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Writing For Book Packager Dollars
by Nancy Robinson Masters

I make thousands of dollars writing books for book packagers, not publishers.

Here’s how I got my foot in a book packager’s door and my name on the cover of a dozen books I never dreamed I would write. It’s also how I got my foot in the door with major publishers not only of books, but publishers of a variety of publications that pay very, very well.

First, you must understand what a book packager does. Think of a book packager as being the same thing as a general contractor hired by a developer to build houses. The general contractor takes the developer’s plans for the houses and then gathers the necessary subcontractors (bricklayers, framers, electricians, landscapers, plumbers) necessary to produce completed houses for the developer to sell.

A book packager (sometimes called a book producer) takes the publisher’s plans for a project (usually a series of books with a common theme) and then is responsible for gathering the necessary subcontractors (authors, fact checkers, graphic designers, photographers, printers) to produce completed books for the publisher to sell.

My first experience working with a packager came more than ten years ago when a friend of mine told me she had hired a packager to produce a book about her life. The packager had hired an author to write the book. A light came on in my sore-from-rejections head! Why not contact this packager with a listing my writing interests and expertise. I had never written a book, but I had written aviation articles and features for magazines and newspapers, so I provided him with samples of these and expressed my willingness to write for whatever project he needed an author. Within a week he called me saying he was negotiating to do a series of books for a major publisher and would I consider authoring two of the books. I said yes, even though I had no idea what the series was about! About a month later I received a contract and a complete guideline that all the authors working for the packager were to go by so that the books in the series conformed to the publisher’s requirements. Neither book had a thing to do with aviation!

If I had not felt qualified to do the project or didn’t like the terms of the contract, I could have declined the offer or perhaps negotiated with the packager for something to make the project more appealing. For example, most packager assignments are work-for-hire. Because I do visiting author programs for schools, I agree to being paid a flat fee for writing the manuscript, but ask to have my contract include my right to purchase books at a significant reduction (60 to 70 percent) from the list price. I can offer these books at a reduced price to students when visiting their campus.

Book packagers, unlike editors at most major publishing houses, do not receive hordes of submissions from writers. Packagers are always glad to have your writing interests and examples of your style in their files because they never know what kind of writer their next project is going to require.

After working on the first packager project, I contacted seven other packagers who were producing books for major publishers. I found these packagers by researching various trade publications such as Publisher’s Weekly. Within a few months I had contracted to write two more books for packagers. A year later, I had two more packaging contracts. Then two more. Then another. And another. And another… and another. Each of these books are part of a series I would never have been asked to write for by the actual publisher. Today it is as easy as putting “book packagers” in your search engine to find packagers to whom you can present yourself and your credentials. However, as with all things easy, exercise extreme caution. The cardinal rule of working for any publisher applies to working for any packager: do nothing without a legal contract signed by you and the packager that covers every issue essential for a good business relationship.

Some of the most important things the contract should state are the amount of payment, method of payment, ownership of rights, and the name of the person who will be credited as the author of the book on the cover.

Would having an agent (I don’t) be beneficial in securing work from a packager or be able to negotiate a better deal for me? Possibly, though all of the packagers I’ve written books for say they prefer to work directly with an author.

The best advice I can share if you want to get your foot in a major publisher’s door is to package yourself as a professional who can write for a packager. Once you have your foot in, the rest will follow.

© Copyright 2007, Nancy Robinson Masters

Nancy Robinson Masters serves on the Abilene Writers Guild Board and is a professional freelance writer. A professional freelance writer, she explains, “is simply an amateur writer with a lot of experience.” Among her more than 40 published books are ebooks published by AWOC.COM Publishing: Extraordinary Patriots, All My Downs Have Been Ups, and Devoted to Writing.

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