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Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper.  All rights reserved.

Freelancing vs. Being an Author


I have heard many other writers refer to being a fiction author as "freelancing."  Frankly, I think this is both inaccurate and misleading.  Freelancing is hiring out your work--being a contractor or working for hire.  In contrast, fiction writing is generally speculative.  And, such writers are usually called "artists" -- not contractors -- in tax law and in other law, and the laws protecting artists are different from those protecting contractors.

In fiction writing, you write a piece, then try to sell it.  Or, you contract for a story that may or may not end up being published based on the publisher's read of the fickle, fiction marketplace.  There is no objective standard to judge the worth of your work, and you do not usually have the same protections in your publishing contract that contract writers do in their work-for-hire agreements.  Finally, in fiction writing, you usually retain the copyright to your work, as well as retaining any other rights that have not specifically been transferred to the publisher.

Freelancing or contracting is work-for-hire.  You may or may not contract the specific piece before writing, but the rights to the work usually belong to the employer, not to you.  (In some cases, such as with some freelance journalists, first publication rights could be sold to the newspaper or publisher, and the writer might retain other rights to the work.)  You may or may not get a byline.  In technical, science, or other contract writing, you are usually protected by laws that regulate and pertain to other types of contractors.  And, your work agreement probably provides you with adequate, if not good, legal protection in case of contract disputes.  Work-for-hire writing can be a way to pay the bills while paying your dues in fiction.

Only a few publishing houses hire work-for-hire fiction writers, and those contracts seem to be frighteningly dangerous for the writer.  Unless you feel you must pay your dues in what I would call a desperate manner, I suggest you avoid work-for-hire fiction writing.

Copyright 2000 Tara K. Harper

All rights reserved.  It is illegal to reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, any part of this copyrighted file without permission in writing from Tara K. Harper.  Permission to download this file for personal use only is hereby granted by Tara K. Harper.

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