Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Guest blog: Chandra Rooney


I'm so excited to introduce my friend, author Chandra Rooney, whose debut novel "The Tarot Cafe Novel: The Wild Hunt" (TokyoPop) is available now - yes, right now! If you can't find it in your local store, definitely check out Amazon or Barnes & Noble on-line.

Chandra's book was a work-for-hire, which is something I'm not familiar with. When I asked her about writing a guest blog, this seemed like a natural jumping off point. So here is Chandra's insightful guidance on the differences between writing a book for an existing property and writing an original manuscript.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Chandra! Happy Release Day!

When Leigh and I were discussing a possible guestblog, she mentioned wanting to know more about how the work-for-hire process compares to standard publishing. Confession: My only editorial experience so far with standard publishing has been a short story in On Spec magazine and agent revisions. Let’s just be upfront that my comparison is based on what Leigh and other authors have told me of their experiences.

To illustrate the difference between work-for-hire and standard publishing, let me use the analogy of fine art and graphic design. What most people will tell you the difference between the two is one is “artistic” and one is “commercial.”

The fundamental difference is, however, is that fine art is largely about its creator—an expression of a personal opinion and Self. Graphic design is about the client who hires the designer—an expression of an opinion and Self outside of the creator. The artist is a messenger.

Messengers are important, because without them you wouldn’t get the message, but if you haven’t heard the old saying "don’t shoot the messenger," then you should ask Leigh to explain it. ;)

Seriously, though, the editorial process for both a standard novel and a work-for-hire project are largely the same. Submission of draft, revision, line edits, galleys, final revision pass, etc.

A difference between my experience and Leigh’s experience is that I didn’t have a copy-editor. The copy-editing was done by myself and my editor, but that’s not necessarily a work-for-hire difference so much as it is a reflection of small press versus mainstream publishing.

What is different is when the manuscript is written. With standard publishing, there is usually a completed manuscript before the editorial process happens. Even with series work, the first novel (and possibly the second) is finished before the author ever has an editor.

When you do a work-for-hire, there is no existing manuscript. It’s written after you sign the contract. Also, the editor has a lot more creative control over what goes into the novel.

The reason for this is the second difference: ownership. With a work-for-hire novel, the end product doesn’t belong to the author. It belongs to the people who hired her. For example, with The Wild Hunt, it’s Sang Sun Park and TOKYOPOP who own the copyright. This is because the novel uses characters and a world already created by Park through her comic series.

Why does it matter who owns the novel? Without getting into a discussion on intellectual property and copyrights, the easiest answer is that whoever owns the novel is going to make the money off it. Cold hard cash is something we can all understand, right?

With a standard novel, a writer is paid an advance towards the royalties that the sales department believes the book will earn. It’s like a loan that pays itself out. (Hopefully!) In work-for-hire, there aren’t usually royalties. Instead, the author is paid a writer’s fee. The positive side of this is that so long as the author meets her contract requirements, she will get that money regardless of how well the book sells. The downside is that she won’t receive any additional money if the book becomes a best-seller.

All of this is really just the business of publishing. It’s the background work that a reader never sees or probably even wonders about, because a book on the shelf is a book on the shelf—especially when it has your name on the spine.