Janice Hanna Thompson

Janice Hanna Thompson—a south Texas native—is the author of over sixty novels and non-fiction books for the Christian market. She supplements her fiction habit by writing magazine articles, devotions, write-for-hire books and more. One of the chief joys of Janice’s life is training writers to earn a living with the written word. Check out Janice’s “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer,” course at www.freelancewritingcourses.com. The ten lessons in this course were developed to strategically train freelance writers to earn top dollar. Each lesson includes an audio file (mp3 for download), a corresponding audio script, a downloadable worksheet, a power point video, a bonus feature, and full access to the site’s forum. Email Janice at booksbyjanice[at]aol[dot]com to learn more, or visit her website at www.janicehannathompson.com.

Write-for-Hire in 2011

Merry “after” Christmas, everyone! If you’re like me, you’ve ceased singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and have picked up on the second half of the line, “And a Happy New Year!” Why is it we never seem to remember a new year is coming around the bend until Christmas is behind us? Perhaps the hustle and bustle blinds us to the inevitable ending of one year and beginning of another.

As I look ahead to 2011, I think back on the books and magazine articles I wrote in 2010, and analyze the income they brought in. Did I earn what I had hoped to earn with my writing? What can I do in the coming year to beef up my bank account? Sure, I’ve focused on the income from my books; I’m a novelist, after all. But I’ve also learned, after staying on this publishing roller coaster for many years, that my journey tends to run “feast or famine.” I need something to bring in extra money between fiction contracts so that my famine seasons are short-lived. (I’ve always been partial to feasts!)

Over the past few months, we’ve talked at length about magazine article writing. It’s a great way to earn cash while you’re waiting on that next big book deal. But today I want to switch gears and talk about something you’ve likely not given much thought to: write-for-hire work.

I haven’t yet done the math for 2010, but I can tell you that about a third of my 2009 income came from write-for-hire projects. That was the year I stopped looking at write-for-hire work as “those little devotions and mini-articles” and started looking at it as a way to earn top dollar using my God-given gifts as a writer.

Now, I know what you’re saying: “I’m a fiction writer. How can I switch gears and write smaller pieces, especially something as tiny as a devotion? And how—or why—would I want to? I need real money, not chump change.” These are legitimate questions and concerns.

Years ago, I honestly thought that write-for-hire work was limited to writing a couple of devotions for a larger compilation project. Maybe $25 here or $50 there. No big deal. Oh, how wrong I was! Sure, I contributed to some devotion projects in 2010, but that’s not where the real money came from. That’s how I got my foot in the door at publishing houses to go on and write what I really wanted to write: books.

Most of the money I’ve earned on write-for-hire projects came from full-length books—YA novels, nonfiction books for women, perpetual calendars, and so on. Some of the books carried my name, others did not. Some actually made the ECPA best-seller list—quite a feat for a nonfiction book in today’s oversaturated market.

Here are the titles of some of my favorite write-for-hire works: Everyday Joy Devotional, (paperback), Everyday Joy 2011 Planner, (leather), 199 Reasons to be Thankful, (mini-paperback), 365 Great Things About Getting Older (perpetual calendar), I Know I’m Not Alone, Lord (a nonfiction book for divorced women), Kate’s Philadelphia Frenzy (a YA novel from the Camp Club Girls series for Barbour), and The House Is Quiet, Now What? (a book for empty-nest moms).

Maybe you’re not ready to carry a full book project. Maybe you like the idea of writing devotions. There’s money to be made there, too! Over the past year or two I’ve written (literally)

hundreds of devotions for larger projects, like Daily Encouragement for Single Women (seventy-five devotions), Daily Comfort for Caregivers, (thirty devotions), Heavenly Humor for the Dog Lover’s Soul (twelve devotions) and many, many more. It might not sound like much, but do the math. If I’m writing seventy-five devotions, even at $25 to $40 a pop, that’s $1875 to $3000 for the project.

And remember, they’re short pieces (usually well under 500 words each), so they don’t eat up my time. In fact, I find them to be great writing prompts for whatever novel I happen to be writing at the time. I can start the day with a couple of devotions, then dive into my novel, knowing I’ve spent time in the Word, and feeling good about what I’ve learned through the devotion.

One thing I’ve loved most about my write-for-hire work is that it pushes me out of my comfort zone. As a novelist, I’m accustomed to writing lengthy pieces. I can fully develop my characters, elaborate on the setting, and spend adequate time developing the plot. My write-for-hire projects force me to write tight. Be concise. I’ve found this to be helpful in my novel writing, as well.

I consider my write-for-hire work a true blessing, and plan to take on plenty of it in 2011 and beyond. In particular, I’ve loved getting to know new editors and growing in relationship with them. They know they can trust me to turn in solid pieces, and I know they will come back to me if they need a job done quickly . . . and correctly. It’s a win-win situation for us all.

So what about you? Are you interested in earning money doing write-for-hire work in 2011? If so, I would suggest you start by researching the various Christian publishing houses that put out compilation projects. Offer your services. Let the editor know that you’re available to do larger write-for-hire projects, as needed. Ask that your name be added to the list to receive e-mails on upcoming projects. And make sure you let the editor know your strengths and weaknesses. My editors know that I write comedic novels, so they’re always sending me book projects like Heavenly Humor for the Chocolate Lover’s Soul, and/or Heavenly Humor for the Teacher’s Soul. I get to stick with my brand (“Love, Laughter, and Happily Ever Afters”) and they get my usual comedic punch.

I hope I’ve inspired you to think about write-for-hire work in 2011. May this be a fruitful year for us all!