When you write a book alone you’re single: nobody cares if you don’t take out the trash, or if you sleep until noon surrounded by beer cans. A writer’s block lasting for three months will drive you crazy, but it won’t delay anyone else’s career.
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The case of joint-authoring reminds a marriage. You have a common goal (I hope), and you’re prepared to work together. You also annoy each other sometimes, and small matters can cause huge fights. Afterward, you go on writing the book like nothing happened.
Is Co-authoring a book the right choice for you?
Writing a book together with your natural rivals demands that you trust and honor your colleagues. Choose people whose writing style appeals to you. But what if one of you makes it big with his own product while you’re still struggling with the joint project? The feeling of envy belongs to the literary business. Put jealousy aside and work harder with him. And if the co-operation doesn’t work out, have a plan B ready.
Co-authoring is a serious commitment which shouldn’t be entered lightly. Stay true to your writing buddies through thick and thin. Be honest with them. You have equal rights and duties.
Plus factors of the pact
- You only have to write a part of the text because other writers do their part.
- You have expert help at hand. People who know your plot offer great tips. Each one notices different things.
- Your pals have the drive to help you because without you succeeding, they won’t cross the finish line.
- You have several people with their unique fanbase shouting your message across social media. Coordinate your efforts.
- Splitting the costs for editing and book cover. You don’t have to pay for everything without someone participating.
- You have different strengths and weaknesses. Together you make a stronger unit than alone. One of you knows weapons like a professional SWAT officer, another one creates a killer emotional impact…
- You split the money you get, and the money is far from a jackpot, to begin with.
- Amazon doesn’t have a feature to divide the authorship of a book. You must decide which one of you portrays the book on her author page.
- Sometimes joint authorship means re-writing something which would have been a simple thing by yourself. The plus sides are so big that this is a small nuisance.
- One of you will write more than the others.
- Risks of departing and all amounts to nothing
Tips for Survival
- You must have experience, something to bring to the table. Don’t expect anyone to teach you the basics of creative writing for free.
- If someone gives non-constructive commentary, be honest about it; otherwise, you’re going to have a violent fall out at some point.
- Agree on SoMe postings and PR: what to tell and when? Ask your partners before you post.
- Write a roadmap and a scene list for the book. This way you minimize rewriting because you don’t develop the plot into conflicting directions.
- Agree who writes which part beforehand. Divide the workload evenly.
- Create character wrap sheets for all major characters. The co-authors must know each other’s characters like their own pockets if the same characters run through the book.
- Share material openly with your writing buddies. Teach others, and they’ll teach you. If you guard your treasured content, how can you expect others to put it all out?
- Split the costs evenly. The same goes with incoming money, like royalties.
- Agree on copyright.
- Negotiate and present justified & clear arguments.
Enter this challenge with an attitude for adventure. It won’t be a walk in the park, I can promise you that. Strike a deal on deadlines, and I’m not talking about synchronizing word counts. Be flexible. Each writer has a different style and mentality. But if your writing buddy gets in trouble with a plot twist, or loses motivation, step in to help. Each one of you will face several writer’s blocks on the way.
Encourage each other to go on. Say out loud when you struggle. This is the most crucial piece of advice I can give you.
What can go seriously wrong?
Unfortunately, everything can go wrong. Usually, life intervenes. What if one of you gets hit by a car and cannot work for months? On a less morbid note, can your motivation take long breaks from the joint project, and pick up writing like nothing happened?
You are likely to disagree about different publishing routes and other life-and-death questions. If you own 50-50% rights of characters and plot, who has the final say? I mean this one can stop publishing after several years of hard work.
What do you consider a deal-breaker? Speak your mind through the whole process. Voice doubts in time!
People have spouses, children and day jobs. Writers usually face losing their job as a possibility to write more, but sometimes the opposite happens: you must work two or three jobs to support your loved ones. You won’t have time to write—or sleep. What happens to joint joint-authorship if one of you cannot deliver, not even after lenient deadlines? It’s human nature to hang on to something we love although we have no power to go on. Writers are incredibly ambitious and letting go is harder if you’re friends with your writing buddies.
What if the one who has to drop out is you?
My advice is this: stay in contact with your former writing buddies. Keep them updated on your situation. Another chance to co-operate might dawn in your future. To avoid a mental meltdown, be honest to your writing colleagues. Request a time-out or stop participating if you must. The others will understand your predicament.
Tools of Co-operation
Call each other if you live in the same country. I, on the other hand, live at the Northern end of Europe. I use mostly email and shared Word files to communicate. Skype is an excellent option because on the live video you see the reactions of others.
Do your writing on Google Docs where everyone can edit and leave comments. Be open-minded about editing. Google Drive and Online Word are good choices- both allow you to synchronize your laptop edition into the shared Cloud. The internet overflows with workshop software, both for PC and IOS operating systems. With the various mobile phone apps, you can edit or comment on other people’s text on the go.
Keep track of your changes. Have a specific file for the final draft. One of you might know the correct format for a finished manuscript, or you can buy the service.
Use a professional editor of high quality. The capability to give ruthless critique diminishes when you become friends with your co-authors. An editor will polish the rough edges and get rid of excess wordiness. The route of choice to publishing makes no difference: well-edited is half-sold in the Indie world as well.