Friday, August 6, 2010

Avery Aames Talks About Writing A Work-For-Hire

Avery Aames, author of the newly released Long Quiche Good-Bye from Berkley Prime Crime, is here today to answer some questions about writing a "work-for-hire."

I understand that your book is a work-for-hire. Can you explain what that means?

A publisher comes up with a hook for a series, creates a "bible" (which is an outline including the characters, the setting, and the theme of the series), and then hires an author to write the series (usually based upon an audition to do so).

How has this been easier/harder to write than something you created from scratch yourself?

I love writing for myself, but when I was provided with a bible that the publisher "approved," it made me feel "free." I could write without that little voice in my head telling me that whatever I wrote was garbage. {After enough rejections, that little voice was getting quite vocal!} As I wrote the first book, I was able to remind myself that the publisher wanted this story, and I was providing it with my personal stamp. Words flowed out of me, and I fell in love with the characters and setting. My research wasn't too tough, either.

How much guidance did you receive when it came to plot and characters?

As I said, there's a bible. The bible is about three pages long. This may differ, depending upon which editor came up with the idea. My bible consisted of a few paragraphs of setting and story, a few paragraphs per character that the editor wanted included, and a basic premise for the set-up, the murder, and who did it. I covered all of the bible in the first three chapters. From that point on, the story was all mine.

Does a work for hire differ from other Berkley book contracts when it comes to advances, royalties and print runs?

As far as I know, Berkley pays the same money for any debut novel. The royalties are standard and the print runs depend upon what Berkley thinks will sell at the time of publication. Is cheese hot at the time of publication? They'll print more. Are cupcakes hot? They'll print more. Who knows??!!

Has it been left up to you to plan the next book(s) in the series, or have those plots already been loosely determined?

I came up with the next two plots. I had to run them by the editor, and then I was asked to provide a very thorough outline. Other Berkley authors I know are allowed to write the next book and turn it in, but my editor likes to see an outline. The tweaks she's made have been minor. We communicate in shorthand, and I adore her.

You’ve chosen to use a pen name for the series—why? How did you choose your name?

Because Berkley came up with the hook for the series, they "own" the series. Therefore, they wanted a pseudonym for the author. In the event they elect to have another author, they can use the same name for her. I was able to choose the name. I chose the surname Aames because it is virtually the first in the alphabet, and from a marketing standpoint, that's a good thing. Aames shows up first in lists for libraries and booksellers. Avery Aames has a nice ring, don't you think?
Are you continuing to pursue publication of non-cozies under your own, or another name?

I am continuing to pursue publication of cozies or thrillers under my own name. In fact, my editor is currently reviewing another series idea. We'll see how that goes. For now, I'm thrilled to be writing about cheese. I've fallen in love with my protagonist, my setting, and my stories. And I adore my research. I'm very lucky. Say cheese!


  1. How nice to see you here, Avery! Thanks for the inside look, Peg.

  2. Very cool. How did Berkley come to hire you?

  3. Always an interesting topic, and something GUPs should know about. Avery/Daryl has always been up front about this and it has been an interesting journey with her to see what unfolds.
    Nice career moves.
    Good luck

  4. Leslie, Berkley hired me after I supplied a three chapter "audition" submitted by my agent.

    Pat and Kaye, thanks for your good wishes. As you know, there's no sense hiding what is public knowledge, right? It has been interesting developing an alter ego.

    ~Avery (aka Daryl)

  5. Interesting interview, Avery and Peg. I had no idea this fabulous novel wasn't Avery's own brainchild. And I never understood how the work-for-hire gig occurs. Thanks for sharing the process.

  6. Supriya, thanks for the "fabulous novel" comment. :)

  7. Avery,
    This is fascinating. Would you please provide a few more details? Have you been published before? Do you think Berkeley is on the lookout for more Work For Hire and would accept unagented? :)
    The work-for-hire books I have heard of were flat-fee payment and not royalties, so this was a surprise.

  8. Dear Avery,
    I've just started reading THE LONG QUICHE GOODBYE, and I'm loving it!!
    Did you always know a lot about cheese, or did this series require a good deal of research?

  9. Anonymous - I had a short story published, and I'd created the format for a TV series that was on the air. I think Berkley is interested in finding other work-for-hire authors, but they always go through an agent (as far as I know). They have a number of agents they work with, so that is always the best way for an author. I worked hard at building up my relationship with my agent. Lots of manuscripts, lots of rewrites. Not all WFH are flat-fee, and mine was not. I don't know about other contracts with other authors. Hope this info helps.


  10. Marilyn, I'm so glad you're enjoying the book. I knew enough about cheese and cooking to get started, but I began my research the moment I was offered the "audition." I bought a book called Cheese Primer, I visited cheese stores, I went online. I was able to insert a lot of my research in the first few chapters. I continue to research. I write on a blog called Mystery Lovers Kitchen where we post recipes. I've been on the blog for a year now (we just had our anniversary) and I've posted about 52 recipes with cheese (all my own). Some are from the book itself. It's been fun and I'm very lucky! I have a passion for cheese!