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! 
 

Speaking from the Grave

Grave marker for Ray Bradbury. This photo was taken in May 2012, the month before he died.
Permission by Creative Commons

ONE WAY I PASS the time when pounding out a few miles on the
treadmill is by listening to audio books. The practice makes being a treadmill trudger
bearable. It is also a great way to experience books. Listening to a
professional reader voice the author’s words gives a different dimension to
reading. Presently, I’m walking my way through a collection of Ray Bradbury
short stories (A Pleasure to Burn,
William Morrow, 2013), all tied to his famous novella Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury has a unique literary voice and a keen
insight into human nature.
This morning, as I spent 40 minutes walking without going
anywhere, I listened to a couple more of the great man’s stories, it occurred
to me that in a way, Ray Bradbury who died in June of 2012, was still
influencing people. Me for example. His ideas, his fears, his hopes, his vision
are still fresh to a new reader. This makes me wonder: Are writers immortal? Not
physically immortal of course, but the thoughts of writers live on long after
they’ve been consigned to the grave. There are few occupations that can claim
this.
I’ve written a couple of books on church history, an effort
to help the person in the pew see the many events that led to the existence of
their church, whatever flavor it might be. To do this work, I used many
contemporary history books, but I also leaned heavily on material originally
written centuries before. Those authors are long gone but there I was hanging
on their words—a twenty-first century man learning from people who could never
imagine what the world would bring.
Sometimes writers help nonwriters live on. Before I cued up A Pleasure to Burn, I listened to
biographer and former editor of Time
magazine Walter Isaacson’s American
Sketches
(Simon & Schuster, 2009 reprint). The book is exceptionally
well written and sketches the lives of people from Ben Franklin to Albert
Einstein, from Gorbachev to Steve Jobs. Many of the people Isaacson writes
about have shuffled off this mortal coil, but he helps them live on through his
biographical sketches.
All of this to say that we writers must remind ourselves
from time to time that some future reader, maybe a century from now, might pick
up our work and draw in our thoughts, ideas, pictures, fears, joys, hopes, and
terrors. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
and related short stories portrays a world where books are illegal and firemen
don’t extinguish fires, they start them using books and art as kindling for the
kerosene that squirts from their hoses. To most, the work is one of fantasy and
science fiction. To a writer, the work is a horror story more terrorizing than
anything Stephen King can muster (and he’s scared me plenty of times).
Writers, great and small, first speak from their keyboard
and later from their graves. Hopefully, the latter will have something
meaningful for future readers, even if there is only one reader a year. I find
that exciting—and more than a little intimidating.

Alton Gansky writes
books from his home in California.

No Zombies Allowed (in Christian Fiction)

One of the major hurdles I encountered when shopping my first novel “The Resurrection,” had to do with two factors: 1.) It was aimed at a Christian audience, and 2.) The story contained a ghost. 

And Christian fiction doesn’t do ghosts. 

The eventual publisher accepted the book on the basis that the ghost was peripheral, a MacGuffin (or so they believed). Nevertheless, they asked me to write an Afterword clarifying the inclusion of a ghost in Christian fiction. (You can find a summary of that Afterword in this post Another Perspective on Ghosts.) 

 I’ve since learned that my feelings about Christian stories containing ghosts, are no different than my feelings about Christian stories containing vampires, werewolves, leprechauns, and mermaids. 

Everything’s fair game. 

This puts me at odds with mainstream Christian writers and readers who consider certain fictional archetypes off-limits. 

Last year, I learned of another fictional archetype that is, apparently, off-limits for mainstream Christian fiction — zombies. 

In a post entitled How Then Can It Be ‘Christian’? novelist James Somers stated what has become the rubric, the defining principle, for what guides many Christian authors and readers: 

 …while we do have freedom to explore many avenues, we should never find ourselves compromising God’s Word or his person…

Likewise, we should never present a view of the world that contradicts God’s Word. (emphasis mine) 

Of course, this is fairly open-ended. I happen to think Harry Potter, Stephen King’s The Stand, Dean Koontz’ Odd Thomas, and Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find all meet these specifications. However, the devil’s in the details. Because something can be found in each of these tales that potentially “compromises God’s Word” to someone, in some fashion. 

And that’s the rub with this approach. Forcing fiction to neatly fit your theology is a losing proposition… at least, if creative storytelling is your aim

Case in point is the conclusion Somer’s draws based on his prescription:
 

I’m currently working on a new novel series that would seem like a zombie plague has broken out and threatens the world. Are zombies–the living dead–real beings? Could they actually exist? Of course they couldn’t. Dead is dead. Muscles don’t work without blood flow and a heart to pump it and lungs to oxygenate it. So, I can’t do living dead, but I can explore a story about infected individuals who are living and what such a pestilence or plague could do. (emphasis mine) 

So “while we do have freedom to explore many avenues… we should never present a view of the world that contradicts God’s Word.” And since the dead can’t reanimate, the Christian author “can’t do living dead.” 

Interestingly, the author gives himself a bit of wiggle room in describing his new novel by employing a plague “that would SEEM like a zombie plague.” Thus, the only way for a Christian writer to employ zombies without presenting “a view of the world that contradicts God’s Word,” is to create a plague that doesn’t reanimate the dead but zombifies the living. 

Problem solved. 

I have long argued that one of the inherent problems with Christian speculative fiction is that Christian spec-fic, by its very nature, cannot be speculative enough. We impose overly strict theological expectations on our fiction. Our fiction needs fit snugly within a biblical worldview, however we interpret that view. Thus, basic fictional archetypes like ghosts, vampires, dragons, zombies, werethings, space aliens, mermaids, shapeshifters, and shades can all pose tremendous problems for the Christian author. Why? Because they potentially “present a view of the world that contradicts God’s Word.” (This is also one of the reasons Why Christian Fiction Writers Love the Nephilim and why Christian spec author write so much epic fantasy — Fantasy fiction is our buffer against theological scrutiny.) So in “real world” settings, some characters or archetypes become totally off-limits for Christian authors. 

Like zombies. 

Unless they just SEEM like zombies. 

But if zombies are simply fictional constructs, why can’t they be just what they are: the living dead? 

* * *

Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the
rockin’ Rachelle
Gardner
of Books & Such
Literary
. Mike’s novels include The Ghost Box, The TellingThe
Resurrection
, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly
released short story anthology Subterranea. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com, or follow
him on Facebook and Twitter.

NOT BY MIGHT

by Cynthia Ruchti

I’ve been on a hunt. An unsuccessful hunt. I thought I might find someone who had enough time, enough resources, enough ingenuity, strength, knowledge, and skill to accomplish the difficult task they’d been assigned by God.

Searched the people around me. People on the other side of the globe. People from the Bible.

All of them, underdogs. All too small, ill-prepared, underfunded, overworked, or the-least-likely.   

Millenia-worth of God-followers accomplished their tasks despite insufficient resources and inadequate time or strength.

How? And why would that pattern repeat itself so regularly through history?

David, the under-appreciated shepherd boy standing before a fully armed and armored giant, Goliath, an accomplished and formidable warrior. Goliath held a spear bigger around than David’s skinny arms, no doubt. But add God to the equation and Goliath toppled like a pile of children’s blocks.

Gideon, the draft-dodger who was drafted anyway, as insecure as they come. His army was immeasurable outnumbered, but victorious because they threw themselves on the mercy of God and chose to obey His specific, curious orders.

Joseph started life in Egypt as a slave with no rights, no possessions, no resources, and ended up second in command to Pharaoh. Joseph became a powerful leader who was instrumental in rescuing the entire nation of Israel from famine and destruction. Not by might. Not by power. But by the Spirit of the God he served.

When we feel overwhelmed by the circumstances facing us, we can imagine God is thinking, “Great! Those are the kinds of odds I like best! Now, get out of the way and watch Me work.”

It’s an offense to Him if human cleverness and talent is credited for the victories in our lives. Everything good that we are and have and do is because of Him.

In Isaiah 26:12 ESV, God’s people said, “All we have accomplished, Lord, is really from You.” In the Common English Bible, it’s expressed this way: “All that we have done has been your doing.”

Feeling a little underdog-ish? Overwhelmed? Outnumbered? Under-resourced?

Here’s a holding-on-for-dear-life verse to encourage you that you’re in a good place, a God place.

Zechariah 4:6-7 AMP, revised–“‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts For who are you, O great mountain of human obstacles?…You shall become a mere molehill!”