Anyone who writes seriously knows that it’s very difficult to make enough money at this gig to support yourself let alone a family. Most of us have other jobs or do other writing related things to bring in some income (or have gainfully employed and understanding spouses).
One of the options available to a writer to earn a little more money is work for hire. I’ve done a lot of that this past year. In fact, I have six books just out or about to come out (I’ll post them here in the next few days but you can also see them on my website now). I sound prolific when I say that. I'm not, really. That’s all part of work for hire.
What does it mean when I work for hire? In my case, a packager I met at a conference has approached me to write book(s) that are: on a specific topic for a specific publisher with a specific page length and an age, vocabulary/concept target for a set fee. These books are designed to be used in a classroom and are usually part of a series specifically designed to meet a school curriculum requirement. Yes, they’re usually nonfiction books (although there are packagers who produce fiction series).
I go do the job I was hired to do, I get paid, and that’s it. Not many of these types of books make it onto awards lists or get shelved in bookstores. There’s little glory. But they are used in classrooms, they do make it into libraries, and they really help kids with school.
My background in writing on the job (magazine writing) really helps here. No, work for hire is often not particularly creative, but it does require skill. And I can still pursue my own creative ideas separately as well. It just means I have to work extra hard to carve out the creative time.