Contracts and the splitting of royalties is easily the first question that comes up when co-author deals are broached. However, co-author partnerships fall when they’re no longer partnerships. That usually happens when one side feels like they’re carrying more weight than the other.
Those of us who have ever been in class projects – or even just in relationships, period – sometimes hate those partnerships because one person tends to do most of the work.
Co-author partnerships can feel that way, too. So, its important while you’re test-driving your co-author to get a feel for the following:
How reliable are you both at meeting the deadlines you set for each other?
How are you two balancing each other’s weaknesses and strengths?
Do you feel like you’re being pulled into a genre you didn’t agree to because they’re adding elements you either didn’t understand or didn’t discuss?
Are you two a good match for each other’s brand?
What’s your energy level when working with this author? Is it a fight to work on this sample after the second or third stage?
Can you picture yourself completing your goal with this partnership?
Are you feeling weighted down by the partnership?
How experienced is your co-author and is this going to affect the relationship? Are you going to be teaching or mentoring them? Are you a teacher or a mentor and does this excite you or drain you when thinking about it?
How are your personality types working together? Are you willing to adapt and bend to meet each other in the middle?
First, we’ll start with the test-drive process. It’s really simple.
Come up with a general sketch of an idea of a project.
Create 3-6 chapters worth of outline for this project.
Commit to working on this for three “passes.”
Set deadlines for each “pass.”
Set up your filing/organization structure, your communication system, and how you’re going to keep track of everything. DON’T volunteer to do all the “back-end” work. It’s a partnership. Not a slave ship.
Get to work and document how each of you are progressing through the project.
When you get to the end, ask yourselves if this feels good. If this seems like something you could commit to longer, and if you both still think the end product is worth the effort of the project.
Set-Up and Organization
This, frankly, is the easy part.
Organization of files can easily be done through cloud drives like Google docs, Dropbox, and Onedrive to name the top-used cloud drives. My personal preference is to stay away from Google Docs. I know authors who swear by them, but those authors are also the ones who message me when I’m in the middle of a very stressful move and demand I find their files for them because they’re on vacation and can’t find them. So, I have a grievance against Google Docs. This is a regular occurrence, receiving messages stating they couldn’t locate their files.
In Dropbox and Onedrive, the folders are literally synced onto your computer so you don’t even have to go on-line to locate them. They’re right there on your synced device. I come from a project management background, so I recommend a standardized folder set-up that makes sense to both of you.
The next thing to do is to organize your work details, character information, and outline. It’s important you both remain on the same page. The best way to do that is to ensure you’re both using the latest information.
This is why I use OneNote. It’s a live document. It’s easy to organize, and once you figure out how to sign in, it’s easy to use. Where it fails most often is when authors don’t update it. They either forget, or they assume that someone is going to come in behind them and update the information for them. There are other programs out there designed to organize notes, like Evernote, for instance. So, test-drive which ones make sense to your team.
Organization is key and critical to the success of your team. So, stop, drop, and invest in the set up.
The next section got a little more in-depth than anticipated, so I’ve separated it into a different article. In the next one this morning, we will discuss the different roles each author can take and the different types of pairings you might be able to forge.