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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Understanding Work-for-Hire

By Elizabeth Ludwig

I started a new project last year…one that I have been fairly quiet about as I learned the ins-and-outs of the subject I was about to tackle. You see, for the first time in my career, I was undertaking an Amish cozy mystery (see below for a preview of my new book cover!). And it was a work-made-for-hire project for Guideposts. Two things I had never before done! God has certainly been stretching my boundaries and making me see beyond what I thought was possible. 

But what exactly is a work-made-for-hire, and why did I agree to do it?

Weighing Work-for-Hire
A work-made-for-hire (sometimes abbreviated as work for hire or WFH) basically just means that the author agrees to create a work as part of their job and that both the author and the company they are writing for agree in writing to the WFH designation. The author does not own the work, but is contractually obligated to submit the work on the same basis as they would any other standard publishing agreement.

I should also note that in standard publishing agreements, the person who actually creates a work is the legally recognized author of that work. According to copyright law in the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is "made for hire", the employer—not the employee—is considered the legal author.

Confused yet?

Where Hope Dwells, 2015
So then, what are the benefits to WFH? I admit, there is some disagreement over this. For me, the benefits were simply signing on to work for a major publishing house and everything that entails, IE: access to marketing, promotion, readership, networking, etc. It also enabled me to expand my publishing credentials, earn valuable writing experience, and finally, to “get my foot in the door with an attractive publisher”, for lack of better explanation. All of these swayed me in favor of the idea of a WFH project.

 Others would disagree and say that they are not willing to give up ownership of a created work, especially if they were not going to get credit for the work by having their name printed on the cover (which can also happen, but didn’t in my case).

Both views are arguably correct. I suppose the bottom line would have to lie in the heart of the author and what they are attempting to achieve. What do you think? Is a work-made-for-hire something you would ever consider? I’d love to hear what you think! 
Elizabeth Ludwig is the bestselling author of Christmas Comes to Bethlehem, Maine and the highly successful Edge of Freedom series from Bethany House Publishers. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit


  1. The reading public knows nothing of WFH. They know they like the book they're reading and try something else by that author. How do I know? I'm that reader. I've read several of Guidepost's WFH books and found author Sally John. Later, when Trish Perry took over the same series, it was seamless.

    And I'm excited to see you've got a new WIP!

  2. I agree, Ane. In fact, most readers don't even look at the PUBLISHER!

  3. Elizabeth,

    What an intriguing idea. I've been a artist a lot longer than I've been a writer, so I'm familiar with the work-for-hire concept with art. I had no idea it also worked for writing.

    But we have two sets of cozy mysteries published by Guideposts in our church library. As I check the second set into the catalog, I've wondered how those books get written. Who starts the idea and chooses the authors and how the process comes together.

    Now I know!

    I don't have personal experience with WFH beyond that, but I agree completely with Ane Mulligan. Having read the available books in both series at my disposal, I can say it works for Guideposts.

    Thanks for teaching me something new for the day!

    Best wishes,


  4. Hi, Carrie! Before signing with Guideposts, I was not familiar with WFH process either. I admit, it took me a while to grasp the concept, but with the success that Guideposts has seen in sales of their previous series, I knew it was something I needed to consider.


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