I always knew coauthoring had benefits – half the workload, and twice the platform to launch from are the obvious bonuses. Sure, you have to split your royalties, but you also share the costs. But I had reservations (how do you allocate who writes what? What if you don’t like each other’s ideas or writing?), so it was relegated to something other authors did.
Until a fellow author approached me, asking me to cowrite an urban fantasy series. I was nervous. I was intrigued. I asked some questions. I hesitantly agreed. Not long later, I approached another author friend wondering if we should do the same with an idea I had percolating. One that felt like it could be far better served if it was molded and cultivated by more than just one mind.
And so my coauthoring journey began.
And it’s been such a delightful adventure that it sparked the very words you’re reading. With a highly successful dystopian series (which may or may not have interest to option the film rights…), and a twelve book urban fantasy series releasing next year, I discovered the benefits of sharing the writing and marketing process.
Writing can be a lonely business, so I’ve really delighted in having someone to share the highs and lows with far more intimately. Your coauthor shares the excitement and the anxiety because they’re living it with you. What’s more, it’s exciting to see your word count grow on the days you don’t write, meaning books with your name on them are released twice as fast. It’s easier to rapid release and your backlist grows at twice the rate.
I’ve been lucky. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive. But I know other coauthored projects never see the light of publishing. There seem to be several key ingredients that are the foundation for success in my coauthored projects. Here’s what I’ve learned:
At this stage, Amazon only allows authors to publish under a single name. That means one person from your writing duo (or trio, or septuplet if you’re feeling ambitious!) will be publishing your books on their KDP dashboard. It will be their role (aka headache) to split the royalties each month for the lifetime of your books.
What’s more, another writer is going to see your work at varying stages of draft (personally, this was a challenge for my perfectionism tendencies). If I didn’t trust my coauthors to be positive and constructive, it would’ve been a much more difficult process.
- Who will be publishing the books? How will you report earnings and costs?
- Do you feel the feedback you’d be getting is valuable? Do you think it strengthens your writing?
- Are you willing to be tied to this author for the life of your books?
When you write a book with someone, you’re molding two creative visions into one. There are times that process won’t be seamless. The truth is, you’re not going to agree on everything. Authors get possessive about characters, have different ideas for the direction of the story, misunderstand communications. You’re probably at different points of the plotting-to-pantsing spectrum…
The assumption that everyone can, and should, speak their mind is a necessary foundation of coauthoring. But it needs to be done respectfully—with a willingness to compromise and a joint desire for a win-win solution.
You need to consider:
- Are you able to speak openly with your coauthor?
- How will you resolve disagreements?
- Are you both able to communicate different perspectives in constructive ways?
This is one of the benefits of coauthoring, but the more you’re conscious of it, the more you can harness it. Is one writer better at character arcs while the other has a knack for thinking up plot twists? Does one author excel at seeing the big picture while the other will nit-pick at the details? Are one of you skilled with Facebook ads while the other works on building the newsletter?
Spend a little time articulating the following:
- What are your strengths? What will you bring to the coauthoring project?
- What are your coauthor’s strengths? How can you learn from each other?
- What skills are you still developing? In what ways could your writing career benefit from working with another writer? How can you benefit theirs?
A Shared Vision
In the same way you’ll need differences and contrasts with your coauthor/s, you’re going to need similarities because these commonalities will be the foundation for your writing endeavors. A shared passion for the story concept and its characters. A desire to see your books succeed, even when life gets busy or the kids get sick. Ultimately, writing a book takes dedication and hard work. If you’re writing a series, then the workload and timeframes just multiplied.
Make sure you discuss:
- What are you hoping to achieve by publishing this story/series? Does your coauthor feel the same? Are you both equally excited and passionate about this concept?
- How will you actualize these plans? Shared calendars? Checklists? Word count targets?
- Do you both write at the same pace? What work and family responsibilities do you both need to take into account? Are you able to agree on timeframes (and stick to them)?
I’ve found coauthoring to be deeply rewarding and something I’ll be continuing into the future. In fact, when you find the right person, the end product can be stronger than a book you write solo.
What about you? Have you had success with coauthoring? What have you found rewarding? Challenging? I’d love to hear your experiences.
Tamar Sloan is a freelance editor, consultant and the author of PsychWriter – a fun, informative hub of information on character development, the science of story and how to engage readers.Tamar is also an award-winning author of young adult romance, creating stories about finding life and love beyond our comfort zones. You can checkout Tamar’s books on her author website.