What is coauthoring?
Don’t mistake coauthoring for ghostwriting. The former involves two people and their input into a book, the latter means one person does all the work and another person gets credited for it and sells it. Coauthoring can be compared to a multi-author anthology, with the difference that there aren’t many stories contributed to one collection but one story with two contributors. Another term for this is collaborative fiction. This principle is fairly common in non-fiction but still rather rare in fiction. However, co-writing is on the rise.
There are different ways how to handle co-authoring:
- An author takes another author’s finished (but unpublished) work, edits and remodels it, and publishes it.
- Both authors brainstorm an idea and plot, and one author writes the first draft. The second author will then edit and rewrite to publish the book.
- Both authors write simultaneously or in instalments / chapters until they finish, edit and publish the book together.
Mike Wells has tried the first and second method. The first one has resulted in the crime novel “With Mother’s Approval” and is a collaboration with author Robert Rand. The second one involved me – pinch me, I must be dreaming – and will be available as the romantic suspense novel “Forbidden” soon. To quote Mike on both adventures: “This is a new direction I’m trying and so far it’s been working great. The book I collaborated on with Robert Rand is receiving rave reviews, and I expect the same result with Devika’s.”
As for the third method, it works well too. I read “Bought in Blood (Sanguinem Emere, Book 1)” and loved it. Carmen Dominique Taxer wrote it with her partner Richard T. Wheeler (I believe she focused on the vampire scenes and he wrote the scenes from the detective’s POV). There are quite a lot of books coauthored by a husband-and-wife duo or authors who are friends. Sometimes the team publishes under a common pseudonym, as is the case with Grant Naylor, Lewis Padgett and Judith Michael. Other coauthored books display the renowned author’s name prominently and show the coauthor’s name in smaller font. Usually the royalty is split or there are some other (financial) benefits for the co-author.
Here are some other examples of authors who ‘hire’ co-authors (some of them really famous):
- Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston
- James Patterson
- Tom Clancy
- Wilbur Smith
- Nicci Gerard & Sean French
- Janet Evanovich
- Clive Cussler
Advantages and tips
If you search the internet, you’ll find comments that denounce coauthoring and say it’s a trend doomed to fail. From my point of view though, I can see many reasons for and advantages of collaborative fiction.
- One of the team might have specific experiences or special knowledge the other author doesn’t have.
- It’s a great opportunity for those who don’t have enough time, because you’re sharing the workload.
- You can learn a lot in the process, maybe even rediscover yourself or venture into other genres.
Here’s Mike Wells’ take on why and how authors can benefit from coauthored books. “One of the main reasons I am doing it is to amplify my range and output—the more titles you have out there, the more books you sell and the larger your reader base grows. The risk, of course, is that you produce books of lower quality due to various factors, such as the “too many cooks spoil the broth” problem. However, I think by carefully agreeing up front exactly how the book will go, who will do what, etc., you can avoid this problem and actually have a synergistic result, a book that is better than either author might produce on his/her own for the reasons Devika stated above.”
Of course there are things to be considered. There needs to be a sort of “working plan”, each author needs to know their tasks and responsibilities. The authors have to discuss and agree on copyright, earnings, distribution and marketing. Communication is essential, and you need to work together on more than one level.