Working with another author on a book idea can be life-changing experience. Writing can be a satisfying yet isolating experience; the possibility of writing and creating a book with another person can present opportunities to learn more about the writing process, while sharing individual knowledge and successes with one another.
Initially there will be The Introduction. Perhaps the writers already know each other. There’s also the possibility that an editor or agent may seek out that additional author, of whom a referral has been made. It’s always situational, but happens more than most would realize.
When the opportunity presents itself, it’s important to have a collaboration agreement that is signed and notarized, so that the authors already have determined their individual roles, as well as the general payment structure. For Red Sofa Literary, we have a template that can be personalized, which requires a notary public for each author once the collaboration agreement is finalized. Other agencies may have a similar template on hand too.
Once those roles are determined, the book needs to be written. Of course, it will hinge on the basics of the book, specifically if it’s a work of fiction or nonfiction. The same expectations of final materials will stand with an author or any collaboration, in that the appropriate materials are prepared in advance for the publisher.
Additionally some authors may collaborate on a new book idea, but already have different literary agents representing their individual works. At this point, the agents will generally connect to ensure that not only the collaboration agreement is completed, but that the general query process is determined in advance. In addition, they’ll discuss how they will sub the book to publishers, as well as who will negotiate any corresponding book contracts.
As we all know, publishing contracts of any kind—whether for an individual author or a collaborative book—should always be taken seriously. Not only does any contact an author sign affect future opportunities, but it’s important that a collaborative book project doesn’t put either writer in possible breach of previous individual book contracts.
As the book moves from creation to publication, it’s essential that both writers exercise regular communication, as well as respect. The future success of that book relies on everyone participating 100%. If there are bumps along the way, it’s important to have a healthy communication system already in place. Keep the agent(s) in these discussions too, as we’re always happy to provide an ear and any support.
The upside of these types of collaborations is the two-in-one joy of marketing the book. Plus each each author is ultimately helping build the other’s writing resume. The joy of being in a collaboration is the teamwork. A successful team will resonate in the narrative, and with future readers. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend it.
Dawn Michelle Frederick is the owner & literary agent of Red Sofa Literary, established in 2008. Red Sofa Literary is a celebration of the quirky, eclectic ideas in our publishing community. Dawn’s previous experience reflects a broad knowledge of the book business, with over a decade of experience as a bookseller in the independent, chain, and specialty stores, an editor for a YA publisher, and an associate literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency. Dawn earned a BS in Human Ecology and a MS in Library & Information Sciences from an ALA-accredited institution. She is also one of the founders of the MN Publishing Tweet Up, which brings writers and publishers together over a monthly happy hour. Red Sofa Literary was voted as one of the Best 101 Websites by Writer’s Digest in 2012 and 2013.