Writing a book is a large undertaking.
Not only do you have to write over sixty thousand words that make perfect sense, but you also need to develop a clear concept, outline your chapters, and find the best possible references (if you’re writing non-fiction) to back up your statements.
This is where a co-author comes in. When you’re co-authoring a book, you’re essentially splitting the workload – including the stress, pressure, and frustration – in half.
Today, we’ll explore what a co-author’s role is, how the co-authoring dynamic works, and which pros and cons you should keep in mind.
What Is a Co-Author?
Typically, an author – the person who has come up with the concept and message of the book – will approach someone and ask them to co-author the book with them.
This means that a co-author’s role is slightly different from that of an author because they’ve not created the original concept.
Even so, their impact on the work is undeniable because they collaborate with the author on chapter outlines, sub-concepts, writing style, expertise knowledge, and more.
There can also be two co-authors who have jointly decided to write a book together.
How Does the Co-Authoring Dynamic Work?
Firstly, it’s important that we distinguish between co-authors and co-writers.
Co-authors carry the weight of decision-making (what will the title be? What will each chapter be called? How long should the book be? Which literary agent will you approach?).
Co-writers, on the other hand, focus primarily on the writing itself and don’t have as much responsibility in other areas.
If you’re co-authoring, you’re both in charge of the whole operation. This doesn’t mean you should both be experts at everything, of course.
Some co-authors split their tasks by expertise. For example, Jade might be better at social media book marketing while Taylor can take on the task of pitching the book to literary agents. As for the writing process, Jade might be an expert at neuroscience and write all the scientific chapters whilst Taylor will focus on the spiritual aspects and editing.
The dynamic depends entirely on you. However, make sure you’re both on the same page and have a similar amount of responsibilities and tasks.
Co-Authoring a Book: 6 Pros
If you’re not sure if you should give co-authoring a try, consider these pros:
- You get to share the workload with someone else, which might help you feel less stressed and alone
- Two creative minds are better than one – you’re twice as likely to come up with some amazing concepts and make this book the best it can be
- You keep each other accountable because you’ll need to set up deadlines for one another to make the process effective
- You can bring in someone who’s an expert in a different field, combining your areas of interest and giving your book more credibility and strength
- Your strengths and weaknesses balance each other out (e.g., one person is better at referencing and the other at copy editing)
- You might make a friend for life (the experience of writing a book together might help you connect on a deeper level)
RELATED READ: How to Write a Compelling Character Arc
Co-Authoring a Book: 4 Cons
Of course, everything comes with its pitfalls – and co-authoring is no exception. Before you become a co-author, keep these cons in mind:
- You may disagree on some things and have to find a way to compromise
- Your writing process is directly dependent on somebody else, so it’s vital you find a writer who is reliable and sticks to deadlines
- Both of you ought to work a similar amount, and if one co-author does more work than the other, it may give rise to resentment and frustration
- Your vision may need to adjust and shift depending on the collaboration process
RELATED READ: Writing a Novel: 5 Things You Must Know
How to Co-Author a Book: 4 Tips
Now that you’ve read through all the pros and cons of co-authoring, it’s time to learn how to do it in the best way possible. Let’s look at 4 tips to keep in mind!
#1 Let go of control. Arguably, this is the hardest one. When someone else is writing a book with you, you’ve got to be able to let a bit loose. Having a clear vision makes it very easy to stick to your guns no matter what, however, the book is now a collaborative effort rather than your own project.
You’ll have to make compromises. You’ll have to adjust your expectations. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s a completely normal part of the process.
#2 Establish your non-negotiables. Not everything can be settled through compromise. If you want your book to be a light and hopeful read while your co-author prefers an academic style of writing, it means your visions are radically different.
Don’t give up on what’s truly important to you. Have an in-depth discussion about your expectations and non-negotiables before the collaboration begins.
#3 Set specific deadlines and keep each other accountable. This is paramount. Since you’re splitting the workload 50/50, no one should lag behind. To ensure a smooth co-authoring process, set up a calendar or a to-do list in apps like Trello or Notion and stick to concrete deadlines that keep you on top of everything.
Show each other that you’re serious about the project and prioritize it when needed.
#4 Check up on each other to make sure you’re both on the same page. Send one another the chapters you’ve written, add suggestions and comments, and stay in the loop. If you both work independently for months and then merge your chapters into one cohesive whole, it may look like pieces of a puzzle that don’t quite fit.
Ideally, you ought to stay in touch and read each other’s work on a regular basis.
Co-authoring a book is an intricate process that takes months – sometimes years – to complete. And while there are some definite pros to it, stay mindful of the potential pitfalls as well so that you’re better able to avoid them and truly enjoy your collaboration.
Above all, keep your target audience in mind. At the end of the day, that’s who all this effort is for: your reader.