Before attending this talk I’d no idea what book packaging involved, I thought it might mean designing or typesetting books. I soon discovered how wrong I was when David Richardson of SCBWI introduced the two speakers, Benjamin Scott and Michael Ford.
Michael is an editor for Working Partners, a book packager that’s produced hundreds of successful series and sold them to publishers around the world; Benjamin is a children’s author who ghost-writes for various of those series.
Michael explained how book packaging works: a team of editors create a character bible and multiple plot outlines for each series. They then choose writers to collaborate with on the different stories and work with them to get a uniform voice across their books. Using multiple writers means they can produced content quicker.
Working Partners likes to give breaks to new writers as well as experienced authors, there’s a link on their website explaining how to send a sample of work. They audition five to twelve writers a year, so if your submission sparks their interest they request three chapters based on their material. They give free editorial feedback and like to see how you handle revisions.
After a humorous potted history of his writing career, Benjamin explained how he became lead writer on Star Fighters. He discussed his audition, rewriting, and the long wait afterwards. Eventually he was asked for a second sample and they ended up taking him on. So far he’s written eight books for Star Fighters and two on Sea Quest. He also makes time for school visits, which not all the children’s writers at Working Partners do, but it’s something he organises himself and very much enjoys.
Benjamin and Michael talked about producing a single book at Working Partners. Lengths range from 6000 words for Young Readers like Rainbow Magic, up to 60,000 words for Middle Grade like Warriors, and longer for YA and Adult, so the time it takes to complete a book can vary from two to eight months. But with Star Fighters you have four and a half weeks to write a 12,000 word draft from a 3000 word plot outline. This is then edited and sent back to you and you have two weeks to polish the story, which Working Partners subsequently sends to publishers. If a publisher requests changes at this stage these are done in-house by the editing team.
There are standard contracts for each series and writers can expect some advance, plus biannual royalties on their books, along with Public Lending Rights. Benjamin enjoys collaborating with the editorial team, and has learnt a lot about plotting from working with outlines, which helps his own work. It was an informative and entertaining talk, and I am seriously considering applying to write for Working Partners.