Partnering with a co-author can cut your book writing time in half and doubles the number of authors who are motivated to get out there and promote your book. However, there are several ways that a co-author relationship can go sour and make both authors regret the partnership. So in case you are considering creating a co-author arrangement for your next book, you may appreciate reading these tips from experienced co-authors.
“Pick someone who has a vested interest in your customer base or industry, but is not competitive.”
Joe Pulizzi has co-authored two books (“Get Content Get Customers“ and “Managing Content Marketing“) and this is the first tip he offers to anyone who is considering finding a co-author. Pulizzi explains that both authors were originally working on their projects individually, but when they learned how similar their books would be they decided to partner as co-authors.
“Make sure you trust that person with your life.”
This was Pulizzi’s second tip to aspiring co-authors. This tip suggests that partnering with a perfect stranger may not be the best long-term business move. You may soon notice a trend with echoes of this concern throughout the remaining tips.
“Make sure you’re familiar with your partner’s writing.”
A Miss Literati blog post about working with a co-author begins by encouraging authors to study the writing style and quality of a potential co-author before asking them to be your co-author or before accepting their invitation to be their co-author. If you are not impressed with what they have written before, then you won’t be impressed by what they write as part of your partnership. Even worse, if you are offended by what they’ve written before, you can expect to be offended by what they write with you. There’s nothing wrong with having a different style from your co-author, but there is a problem if those differences conflict instead of compliment.
This is Miss Literati’s second tip. She recommends communicating daily to make sure that you two share an understanding of your goals and you two can quickly address any issues as they arise. How you communicate will depend on what works best for the two of you, whether it is via phone calls, text messages, emails or even fax. Just do it…often.
“It doesn’t hurt to have a complementary combination of personality traits either.”
This tip from co-authors Gina Buanaguro and Janice Kirk adds to Miss Literati’s tip on checking out your potential co-author’s writing style and quality by looking at personality. If both you and your co-author are procrastinators or perfectionists, your project will struggle to meet timelines.
“Always make suggestions and never line edit your co-author’s contribution.”
Frank Viola has co-authored several projects, and one of his tips is to avoid editing your co-author’s work by crossing out entire sentences and reworking it to the point where you infuriate your co-author and change it to something that you would write. You can always get an editor later to manage the editing.
“Don’t assume that your writing pace is the same as your partner’s.”
If you talk about your respective writing paces before you jump into co-authoring your book, you won’t freak out about how they wait until the last minute to write while you write a little at a time. This is another tip from Viola.
“If something isn’t right, it should go, no matter who wrote it.”
Lily Harlem loves to co-author, and one of the tips she gives to first-timers is to let go of your ego and focus on the story. At first, this may sound like something you want to point out to your co-author when they write something that you don’t agree with, but it is something that you may have to remind yourself about while you grind your teeth and listen to feedback on the passage you spent hours crafting. When you put the success of your writing project over your need to protect your ego, you’re likely to end up with a better quality book and a better quality relationship with your co-author.
“Establish guidelines rather than deadlines of when you’ll get your chapter or word count done, and be understanding if daily life causes delays.”
Lily Harlem believes that guidelines allow co-authors to have a relaxed mindset that is better in the long run.
“I highly recommend that you use a contract when publishing a book with a co-author.”
Award-winning and internationally best-selling author Shelley Hitz recommends that co-authors should have a contract that addresses everything from how the royalties will be split to who will be responsible for managing the marketing. Learn more about what should be included in this contract and how to get a copy of a sample contract in her original blog post.
The ten tips above can’t help you avoid every issue that can arise while working with a co-author, but they will probably make your process flow more smoothly. As you reflect on how each of the tips apply to you, feel free to visit the original blog posts by clicking on the link included in each tip or warning description. If you have ever worked with a co-author, feel free to add your tip in the comments below.