Co-Authoring

I’ve read books that have had more than one author and it made me curious each time how the authors managed it.

My sister suggested once that some authors might say they worked with another person on the book when in reality they let the other person do all the work and merely put their name to it for whatever reasons they worked out. Why would someone do that? There are tons of available reasons but the result remains the same – more money for both parties and the less-known author becomes more well-known. At the time I think she also suggested some authors who whip out a bunch of books in a relatively short amount of time were getting other people to write the books and then putting their own names on them.

I think we were a little young at the time and didn’t know any better.

In the January 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest Zachary Petit conducted an interview with four authors who have ventured into the co-writing world.

  • Blake Crouch – author of numerous novels, novellas, short stories, and articles; collaborated(s) with J.A. Konrath (thriller author of the Jack Daniels series, writes horror as Jack Kilborn)
  • J.T. Ellison – writes novels; worked(ing) with Catherine Coulter (author of recently released book The Final Cut)
  • Kathleen O’Neal Gear – writes solo and with husband W. Michael Gear
  • Douglas Preston – most recent non-fiction book is being made into a movie, The Monster of Florence, starring George Clooney; works with editor Lincoln Child on the Pendergast thriller series

Here are some things from the interview that you should probably take into consideration if you decide to step into the collaboration world:

  • Find someone you trust
  • Discuss the financials beforehand (and be concrete about it)
  • Make sure all communication is very clear (ie: how you both want to tackle the endeavor, what the story will be about, etc)
  • Figure out who’s going to break the tie on what you want/don’t want or go a third way that uses neither
  • Get a uniform voice
  • Criticize in a way that doesn’t hurt/attack
  • Make sure the person/people you collaborate with have the same kind of work/writing ethic you do (ie: if you’re on time and regular with your writing, you probably don’t want to work with someone who writes off and on “when the muse dictates”)

Crouch comments that,

If people are wondering, Should I do it?—it should be a life-enhancing thing. The idea is it makes it easier, because otherwise you could get paid 100% and do it all yourself. It should expand your creativity.

Gear adds,

I think the other thing, too, that you want to think about, is you’re trying to make the book better. And that should be your goal: that two of you can actually do something that one of you can’t.

Ellison brings up a very good point:

With Erica and Alex, we [co-wrote] specifically to introduce each other to the other’s fans. And it worked wonderfully. Now they buy me, and my fans buy them. So it’s something that can be an incredible enhancement to your career. I mean, Catherine’s going to be a career-maker for me. So many people have said to me … ‘I would never co-write.’ Really?! Why not? What do you have to lose.

Ellison’s right – what do you have to lose? Except half the paycheck of course. But keep in mind that it’s a paycheck that might not come in if it weren’t for the collaboration. Unless you have no intention to try to get the work published and it’s just something fun to do. Then all you have to lose is time.

Actually, I see friendships splitting from too many disagreements on how the story should go but let’s be mature here and realize that we can work past those problems. If you’re so inflexible that you can’t mesh your ideas, you might want to reconsider collaborating to begin with.

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About Katie St. John-Shin

I believe in living life and not letting it pass you by. I mean, come on, if you really want to do something but don't have the courage to do it so you let the opportunity disappear, you may regret it for the rest of your life. How can you know what you're capable of unless you go for it? Like every writer, I naturally plan on becoming a world-famous writer. I love reading, writing, fitness, coffee, watching my favorite movies/shows, listening to music, and trying new things even if they're sometimes terrifying. I'm a stay-at-home mom, a writer, and a POP Pilates instructor. I didn't think I'd succeed at that last one but I did it! I confronted my fears, dealt with things I didn't want to deal with, and completed the training! POP Pilates classes are coming soon to mid-Nebraska!
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