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Neubauer's Nuggets
By Joan R. Neubauer
November, 2006, 10:40

ach month, award-winning author Joan R. Neubauer answers questions from you, her readers. She will answer questions about writing, promotion, publishing, and any other aspect of the publishing industry you can think of. Send your questions to her at Subject: Neubauer Nuggets, and maybe yours will be the question she answers next month.


Dear Joan,
At my last writerís club meeting, someone said a ďpackagerĒ was looking for writers to write books. I was too embarrassed to ask, but what is a packager and how do they work?

Anonymous in Indianapolis

Dear Anonymous,

Never be embarrassed to ask when you donít know something. None of us knows everything, and all of us can learn something from someone else. Iím glad you asked this particular question, because itís a good way for new writers to break into the industry.

First, a packager Ė usually a little known entity Ė is a publisher that contracts with a much larger and well-known publishing house to produce a book or series of books. The larger publisher may have an idea for the books and wants the packager to produce them, or the packager may have the idea and then sells it to a larger house. The process works both ways.

Once the contract between the two houses is in place, the packager develops the outline or outlines for the series of books, and then looks for writers. The packager contracts with the writer to write the book within a specified period of time, for a fee and no rights. This is strictly a work for hire agreement. The writer produces the book and gets paid then walks away and looks for the next assignment. The packager presents the finished manuscript to the other house for approval. Upon approval, the packager prints the book with the other publishing houseís name on it.

This works well for the packager because it gives them the opportunity to develop a concept, hire writers, and make money. It works well for the larger publishing house because they donít have any of the work, but they get to put their name on the books. And it works well for the writers because it gives them an opportunity to break into the industry and make some money.

This process has been in place for years. The Hardy Boys, Trixie Beldon, and other series of books have been produced in this manner. While the authorís name may not appear on the books, the author may certainly cite their work in their resume. Just think, you could be the next Carolyn Keene.

Good luck,

Dear Joan,

Iíve always wanted to be a syndicated columnist, but I donít know where to start. Can you please advise me?

Jean Mayfield
Duluth, MN

Dear Jean,

To count yourself among the ranks of the syndicated columnists just takes a little imagination and a lot of hard work.

For your first task, identify your expertise. Perhaps youíre great at gardening, cooking, quilting, nursing, or finances. Pick the topic that you know a lot about, have had success with, and preferably one in which youíve had training or certification. That will lend you credibility. Then write two to three sample columns.

Take these sample columns, along with a picture of you, a bio, reasons a newspaper would want your column, and your price (your presentation packet) to your local newspaper and offer to write a regular column, either weekly or monthly, just like these, perhaps 500 words, for a set fee, probably $20-$25. If they refuse, take them to another paper with the same offer. Make sure you only sell one-time rights.

Once you have one newspaper in place, write those columns furiously. Bundle them in batches of twelve (one for each month, or one for each week per calendar quarter). Burn them to a CD and have them ready and waiting. Save your presentation material to PDF and email it to several newspapers with a very nice letter. Donít forget to send follow-up emails or make follow-up phone calls in a few days.

The smaller the newspaper and their circulation, the lower your fees. And if a newspaper will buy twelve columns at a time from you, you can probably lower the cost from $20-$25 per column to $10-$15 per column. That may not sound like a lot of money, but if, in a given month, you sell the same column for $10 to 100 newspapers, well, thatís $1,000 a month!

Like I said, itís not easy, but if you work with determination and your goal in mind, you can do it. The trick here, is never lose site of that goal.

Good luck to you,
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Joan R. Neubauer is an author and works as a publisher at Visit her website at email at or You can sign up for WordWright's monthly email newsletter at the site as well.

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