A Work-for-Hire Query Letter and Success Story from Jennifer Swanson

Have you ever wondered how to query for work-for-hire projects? Today author Jennifer Swanson shares one of her query letters with us. Jennifer has had a lot of success when it comes to work-for-hire commissions. Check out her amazing list of published books on her website! And work-for-hire can lead to other things as you will find out. Here’s Jennifer:

jennifer swansonI have had a lot of people ask me how I managed to get a contract writing for National Geographic Kids—truly the dream job of most people who write science books. Well, it came through a round-about way. Since most of what NGKids publishes is in series format, I decided to try to come up with a topic that I thought would fit one of their series. I started with the Everything books. I bought 4 different books and studied them intensely. I mimicked their active language, their multiple sidebars and fun facts, and searched for a topic that had not yet been covered.

Once my proposal was created, I submitted the following query letter .

ATTN: Jennifer Emmett, VP Editorial Director, National Geographic Kids

Dear Ms. Emmett,

I’ve been enjoying reading several of the books in the NGKids Everything series. The topics are so fun and fascinating! I have attached a proposal for an Everything Jellyfish book that I hope you might consider.  National Geographic has many vivid pictures of these seemingly peaceful but deadly animals and I feel they would make a great addition to your series.

Attached you will find my proposed outline, sample first chapter, working bibliography, and a copy of my resume.  I would be happy to answer any questions you might have for me about this project and am willing to revise and re-work both my outline and first chapter.

My writing credentials twenty non-fiction books published by Capstone Press, The Child’s World, Rosen Publishing, ABDO Publishing, Compass Books, and Black Rabbit Books. My book “How Hybrid Cars Work” (The Child’s World) received a starred review from Booklist and also a Top 10 Books for Youth 2012 Award from Booklist Online. Several of my other books have received “highly recommended” reviews from the National Science Teacher Association.“Body Bugs” (Capstone Press) was a 2012 Tri-state Book of Note.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


Jennifer Swanson

What happened?

brain games (391x500)Well it was bad and good. Ms. Emmett did not accept my book proposal; however, my initiative in mimicking their series gained me an introduction to another editor who ultimately hired me to write the Brain Games book!

The “moral” of this story? 

Be Flexible! Be Bold! Think Outside the Box! 

If you want to work with a publisher and they do series books, study their material, find an interesting topic and send it out. You never know where it might lead.


Jennifer Swanson is an award-winning author of over 20 nonfiction and fiction books for children. She offers a critique service to help writers break into the business through work-for-hire projects on her website at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com. You can also find Jennifer on Facebook and Twitter

6 thoughts on “A Work-for-Hire Query Letter and Success Story from Jennifer Swanson

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  1. Nice post, Jen. Thank you for sharing your query. It takes that first baby step to get any ball rolling. You’ve motivated me.


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