If you’re considering co-authoring a book, it’s important to be aware of each writer’s strengths and weaknesses and set guidelines for the process. Here are six tips for a successful collaboration:
- DEFINE YOUR GOALS & EXPECTATIONS. Both you and your writing partner should have similar expectations and goals for the book. If your purpose is to uncover unfair practices in the mortgage lending industry and you expect to heavily market the book yourself, and your co-author’s goal is to land a six-figure book deal advance and expects the publisher to handle all the promotional aspects, then the two of you are not on the same page. Agree upon the primary goal for the project, write it down, and post it where you can see it during the writing process to help stay focused and on track.
- ENSURE YOU ARE COMPATIBLE WITH ONE ANOTHER. It’s important to collaborate with someone with a similar working style and who meshes with your personality. If you’re a very detailed and organized person, you may have difficulty working along side someone who is chaotic and can’t seem to manage details. Consider co-authoring a feature article together before committing to an entire book. If the feature article collaboration is problematic, then co-authoring a manuscript will be a greater challenge.
- CAPITALIZE ON YOUR STRENGTHS, BE AWARE OF YOUR WEAKNESSES. Each of you will bring particular strengths and weaknesses to the project. One of you may be an exceptional writer and editor, while the other is good at researching and interviewing. Know what each of you is good at and where your weaknesses lie so you can work more efficiently and effectively.
- DEFINE EACH WRITER’S JOB. Assign and outline what each of you will be responsible for. Perhaps you will divide the writing evenly, with each of you writing specific chapters separately and then editing them together. Or perhaps your co-author will contribute the ideas while you handle writing all the material. It’s important to clearly define the duties prior to beginning the book to avoid any headaches later.
- SIGN A WRITTEN AGREEMENT. A co-authoring contract is essential. It should outline all the details of the writing project, including the division of labor, deadlines, how expenses will be shared, and how advances and royalties will be split.
- ESTABLISH A PLAN FOR RESOLVING CONFLICT. Even if you're collaborating with your best friend or your twin sister, disagreements are bound to occur, which can cause delays in the project or even threaten to derail it entirely. Establish a plan for resolving conflict before beginning the book. Perhaps you will designate a third party to help settle disagreements or require that each of you create a list of both pros and cons for each issue that arises, or maybe you will agree to simply flip a coin to determine how you will proceed. Whatever your plan for resolving conflict entails, just be sure to create it before a disagreement happens.
Laura Cross is a writer/author, producer and founder of Rebel Seed Studio - an independent film production company, book publisher, and podcast network. Laura has worked as an author-strategist and professional ghostwriter of narrative nonfiction and how-to books. She is the author of the books EXPERT AUTHOR: Turn Your Expertise into a Profitable Business, Self-Help or How-To Book and BESTSELLER BOOK PROPOSAL: Develop a Winning Pitch, Acquire a Top Literary Agent and Land a Publishing Deal... Before You Write Your Nonfiction Book.