Caveats Around Work-For-Hire Book Publishing

AHOY-HOY. As the title suggests, some caveats.

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  1. So, I once published a novel called DOUBLE DEAD, and another novel called UNCLEAN SPIRITS, with the genuinely nice folks at Abaddon books. It was not an exploitative relationship, and they paid me fine, and I got books out, and yay.
  2. Except, people ask me now why I don't really acknowledge those books overmuch, and it's because they were work-for-hire. I am not ashamed of them, but given limited budgets, people aren't out there buying all of my books in a giant gulp -- and if you buy one of my books, I'd much rather you buy one of mine that actually makes me money as opposed to one that doesn't. Given that Abaddon is now doing an open submissions month, I went on THE TWITTERS to offer up some thoughts on the caveats surrounding work-for-hire novel gigs. Here are those caveats.
  3. Let's unpack this a little more -- let's say you've got a boner to write, say, a HALO novel. HALO is an established property with an established fanbase, and they probably pay okay-to-well, maybe some very light royalties, but you wouldn't own the work. Still, hey, it's HALO, so you jump in and hey, great. You could theoretically sell your own HALO-style story with the HALO serial numbers filed off, but it would smell of that storyworld -- and again, you'd lose the shine of writing in the HALO storyverse, which is presuming you find that to be a value-add: to be connected to HALO and its fanbase.
  4. (If not HALO, then Batman, or Warhammer or... *coughs into hand* Star Wars.)
  5. The thing with some properties -- like, say, the Abaddon ones -- is that their "licensed storyworlds" are in some cases generic. Their zombie line of books is just... zombie books. So, their "established fanbase" for that is broader than their IP -- it's horror readers, it's people who like zombies. That means you as the author have the ability to tap into that audience without going through their IP. A zombie novel is a zombie novel. You can own that without having to worry about finding a doorway into that genre, that IP, because really, it's not an IP even though it's treated as such.
  6. The GODS & MONSTERS universe is a little more branded -- but again, not that much, because the books aren't that continuous to one another. They're just urban fantasy novels. You could write any one of those and sell them on your own to, again, urban fantasy fans and readers -- so, a lot different from trying to write a BATMAN story without accessing that IP and that fanbase through the actual IP. Make sense?
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