Interview, Writing

INTERVIEW: Author Jody Jensen Shaffer Chats about Work-for-Hire

Jody Jensen Shaffer writes children’s poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Her poems and stories have appeared in numerous magazines including Highlights for Children, High Five, Babybug, Humpty-Dumpty, and Turtle. Recently she published two books: BLUE JEANS BEFORE THE STORE and BREAD BEFORE THE STORE (The Child’s World, 2012).  Today we’ll be chatting about her new books and her experience doing “work-for-hire”.

Laura: Welcome, Jody.

Jody: Hi, Laura. Thanks for having me!

Laura: First of all, congratulations on the publication of BLUE JEANS BEFORE THE STORE and BREAD BEFORE THE STORE. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

Jody: Sure. They’re part of a series of books that follows a common product from its beginning all the way to the consumer. They’re written for 3-5th graders and tie in nicely to curriculum that discusses consumers, producers, and natural, human, and material resources. They’re also great for studying the elements of nonfiction texts, like headings, glossaries, and tables of contents. The Child’s World did an excellent job with the books. They’re really gorgeous and accessible.

Laura: Both of these books were published by The Child’s World as “work-for-hire” projects. Can you tell us a little bit about “work-for-hire” and how it differs from other types of publishing?

Jody: With a work-for-hire book, the publisher provides the topic and finds an author to write about it. They also own the copyright. With non-work-for-hire books, the writer uses her own ideas for the subject matter of the book and then tries to find a publisher for it. In this case, the author owns the copyright.

Laura: How much did you know about your subjects ahead of time? Can you describe your writing process from research stage to final copy?

Jody: I didn’t know any more than most people about how bread and blue jeans are made, so I did a lot of research! I consulted books and reliable internet sites. Then I wrote several drafts  When I was happy with my work, I sent it to my editor. She made suggestions; I revised. We did this a couple of times. When we were both happy, a content expert reviewed my manuscript. (A content expert is someone who knows the topic inside and out and can verify that the details are accurate.) Finally, I was ready to turn over my manuscript to the publisher for layout, design, copyediting, and printing.

Laura: Do you have any more “work-for-hire” projects in the works?

Jody: Yes, I do! I have four biographies of today’s celebrities coming out this fall, and three more work for hire titles coming out in 2013.

Laura: How does a writer go about finding “work-for-hire” opportunities?

Jody: A really great source is Evelyn Christensen’s website, Go to the “Writers” tab, then click on “List of Markets” under the “Educational Markets for Children’s Writers” heading. Click on the links she provides to learn about each publisher and what they want. It’s also a good idea to check out the publishers’ books from your library. After you’ve done your research about the publishers, send them what they ask for in their guidelines, usually a resume, cover letter, and a writing sample or two.

Laura: You also write picture books, poetry, and magazine stories and articles. Can you tell us a little bit about this aspect of your writing? Any exciting news on this horizon?

Jody: When I began writing for children in 2006, I focused all my attention on fiction picture books and poetry. I was lucky to have several poems published in reputable kids’ magazines.  And a few of my picture book manuscripts went to acquisitions (that is, were almost picked up by publishers). I started writing nonfiction for kids in 2011 and have really enjoyed it. I write both now and am very happy.

As to exciting new news, I’ve got some! tiger tales will publish my first fiction picture book, US TIME! It’s tentatively scheduled for release in 2014.

Laura:  Congratulations, Jody! I can’t wait to read US TIME! Thanks, again for stopping by.

Readers who want to learn more might enjoy checking out these related links:

10 thoughts on “INTERVIEW: Author Jody Jensen Shaffer Chats about Work-for-Hire”

  1. Jody did a brilliant job with the ‘before the Store’ series. A good idea meets great execution.
    I second her endorsement of Evelyn Christensen’s website as a terrific resource. Until a couple of years ago I did not realize how many writing professionals who supported themselves from writing alone were work-for-hire writers.

  2. I enjoyed the terrific interview, Jody and Laura. Congratulations, Jody, on all your exciting accomplishments!! And thanks for the link to my site. I hope it’s a helpful resource to lots of writers.

  3. Great interview, Laura & Jody! The “before the store” books sound great and fun to research and write.

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