Author’s Journey #7 – Who can help you write your book?

by Roger Parker on February 5, 2010

There are many ways others can help you write your book. You don’t have to write every single word that appears in your brand-building, nonfiction book! Many of the leading author brands in business and publishing involve authors who have shared their writing responsibilities with others.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and the idea of involving others in writing you book shouldn’t be viewed as a “cop out” or lessening of your responsibility to produce the best possible book.

Advantages of involving others

Although there are many advantages to working with other, the two most important are perspective and efficiency:

  • Perspective. When you involve others in writing your book, you can produce a richer, more fulfilling book. Others can bring new experiences, ideas, information, perspectives, and talents to your book. This is true whether you work with other experts in your field, or involve your market in writing your book.
  • Efficiency. Working with others, you can bring your book to market faster, giving it a head start against the competition. Working with others also gives you more time to spend marketing your book, building market anticipation and creating marketing partnerships with others in your field. Effectively marketed good books will outsell poorly marketed great books!

As the lead author, you are not abdicating your responsibilities. This will still be “your” book. You are the visionary who had the idea for the book, you set the standard, and you’re still responsible for the quality of the book.

Consider yourself the captain of a ship. The captain doesn’t do everything needed to take an ocean liner from New York City to Athens. The captain sets the goals and performance standards while delegating nearly every other task to others; running the engines, keeping in touch with the home office, maintaining crew discipline, running the engines, navigating, cooking, and serving drinks.

Your book will be as strong, or as weak, as the leadership you provide and the mentoring you offer to others involved in your book.

With others involved, you’ll still get the majority of the credit, but your book may be a better one (in terms of perspective) or one that appears sooner backed-up with better pre-publication marketing and visibility.

Options and alternatives

There is no “one way” to write a book with others. Your job is to identify and fine-tune a process that works for you, one that can be replicated over and over again as you expand your book title into a series of successful follow-up titles. Here are the basic choices:

  • Co-authors. Like marriages, co-author situations can be really great, or they can turn into a nightmare. The range of possible co-author relationships is great, ranging from full partnership to work for hire situations. When you research co-authored books, watch for clues in the way the authors’ names on the book cover: “and” implies a partnership, or near partnership. But, when you see “with,” the name that follows is typically a “follower” or a “work for hire” craftsman.
  • Ghostwriters. The names of ghostwriters generally don’t appear on the book cover, although they often appears in the author’s Acknowledgments. Ghost writers perform their magic through a process that involves interviewing the lead author, independent research, and a back-and-forth review cycle.
  • Assistants. Many authors involve freelancers to save the author time by researching details and summarizing results, providing the author with information to weave into the narrative of the book.
  • Crowdsourcing. Many books are based on a strong premise, backed-up by anecdotes, case studies, and interviews with either other experts in the field, or by customers, clients, and end-users. An excellent example of this is Books like Mitchell Levy’s 42 Rules for Driving Success with Books, based on case studies and stories submitted by authors who have profited from writing a book.

Making the right choice

The right choice involves identifying your goals, choosing the right option, and then structuring the relationship in a way that reduces opportunities for problems down the road.

  1. Identify your goals. Know what you’re looking for. Are you looking for a “hand off” situation where you will have little involvement with the writing of the book, beyond setting the goals and creating a table of contents, or are you looking for assistance on specific chapters? How visible do you want the relationship to be, i.e., are you looking for a “with” or an “and” situation?
  2. Choose the right option. If you’re looking at possible co-authors, focus on compatibility and the long-term. Several interesting perspectives emerged in a Published & Profitable interview with Bob Bly and David Meerman Scott. One of the points Bob mentioned was that “marriages of equals” often didn’t work as well structuring a clear “who’s the leader and who’s the follower” hierarchy. Both recommended looking for co-authors with established author platforms and reader followings to jump start your book’s sales.
  3. Structuring the relationship. Handshakes are not enough. Although it’s impossible to anticipate every eventuality, your co-authorship agreement must address rights and responsibilities. For example, if you’re considering working with a co-author, what happens after your book appears? Who has primary marketing responsibilities? Who pays for the website? Whom will the media interview? Who has first rights to speaking and consulting engagements? Who can prepare spin-off products, like e-courses, “train the trainer” programs, and videos? What rights do ghost-writers and researchers have to their research after your book appears?

The big takeaway

The big idea from this post is simply to explore all options. Find others who might be able to help you write your book. Explore your writing options. with an open mind and the recognition that the authors whom you respect the most and turn to for inspiration often were working in a group situation. There’s often a team behind a book, often a team in place well before editors and proofreaders get involved!

Roger C. Parker invites you to visit a special resource page for Author Journey readers. You’ll find growing list of special writing resources, including several mind mapping samples. You can also explore Published & Profitable’s Samle Content,  and sign-up for his Daily Writing Tips blog. His next book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles

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