Paperback Writer (author Lynn Viehl) has posted an excellent article on writing-for-hire. It’s great meat-and-potatoes publishing info.
A publisher, packager or franchise that wants a book or books written
to their specifications solicits and hires a novelist to write them.
The writer is contracted, usually for a flat fee. The assignment can be
anything from a vague idea to a complete package including specific
plots, characters, settings, maps, themes and so forth. Wordcounts,
page counts and certain creative restrictions (like sexual content) are
also generally spelled out.
To break into writer-for-hire
work, you usually have to audition, which is a lot like pitching one of
your own novels, or the publisher may seek you out based on your
published work or a recommendation from someone who knows you and your
I’m a writer-for-hire on DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MONK books. I got the DM job because I was an exec producer on the show and the publisher was aware that I was a novelist, too. So they came to me with an offer. The MONK books are being done by the same publisher…and I’ve worked on that show, too. Writing-for-hire is a huge business and I know a lot of writers who make their living almost entirely on franchise work…