Somewhere along your author journey, you’re going to think to yourself that co-authoring a book would be a lot of fun. You could leverage each other’s readers together. You could gain new readers and give your readers a new author to fawn all over. You could split the work-load. You could write more books. You could produce faster.
Or you could just share this writing experience with someone. That in and of itself sometimes feels like a really great idea.
But it’s sometimes hard to know what to do when this idea strikes you.
I’m going to show you in four parts how the co-authorship can work.
Part #1 is going to talk about finding them.
Part #2 will discuss how to test the working relationship and why that’s important.
Part #3 will go over different contract and agreement clauses, and a few other legalities like how to split the royalties.
Part #4 will cover what to do if things go wrong.
How To Find Them
Sometimes a co-author arrangement will just fall in your lap. You’ll be minding your own business, writing the best that you can, and a fellow author will mention in your conversation, “We should co-write this together.”
Sometimes, authors will seek you out. They’ll formally message you—or not so formally message. I had one who simply messaged me, “Hey, when you come up with a co-author idea, let me know,” because we all know I have more ideas than I can write.
There might be a specific project you want to write, but you know you need help. In this case, I recommend putting out the call with a Google Form like this one and having authors fill it out, providing writing samples.
There are also author groups where you can put out the call, for instance. “I have this project and I would like to invite authors to contact me about co-authoring. Would anyone be interested?” I find you'll get a lot of "interest" until it comes times to work. And then the interest disappears.
If you truly want to co-author, there many ways to find an opportunity. However, how it’s managed can be tricky.
Why Do You Want One?
Before you can make any kind of decisions, you need to figure out why you want to co-author.
My first co-author partnership fell in my lap. The author in question loved editing but hated writing, and I loved writing but hated editing. Match made in heaven.
The second one happened by accident. I had come up with this series idea, and I’d started writing it. However, I wasn’t doing a great job at it. It was a male lead story and I just wasn’t capturing his voice. I asked my husband, who’s also an author, to take a look at it and he asked if he could just have a go at it. Now, don’t get me wrong. Hubby isn’t great at grammar, but he completely nailed the voice. So, we co-wrote the first three books of that series. He’s since completely taken it over.
The third one was one I sought. I wanted to write a paranormal romance spin-off, but I already knew I couldn’t write romance to save my soul. So, I went on the hunt for a romance author who was flexible enough to work with me and my world, and would enjoy writing the books. I asked a few of the romance authors I knew and struck out. They were already busy with ideas that would actually make money. Okay. They never actually said that, but it was true. I had just moved to Montana, so I made an effort to get to know the locals authors.
That's when I met her.
It’s important you know what you want to get out of it. I’ve seen co-authors succeed. I’ve seen them fail. When they fail, it’s typically because the expectations weren’t met.
So, when you’re looking at a co-author project, ask yourself what you’re expecting to get out of it. Why do you want to partner up? It’s an investment of time and energy to work with another author, so your reason needs to have value.
What Are You Looking For In A Co-Author?
The other thing you need to know is what you’re looking for in a co-author. Each author has their own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re partnering up, hopefully, you’re balancing out each other’s weaknesses and building each other’s strengths.
What weaknesses do you need help with? A specific type of story? A type of narrative? A niche market? Time?
What are your strengths? What can you offer in partnership with this other perspective author?
What are the things your co-author must be able to do? What would be a deal-breaker if your co-author couldn’t perform this certain activity?
For me, I need authors who can meet deadlines. I don’t make crazy deadlines—though they do sometimes think that. I do ask them when they will be able to get X, Y, or Z—whatever they’re working on—done. I like plans. I manage schedules and budgets. My co-authors are one piece of a very large puzzle, so if they fail there, then all the plans fall down and I might as well fly by the seat of my pants doing whatever we can whenever we feel like it.
I don’t like to do that. It gives me anxiety to manage a launch that way.
So my number one thing I must have in a co-author is that they meet deadlines.
You need to know what your deal breaker is. What’s your pet peeve?
Before you grow wild with the excitement of a partnership, before you work on the legal documents, you really do need to figure out if this is a good fit for you. Is this the right move for you?
If it is, great.
A lot of times, though, it isn't, and you need to be okay with that. It isn't a short-cut. Hiring a ghostwriter is a short-cut. Co-authoring is an experience, but it can sometimes be a frustrating and expensive one.
You should keep in mind that co-authorships are work. It’s a partnership that needs to be managed and maintained. It isn’t just a sharing of duties. You’re building something special between you.
So, are you building this together? Or are you not?