Are you considering co-authoring a book? Wordsowers guest, Susan Page Davis, shares the key to success.
Writing books with another author is challenging, but can be unexpectedly rewarding. I’ve written three mysteries with my daughter Megan (Mainely Mysteries) and am working on my second historical with my son Jim (Hearts of Oak series). I’ve also co-authored other books and series with several different authors.
The key to success in a multi-author project is communication. A good series guide, frequently updated, will help you with continuity issues of all sorts.
When I wrote with Megan, she lived in my house, so communication was not usually a problem. Jim and I, however, live 350 miles apart. We spend a lot of time on the phone and emailing. The Internet makes sending chapters and revisions back and forth easy.
Early on, you should think about what each partner is bringing to the table. Why do you want to write with this person? What is the advantage you gain? With my children, I brought experience and contacts. They brought a more youthful voice, enthusiasm, and great ideas.
In the current series, Hearts of Oak, Jim is a research dynamo. He’s spent time in Australia and Micronesia, a great asset to this project. He loves geography and history. He knows more about some topics than I do, and I know more about others. We split the writing by our passions. He wanted to write the first draft of the battle scenes, and I was happy to let him. I did the scene where the women escape from the brothel. After much research, we both wrote sailing scenes.
Writing partners should clearly spell out the division of the workload, the expenses, and the income. When I write with my kids, we share the work as evenly as possible, and also the royalties. If one of us buys some books to resell at a book signing, that person pays for the books and keeps the money from the sale. As Mom, I have paid for covers and other up-front expenses, but this would not be true in other partnerships. The publisher usually pays for those, or in an indie partnership, we would split the costs.
When writing with a non-family member, I recommend you have a written agreement that covers those initial expenses, division of income, and even the workload. If you’re writing for a traditional publisher and a different author writes each books in the series, it’s not a problem. But for indie projects, planning is best.
Some writing pairs divide the task so that one writer does all the research and the other does the writing. In others, one might write the detailed outline and the other will flesh it out. Some partners write alternating scenes or chapters, or different viewpoint characters. Each project is unique, so make sure you and your co-author are on the same page from the outset to avoid headaches later.
If you decide to try co-authoring, the most important thing is to like the person you’re working with, and to enjoy it! I guarantee you’ll grow closer. Finishing with a product you’re both proud of is priceless.
Have you ever worked on a multi-author project? What was the best part of working with another author?
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty Christian novels and novellas. Her historical novels have won numerous awards, including the Carol Award, the Will Rogers Medallion for Western Fiction, and the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Contest.