Welcome back to Part 2b of the Co-Author conversation. This morning, we’ve already discussed how to test-drive the potential partnership and how crucial organization and open communication is to keeping the partnership alive.
Next, it’s time to discuss the different roles you might be asked or want to fill, and some of the different partnerships that are out there. I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I’m familiar with.
Types of Co-Authors
First of all, it’s important to know there are different types of co-authors:
Lead Author – The person who takes lead on the creation of the book itself. It is usually good to know who’s taking creative lead because having too many chiefs causes friction.
Book Owner – This is the person who will be taking care of publishing the book itself. This person usually has a publishing house.
Co-Author/Weakness Manager – This is the author who doesn’t take lead, but simply offers content to the creation of the book. They usually tweak and support weaknesses of the other author and offer the power of their strengths.
Contributor – This is usually someone outside of the co-author partnership, but is sometimes included on the team. This can be an outside outliner, a project manager, a coach, an editing manager or team of editors, or even a publisher. They will have no rights to the copyright.
When you’re deciding your roles, have a serious conversation with your ego and ask your ego just how much it’s willing to pay to be in control.
Types of Partnerships
In this section, I’m just going to wildly name things. You can call them whatever you like. I don’t think that any of this is really official, but these are the different types of partnerships that I’ve had experience with.
We will discuss royalty splits next week and will discuss how to fix things when it goes bad.
WRITER AND EDITOR/WEAKNESS MANAGER
This one seems to be super popular. You have the writer, who is usually the lead author, write the first draft. The second author then comes in and does an edit. This author is usually but not always the book owner. When they’re the book owner, they will take the second draft, and polish it, adding transitions that were missed, tweaking scenes that could be strengthened, and basically adding their strength elements to the book.
An example of this was the co-author penname Hattie Hunt. That was me and Alivia Patton. When she was creative lead, I would go through and tweak and finesse her action scenes because she struggled with that.
As the book owner, I would then hire the editor, initiate editing, and take lead on the publishing process.
It’s important to note that in a true co-author partnership, each co-author needs to author.
CHAPTER TO CHAPTER
Some co-author partnerships decide to take lead in writing every other chapter. This is usually the case when they have a similar voice, a similar brand, are equals in their genre and industry, and are in need of replicating themselves to write more books faster.
The thing here is that in order for this to be a success, they really do need to be equals and they really do need to be pretty similar in voice.
When entering in this agreement, it’s important to realize that you will be expected to be that second set of eyes on their Draft 1 to Draft 2 transition. You will be expected to polish their portion and to strengthen their weaknesses, and you have every right to expect the same. This can be a very powerful partnership and can lead to a very tight and exceptionally well-crafted story.
CHARACTER TO CHARACTER/ SCENE TO SCENE
One easy and effective way to divide the writing of a book when you have two different voices and writing styles, or when you have two levels of professional ability is to assign each other different characters. With my husband and I, I will take the lead female and he will take the lead male. We did that in Whiskey Witches with so much success that we’re doing it again in another series.
These can be split by chapter or by scene. It really depends on the project. In this instance, it’s important to plan out the percentage of work each co-author will perform because this will affect how the royalties are split.
In any case, the non-writing partner will be relied upon to go through and “polish the turd,” as my husband so aptly puts it. I call it, “strengthening the weaknesses.” That is the greatest part of a co-author partnership.
This is an approach that I don’t see often, but it works out great. This can also work well when you have two authors with big egos. This is something I have to consider because I do have a big ego. Just ask any of my past co-authors.
One author will be the lead author on one book, with the other author swinging in to be the editor/weakness manager. However, these two roles will swap on the next book.
This was how Alivia and I wrote the Hattie Hunt books. She was great with romance but sucked at action. I was good with actio, but sucked at romance. This was a fantastic match-up.
AUTHOR AND HEADLINER
This is typically a partnership between a relatively new author and a sustainably bestselling author. The headliner is making a promise to the newer author that they can sell more books by leveraging their carefully branded name. By offering you a chance to co-author, you should receive buy-through as the co-authored books take off.
This can also be a mentoring project. In mentoring partnerships, the newer author will learn from the experienced author, but only if the experienced author invests the time into doing so. If that expectation is wanted, then it needs to be discussed before the project is started.
In this instance, the headliner author is usually the book owner. Sometimes, they’ll also take creative lead, though not always.
This can be very powerful for both sides. The newer author can have the opportunity to learn while the experience author has the opportunity to get more books out there. It can be a win-win.
Things to Keep In Mind
A few things to keep in mind as you’re setting out on this venture:
1. Never hand your co-author Draft Suck. Never, ever, ever hand them Draft Suck. Never give them Draft Suck. If you dictate, clean it up by reading through it. If you type, then clean it up by reading through it. You will suck the life out of your partner if you expect them to clean up your crap. Look, they already have significant others and kids and cats and other people demanding more out of their free time than they have. Don’t add to the list.
2. Invest in the book. This project, if done correctly, could provide you both with a powerfully strong book. But that only works if you’re both investing your time, energy, and attention into it.
3. Hire contributors for things that are zapping the energy from both of you. It’s easy to create friction in a partnership like this. So, if there’s extra weight or extra stress being felt on either or both sides of this arrangement, the partnership will fall.
I hope this was helpful and sparks some thoughts into how to best manage your partnership. Next week, we’ll discuss royalties in Part 3. Stay tuned and happy trialing!