Writing a book with another author can be like getting married. You have to settle multiple legalities and sign contracts before the writing even begins. Because this decision is so important, you must choose the right partner. Pairing up to complete a project with someone who’s an ill fit can prove to be more than a headache; it can be detrimental to an author’s career. On the flip side, a valuable partner can make an author’s career with a co-writing project launching both into massive success.
The decision to co-write is far from one to take lightly. This guide will enable you to make the right decision.
Are You Searching in the Right Places?
Finding a co-author isn’t as simple as posting a notice in an online forum and hoping for a response. It can be, but the best co-writing relationships are established when people have an existing relationship, preferably in person, before deciding to work together. You should get to know the person you want to work with for at least a year so you can see how they handle a variety of publishing challenges. Writing conventions, author get-togethers, and writing retreats can be a great way to meet other writers face-to-face and observe their business strategies before you decide to take the plunge.
Do You Have Similar Writing Styles?
It’s not enough for you and your co-author to write in the same genre. Your writing styles must be similar. Both of you must have the same idea as to where the story is going and use a similar tone of voice so as to give the reader a seamless experience as they move through the story. Similarities in craft are vital as the book you’re working on together must feel like one fluid product rather than two competing ideas. Even if you and the co-author choose to write two different perspectives in two different characters, these perspectives must be read as one clear idea.
Do You Have Complementary Personalities?
Your personality should complement your co-writer’s. The two of you should have similar opinions on writing and the industry as a whole, as well as a dynamic with each other that benefits readers. This dynamic should present an ebb and flow of ideas and responsibilities that both of you share. When one of you is struggling to fulfill your duties as a co-writer, the other should overcompensate until, eventually, the positions switch. Not everyone can be at their best all the time, and it’s important to lean on each other for support.
At the same time, your relationship with your co-writer should round out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. One person should focus on the big picture of the story and marketing while the other should pay attention to the small details in both. If you have editing experience, your co-author should have marketing expertise. If you enjoy administrative work but hate proofing audiobooks, you can take on the back end of the necessary admin duties while your co-author produces the audiobooks. Whatever weaknesses you have, your co-author should be able to make up for them with their own experiences and vice versa.
Choose someone based on their compatibility with you and your writing style, not what they can do for your career. Agreeing to write with a popular or big-name author can sound exciting at first, but if the partnership is not the right match, the chances of you obtaining success and being happy with the finished product are actually less than they would be if you’d chosen a lesser-known individual who’s willing to work hard and compromise on ideas.
Do You Both Have a Business Mindset?
Co-authors need to be committed to the task and the project at hand. It is imperative that the co-writer you choose be intent on seeing the project through, regardless of how the book is performing or how difficult the writing process becomes. Troughs in sales and hard times must be endured together. Co-writing is a long-term relationship, and it takes creativity, imagination, and grit to come up with solutions to obstacles together.
There is no room for stubbornness in co-writing. You must compromise and come to an agreement on what both of you want, which is ultimately what’s best for the project. This might not be what’s best for you personally. Because of this, both parties need to be team players. You need to co-write with someone who can thoughtfully contemplate feedback without getting offended by any changes or pivots you might need to make—and in co-writing, there are a lot of them.
In co-writing, every decision is a team decision, and working together is the only way to come to a productive outcome. The best co-writing teams are made of individuals who have a mutual respect for each other. These writers are willing to work together through good times and bad in order to achieve their united goal. Your future co-author should be willing to do the same, no matter what trials or rewards you may face. Your teamwork as authors will carry you exponentially further than you could’ve gone on your own.