle of several months of hard work and one paycheck, several months of hard work and one paycheck. Landing work-for-hire book contracts is great! I've done a bunch. They give you experience and look good on your resume. It's important, however, to have the goal of landing more royalty-based book contracts as you move forward in your career. Royalty-based contracts keep the paychecks coming in for several years of sales--after that same initial few months of hard work writing the manuscript.
If you've been writing work-for-hire books for several years, (or even if you've not yet landed a book contract) how can you start to land more royalty-based contracts? Here's what works for me:
1. Keep your eye open and look for publishers who offer royalty-based contracts for "series" of books. By series, I mean like Chicago Review Press's line of nonfiction books "...For Kids." They have Leonardo da Vinci for Kids, The Civil War for Kids, George Washington for Kids, etc. Or look at Libraries Unlimited. They have several series including one for Readers Theatre. By finding a series like this within a publisher's product list, you can hope to piggyback on that series and try to land a contract. How can you tell if the publisher offers royalties? Look at the copyright in the books within that series. Chances are that if the copyright is in the name of the author, it's a royalty-based contract. Also, the market guide might give that detail.
2. Study that publisher's series. Write down a list of the topics they've already done. Make a list of topics they haven't yet done that might fit into their series and that would interest you to write.
3. Send a simple and short e-mail to the publisher. In the e-mail say, "I've been browsing your Web site and am interested in such-and-such a series that you do. Would you be interested in seeing a proposal for one of the following three topics that could fit into that series?" Don't send a letter--it takes too long and might get "lost" in the pile. Even if they say not to e-mail them, go ahead. I landed one of my best book contracts when I e-mailed a "Dear Submissions Editor." Afterward, I asked why they responded to my e-mail when they say not to e-mail them. They said that so many people send them manuscripts totally unrelated to their product line that they post a no submissions policy. But my short e-mail targeted their product line, so they responded. (I've known other authors who have successfully done the same.)
4. If you don't hear back from them, don't worry about it. Just find a different publisher with a different series who offer royalty-based contracts, and e-mail them. There are actually quite a few publishers like this--just study your market guide and skip over the publishers who require an agent if you don't have one. Keep studying different publishers' series and e-mailing various ones until you land a contract. Then write the book, and enjoy years of paychecks rolling in!
I followed these exact steps and landed my two recent contracts--0ne with Chicago Review Press who has published two of my books already, and one with Libraries Unlimited who is a brand new contact. In fact, I just finished my first book deadline with Libraries Unlimited yesterday! Whew! I hope you can start landing royalty-based contracts as well. It's a longterm goal that is worth your while.