Andrea Waltz - June 9, 2022 - 5 min. read
Should You Have a Co-Author for Your Book?
If you are considering writing a book, or if you have been struggling for a while, there is one strategy you may have not yet considered. It can greatly lessen your load and give you all kinds of benefits.
Here it is: Have a co-author.
When it comes to writing a non-fiction book, there is almost no downside to having a co-author and a lot of benefits such as:
• You get two points of view, and you increase the depth of expertise with two authors.
• You get to share in the workload of writing and editing and hold each other accountable for getting the book written.
• You can share in the costs if you are choosing to publish yourselves.
• From a time, effort, and energy perspective, it’s better for two authors to market a book to their audiences than one. Marketing is the key to success!
You must have a good foundation to build upon.
One of the best-selling book franchises in history was developed and written by Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield. It was called Chicken Soup for the Soul. Between the two of them, they worked tirelessly first to get a publisher for the book and then on marketing and pr once the book was released. They made that first book a huge success and it spun off an entire empire.
Today, they have sold half a billion books.
To achieve any real results, you must have a solid foundation with your co-author.
• Have the same goals and purpose for the book.
• Work well together (without a lot of friction) to write and collaborate on the content and compromise when necessary.
• Have equal desire and commitment to follow through on the writing, publishing, and marketing of the book.
• Mark and Jack had the same vision for the Chicken Soup book, and they were willing to do whatever it took to make it successful.
How to Write Together
Hopefully, I have sold you on the positives of having a co-author. But how do you write a book with someone else?
My husband and I have co-authored several non-fiction and fiction books including our most successful book, “Go for No!”. We love writing together and we often get asked this question.
Be on the Same Page!
You must both understand the direction, theme, plot, and characters of the book in advance.
For example, when we wrote our paranormal suspense together, before we started, we took the time to outline all of the characters in the book. We both understood who they were, their motivations, and their problems.
This probably will not work for the type of writer (often called a “pantser”) that wants to sit down and dash off 10,000 words without planning a direction or thinking about the characters. The problem is, it leaves your co-author totally in the dark on the direction of the book.
We also were clear on the theme. We agreed that underlying everything was our main character’s (a ghost named Onyx Webb) desire to walk among the living and her hatred of people who take life for granted.
That said, it’s helpful for someone to be the lead writer and the “voice” of the book. In our case, my husband Richard did all the first drafts then I would print out the book and make my changes. Sometimes I would cross out entire sections and then send him new text to insert in its place. (This is also the non-technical way to do it.)
If you want to write equally, all you need to do is use the editor functions in Word like “track changes” so that you can each work on the document and share back and forth. Or, work on a document in Google docs and create your content that way.
In the book, “Younger Next Year” a non-fiction work about aging and longevity, the two co-authors used a clever way for both to write together. One of the authors was a doctor and the other was trying to get healthier and live longer. They divided up the book chapter for chapter so when you read it, you got their perspectives one at a time, back and forth. And it worked great.
Or perhaps one of you doesn’t love writing. Then the writer of the team could do a couple of interviews, have them transcribed, and then include the points and stories from the co-author into the manuscript that way.
You’ll have to figure out what works for you, but the main thing is to have a plan and have clarity on how you can work together in advance. Get creative and brainstorm how to best work together. Whatever can help you produce the best book in a reasonable amount of time is the one you should choose!
I mentioned earlier the writing partnership of Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield. I once heard Mark speaking at a book marketing seminar and he said, “1 + 1 is not 2. It’s 11.”
This is definitely the case when it comes to book marketing.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but once you are finally finished with your book, the work is just beginning.
Many people think they can “hire out” or delegate the marketing of their book. While you can have people create graphics and do other things for you, you play a huge role in it. People want to hear from the author. In this case, authors. So, if you have a co-author, you can now share the workload and costs of marketing 50/50.
You can do double the number of podcasts. Write double the number of blogs. Double the number of videos! It all makes a difference, so the more effort you can have going towards marketing, the greater the chances of the book being a long-term success.
Wait, what about making money?
Yes… the money. There is that.
Obviously, if you have a co-author you will need to split all the royalties you make. You may not be as excited to share your royalties with someone else. (I am assuming it’s 50/50. If one of you did the majority of the writing and brought more expertise to the project, certainly you can come to your own agreement and change how the royalty is split between you.)
Before you get to feeling greedy, let me paraphrase my friend and book strategist Honorée Corder, who says, “Would you rather split a watermelon or have a grape all to yourself?”
When you have a co-author who brings their expertise, and hopefully an audience of some kind to the table, and will also market the book, your chances of selling more books go higher.
Sadly, a lot of people are short-sighted and dream of having millions of dollars coming in from their book sales and not sharing it with anyone else. What if the “Chicken Soup” authors I told you about earlier had done that? The book probably would not have done what it did.
Final warning: Whatever arrangements you do make with your co-author, make sure that you put those in writing so you both understand the financial and workload agreements. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been friends for decades, always lay out your business deals in writing.
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