Who will do things on the author “to do list”
Whilst you might both be closely involved in the writing, who is going to be responsible for the admin tasks only one person can do efficiently, like
- ordering and waiting in for delivery of your first run of printed books
- following up with ongoing website enquiries
- building rapport with journalists
- planning and organising book signings at local book stores
These might be ways to share the work if 1 partner contributes less to writing the material.
Who pays the bills?
Often the best way to do this is a 50-50 split, providing each partner is contributing equally elsewhere to the success of the project. This could become tricky if you need to put the expenses through your company accounts – who keeps the original receipts? How will you bill each other for the amount you owe?
Keep accurate records in case you decide to wait until you have made some sales, then use those funds to reimburse the money you have spent.
AUTHOR TIP: Support each other throughout the project to help insure against anyone losing their author mojo.
It’s a good idea to plan mutual rewards as you reach important project milestones.
Who gets the money?
Decide in advance how you will allocate the profits from your book. Is it 50-50?
- what happens if one partner was bankrolling the project – are they paid out from the 1st sales
- what happens if the contribution of effort was not equal – what is the fair share for each person
Who gets the credit?
Some collaborations turn into a nightmare when the issue of whose name should be listed first on the cover surfaces.
Some fiction collaborators solve this problem by inventing a “single-author” pseudonym they use for a series of books. This not helpful for nonfiction authors using their book to boost their credibility with their target audience.
One of the fairest solutions is to list your names alphabetically. The decide how to connect the names. Use
- “and” between the names if you both made an equal contribution
- list the main contributor’s name first followed by “with” for the lesser contributor if the contributions were not equal
- add the authors name then “as told to” if the author had the ideas and the other contributor was responsible for recording and transcribing them, then using that to create the finished written version
What happens if a contributor stops contributing entirely
Plan how you will deal with a contributor who stops contributing. It could be because of unforeseen personal or professional obligations, or simply because they lose interest. Sometimes collaborations end suddenly when partners declare themselves officially “off the project”. Sometimes your book project suffers a slow, linger death because the other partner stops contributing but feels unable to face the truth and confess they have had enough.
Whether the news comes at you like a bombshell, or dawns on you over time, you need to decide in advance what will happen.
- who will own the rights to your book project as it stands
- can the remaining partner carry on, or should / does the project need to be shelved
- can someone else with similar skills and experience step in to continue with the book
- will the person who quits have an rights to royalties
- can a withdrawing partner forbid the book to go ahead
- will credit still be given in the byline if their work remains in the publication
Always decide these things in advance when your working relationship is strong. Once the arrangement has broken down, depending on how emotionally charged the circumstances are, reaching a harmonious solution may become trickier to achieve,
Whatever you decide, get it in writing
It might seem “mistrustful” to ask your friend to sign an agreement in advance, but if you’ve ever had something unravel on you, you’ll know that remorseful feeling where you wish you had something (anything!) in place to deal amicably and efficiently with the breakdown and disappointment.
Don’t think of it as being rude, think of it as being responsible. Your agreement can acknowledge how you will deal with the mutually-enjoyable successes, like sharing royalties, and not just the downsides to failing to see the project to a successful conclusion.
In fact, developing reciprocal agreement in advance is the best possible way to protect both partners from future misunderstandings, and ensure your author success. It is a sign of trust and commitment to the contributors. In addition, people become answerable to what they have agreed to in the terms you have decided between you, rather than each other as people. It avoids an “us and them” scenario. No one needs to keep nagging someone else to keep up their part of the deal.
No one has a crystal ball in life. Unforeseen circumstances can affect anyone. A contract can prevent disappointing, unexpected events deteriorating into a major conflict and friendships breaking down.
Why not make this simple agreement your first piece of “collaborative writing”? It will help you create a contract that works well for all participants.