Hired Guns: Paying Someone To Research Your Book

Does it help or hinder your book to hire someone else to do the research?

That’s the question of the day. Some editing businesses offer to do writers’ research for them – for a fee, of course. While it may sound good to save yourself all that research time, is it really worth it? Will your writing suffer or lack depth if you write with research that’s handed to you instead of digging up the goods yourself?

The quality of the end result will answer those questions, but personally, I wouldn’t hand off researching my own work to anyone else even if they paid me instead of the other way around. When writers try to cut the time they spend on their books, it’s usually noticeable.

There are lots of potential pitfalls that come with giving someone else the responsibility of doing your research. Not only may a researcher determine some worthwhile things to be unimportant (let’s face it, we all think differently), but you won’t see the small gems hidden within the research that could trigger a new idea. Or it could lead to additional depth of a character, more chapters, a new subplot, or even the spark of a sequel or a whole other new book. You’re essentially depriving yourself – and your readers – of newfound knowledge.

Then suppose something in the researcher’s notes catches your attention and requires ‏Hiring Researcherfurther research – you’ll probably have to pay again, depending on your agreement and how much follow-up work needs to be done. You may end up taking the same amount of time or even more time in reviewing findings, amending requests, changing angles, asking questions, etc. Since you wouldn’t be doing the work yourself, you may need to keep redirecting the researcher or asking them to go back and look for more pieces of the puzzle or more credible information. In a worst case scenario, you may find that avenue isn’t working for your story and you need to go in an entirely different direction.

You also need to be sure the researcher is at least double checking, if not triple checking, any facts they come up with. (I’m not talking about hiring a historian to do important fact-checking, I’m talking about a generic researcher who’s not particularly knowledgeable in any specific field.) We all know how much misinformation there is online, so you have to be sure they’re checking credible sites. Even book research can be outdated, so updated sources need to be checked too, especially when you’re dealing with historical fiction. Many old conclusions have been disproven when new information is uncovered over the decades.

I’m not against hiring researchers per se – the point is that I’m for the unexpected discoveries of doing it yourself. I’ve always found it adds richness, depth, and dimension to my own work that I’d never have known about otherwise.

How do you feel about doing your own research? Have you had any experience with a hired researcher?

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2 Responses to Hired Guns: Paying Someone To Research Your Book

  1. Great posting. I never considered having someone else do the work. Honestly, as tedious as it is, it’s an incredibly enjoyable part of the writing. As you discover things, you’re inspired to develop the manuscript. Sometimes you end up doing that in ways you hadn’t dreamed. But, let me also say that I was a history major so I might just be twisted that way. Research is a great part of what the writing is about. Now, I’ve always questioned how much can you make up? Do people get extremely upset if you say the market was on Ellis street when it’s really on Oak Street. It’s fiction right? You can embellish, right?

    • Proof Positive says:

      I agree! Doing research can help to expand the manuscript in ways you hadn’t planned.

      You definitely don’t have to be accurate in where things take place. You’re actually better off fictionalizing the business, for example, and/or location because authors have been sued for using real places (or even products) without permission. Of course this doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s possible and does happen sometimes. I think it’s best to play it safe and do what fiction authors do best – make it up.

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