Work For Hire

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Work For Hire

Postby Adam-Troy » Sat Feb 10, 2007 10:54 am

Tony suggested that I repost the following here for posterity.

(quote begins)

Answer to KOS, who asked:

"How do you go about getting one of those "work for hire" media novel gigs? Sample chapter and outline? Write it on spec and just mail it in?"

Answer, at least in my case: you must be known as reliable and able to tell a story. I was recruited for those (and I almost wish I wasn't, for reasons I'll go into below), after I did a Spider-Man story for an open anthology, that turned out to be the best story in that anthology (and, some say, one of the best Spidey stories ever). (No ego. 'Tis what people have said.)

But here's the major reason I'm going on at such length. Your question scared me. FOR GOD'S SAKE -- underline and italicize that -- FOR GOD'S SAKE -- with cherries on top -- FOR GOD'S SAKE -- do NOT write one of these puppies on spec. Ever. EVER! E*V*E*R! FOR GOD'S SAKE! EVER! First because it takes as much time and effort as writing your own original novel, all of which might be totally wasted if you find out upon finishing it that the folks handling the line aren't interested in the story you have to tell. Remember, with these kind of books you have to please not only the editor, but also whoever holds the copyright, who may have any number of bizarre, unpredictable prejudices of their own (i.e, the one Paramount rep who kept insisting to Peter David that Captain Kirk was no longer interested in dating women). PLUS the fact that since there's an army of folks writing these puppies even as you work on your own spec story, your idea of bringing back the Doomsday Machine (for instance) might already be in production. So here you are, having completed your pride and joy, an H.R. Pufnstuf novel, or fer god's sake an H.R. Pufnstuf trilogy, and the folks publishing the novels have no place to put it, and you now have no other place to sell it. Nice going, Mr. Dickens. You've devoted all your time and effort to doing fanfic with the folks who write themselves into Buffy's Scooby gang. Some pro writers, enamored with one property or another, have actually made that mistake. DON'T WRITE WORD ONE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE FOLKS PUBLISHING THE NOVELS ARE INTERESTED IN WORK FROM YOU.

That said, I now go further and say that it's not the best career move in any case. It's goddamn risky. In my case, I needed the work, and I adored Spider-Man. But when Marvel suspended the book packager's license for non-payment, and my works (and payment) were held up for months and years, and I was aware that all my work might go down the toilet, I was thrown into an emotional and career tailspin that almost stopped me dead. The books eventually saw print, but it got pretty dark for a while, and lawyers are still talking. You don't want to know the extent of the ripoff. It's substantial. Don't get me started.

So forget artistic integrity and the idea that writers should work on their own creations. That's all pie-in-the-sky. The REAL reason that doing work-for-hire books is risky business is that, when you're doing one of these licensed properties like Star Trek or Spider-Man or Alias or even H.R. Pufnstuf, you're working for the only employer in town. You cannot pull your completed manuscript in a huff and submit it across the street when the people you're working for turn out to be incompetent, or venal, or criminal, or just not sharing your vision. You're stuck with the people who hired you, even if they're assholes. You will take more shit from them than you would if you were able to cross the street. AND ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT DOING YOUR OWN WORK IS THAT YOU CAN **ALWAYS** CROSS THE STREET, IF YOU NEED TO.

Since completing the Spider-Man novels I have said No, **DAMN** No, to **nine** more potentially lucrative work-for-hire offers. The Prisoner, The Twilight Zone, Green Lantern, and (God help me) The Transformers. I'll confess to being very sorely tempted by The Prisoner. (At the time, I told friends, "The devil never tempts you with a *bad* offer.") I'll even admit to coming close, in a dark moment, to pursuing another Spider-Man deal. But by and large, I've held firm. NEVER AGAIN. NEVER, EVER AGAIN.


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Postby FrankChurch » Sat Feb 10, 2007 2:48 pm

Question: why do you use your middle

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