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.
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!
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).