Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Artist Unleashed: BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL CO-AUTHOR RELATIONSHIP, by Angela Ackerman

The road of life is packed with turning points that we don’t always understand the significance of until later. Some send us past clogged lanes of traffic and onto a quiet freeway, others jostle us through the potholes we call “life lessons,” and a few manage to derail us to the point where we must claw our way back onto the road. We might always wish for the fast lane, but all three help shape us and our purpose.

When I met Becca Puglisi years ago at The Critique Circle, I had no idea it would lead to a business partnership, co-authoring three bestselling books, or a lifelong friendship. We were two writers determined to publish children’s fiction, yet to be jaded by the arduous process of submitting and rejection (that came later). Even though we lived in different countries, we learned and grew together, started a blog, and created an intuitive writing tool that became wildly popular. And despite the miles and differences between us, we decided to collaborate, forming a business partnership to turn that tool, and others, into books.

Many writers find collaboration attractive. The task of creating a book seems much less daunting with a co-author. But the truth is, collaborations shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Similar to a marriage, each party can face a huge loss if things don’t work out: time, money, intellectual property and in some cases, a legal nightmare. Planning is critical. Even if you feel you writing style compliments one another, there are several other factors to consider before jumping into a project.

VISION: unless you and your writing partner can agree on the project’s direction, there’s no point in moving forward. Vision occurs on two levelsboth authors must understand what the book is and what it is not (genre, theme, style, etc.) and also agree on the end goal. Is it to complete a book? To see the book through to publication? Something else? Look ahead--what are the long term plans for your collaboration? Are both parties in it to the end, or is this a test? If you plan to publish together, money is involved, which is no small matter. Which of course leads us to...

TRUST: writing a story or novel with another, especially with the intention to publish means your fates are tied. Do you know your partner inside and out? Can you be sure they won’t change their mind about the direction you both want to go? Are you comfortable sharing finances and creating a joint bank account? Do they (and you) behave in a way online and off that reinforces your brand and will not damage your collective reputation? Trust is critical in any partnership.

BALANCE: writing and then publishing a book is a lot of work, and the load must be shared. Not only do both parties need to pull their weight and have a strong work ethic, but the division of labor should be smart and economical. This means understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In our partnership, one of Becca’s strength is organization, and so she handles both the finances and business organization. I would be LOST without her! On the flip side, my strengths are marketing, promotion and visibility building. Therefore, strategic planning, platform creation and website management are things I direct. On the creative side of things, often I’ll start by brainstorming ideas and Becca then organizes them into a coherent outline. We both create the content and revise, but Becca is stronger in grammar and typo-spotting (her teaching background is such a boon!) so she often takes care of the final passes after editing is finished. I tend to be more visual, so I create many of the tools and add-ons we offer. Becca and I work well together, playing off our strengths.

HONESTY: co-authors are never a perfect fit. They have different talents, flaws, viewpoints and perspectives. Each has triggers and pressure points that cause them to react negatively. When the road gets rough (be it during drafting where something just isn’t working or the publishing stage where there is a deviation of opinion,) honesty must be the comfort zone. In my case, I can find it hard to say no to people, leading to over commitment and worry about what they will think if I do say no. I also suffer from too-many-idea-itis when it comes to marketing. Becca is the voice of reason who tells me it’s time to scale back and when there’s too much on our collective plate. Likewise, she can be reserved and may need to be coaxed into trying new things. If I feel strongly that we need to do something for the greater good, I’m comfortable pushing for it, and Becca respects that about me. Bottom line: if you can’t be honest with your partner, decision-making abilities are hindered and the relationship suffers.

DRIVE: regardless of whether we write and publish alone or with a partner, the desire to learn and grow must always be present. We will never know enough or experience enough. There are always ways we can improve, and so the drive to do just that must be there or a partnership will stagnate. If co-authors decide to take on a second project together, the goal should be to outdo the previous book. Tackling this type of challenge will result in each author pushing themselves and coming up with something they will feel proud to have their name on.

Have you ever collaborated with someone, or are you considering it now? There are many benefits to doing so if you find the right fit. Tell me about your experiences, and if you have questions about Becca and my partnership, I’m happy to answer them!
________________________

ANGELA ACKERMAN is a writing coach and co-author of the bestselling writing resource, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, as well as the newly released Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Attributes and its darker cousin, The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and at Writers Helping Writers (formerly The Bookshelf Muse).

________________________

CLICK HERE to subscribe to Jessica's newsletter. Every subscriber will receive Book #1 of the Writing in a Nutshell SeriesShow & Tell in a Nutshell, for FREE. And be the first to know about new releases and giveaways!

21 comments:

  1. You and Becca make a fantastic team and were so lucky to have found eachother. I agree with all of the above. If you're missing one or more element, the partnership would come crashing down. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I agree, we were SO LUCKY, especially considering we live so far apart. Becca is my female other half. She fills all the gaps--strong where I am still developing, and I am so grateful to have found her. I have learned a lot from her!

      Delete
  2. I would love to collaborate with another writer, at some point. I think it would challenge me in areas I've yet to hone. I'll end by seconding CQG's comment - you two are such an amazing duo!

    Thanks to Jess for having you here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even before we entered a business and writing partnership, Becca and I co mentored. We studied the same craft books, discussed writing issues and helped each other grow. It is worth the time and energy to find a critique partner who is on the same page as far as goals and growth, and then take the journey together. I hope you find your fit!

      Delete
  3. You two give so much to writers. Keep the partnership going.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks. We feel like get so much back, so we're trying to do our best to help others the way we ourselves have been helped. :)

      Delete
  4. I've been curious about collaboration for years now. Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful insights!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy to share our path, Laurel. I think if you can find a good team, it is so much easier. But finding that right person is tough. There's a lot of trust that needs to be in place, and both people have to be able to make decisions together. Learning to compromise is important. :)

      Delete
  5. Balance seems so important. But like a marriage, each person brings unique strengths.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely. I think that's what allows us to work so well together. Occasionally we find a gap, where neither of us is ideal for a job, but then we tackle it together. :)

      Delete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sorry! Signed in under the wrong name. See how organized I am, lol. This is a great breakdown of why our collaboration works. I thank God frequently for bringing Angela into my life. Thanks for hosting her, Jessica!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, oh the irony, Becca! I think humor and outlook is also a big part of making a relationship work--when we do something boneheaded we can laugh about it! :)

      Delete
  8. A big thank you to Jessica for having me hear today! I was wanting to blog about this, so when she asked for this topic, it was Kismet! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh, here not hear. See, I had to make Becca feel better about her mistake so I made one of my own! #thatsmystoryandIamstickingtoit

      Delete
  9. Hey Angela (and Becca!) Sorry it's taken me so long to comment here. It's been one of those days! Thank you SO much for being my guest today. I am thrilled to have you! I have been following the success of these books from day one, and I am so proud and happy for you both. Inspiration at its best! <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thank you--that is such a nice thing to say. We have so many goals and milestones to go before we feel we're hitting our personal success goals, but the support of others has helped us get this far and we are so grateful. :)

      Delete
  10. I'm so glad the two of you found each other! It's enabled the rest of us with your books as tools to use in our own writing. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, we're happy to hear that, and always happy to share. We learn from everyone else and are happy to pay that forward if we can :)

      Delete
  11. I have just finishing editing a novel with my collaborative writing partner, Jodi Cleghorn (@JodiCleghorn). We had worked together previously when Jodi was my publisher/editor for the first (and second) of my published short stories.
    It was her invitation to collaborate after we were able to meet in person in 2011. In January of 2012 she pitched an idea for a collaborative epistolary novel and over the last two years we have worked brilliantly together.
    The online version and the IRL version were one and the same, and we shared a great sense of humour and found in each other's writing a good balance of old and new skills. We learned from each other, coming from different preferred genres (Jodi leans to spec fic while I write contemporary fic) and learning new ways of writing for example dialogue or description. And I have learned the fine art of editing from Jodi, whose skill with a red pen is remarkable.
    It is something I would do again, but choose your collaborative partner very very carefully. They are a rare find. Cherish them.
    Adam B @revhappiness

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sounds like you have found a great match, Adam! You make a great point about coming from different writing genres and this encouraging some great learning opportunities. I think there is something to be said for bringing different genre backgrounds together because the perspective can be slightly different for the writers, encouraging new insight and ideas. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    ReplyDelete

“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

“Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace” ~Judith S. Marin

“I don't ever try to make a serious social comment.” ~Paul McCartney

“I'd make a comment at a meeting and nobody would even acknowledge me. Then some man would say the same thing and they'd all nod.” ~Charlotte Bunch

“Probably what my comment meant was that I don't care about the circumstances if I can tell the truth.” ~Sally Kirkland

“We're not going to pay attention to the silliness and the petty comments. And quite frankly, women have joined me in this effort, and so it's not about appearances. It's about effectiveness.” ~Katherine Harris