How to Co-Author a Book: Top 5 Methods to Share the Workload
Whether you’re a bestselling author with a large back list or a debut author, readers always want one thing from you: more books. That’s why many authors publish frequently with the so-called “rapid release” strategy.
But rapid releases are really hard to do as a solo author, and they require a lot of preparation. As a solution, many authors have turned to collaboration agreements of various types.
Embraced by many in the indie publishing community, co-authoring helps you share the workload and speed up the writing and creative process. And those aren’t the only benefits: co-authoring allows you to quickly expand your back catalog, combine marketing efforts, and cross-promo with your team.
But how exactly do you write a book with another author? In this article, we’ll explore how to co-author a book while streamlining your workflow.
How to Co-Author a Book: Top 5 Tips
With a successful partnership, co-authoring can feel like a match made in heaven, but sometimes it can really go wrong. Most of the mistakes come from an unequal share of the workload and/or unclear responsibilities and of course, the dreaded lack of communication.
Below, I’m sharing the top 5 tips on how to co-write together, so you can end up with a successful collaboration like the ones included in this excellent roundup by Book Riot.
Understand Both of Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Before making a decision on any of the following co-writing methods, you have to sit down with your co-author and understand what your strengths and weaknesses are.
This way, you’ll identify the best style for your co-writing project and instantly create an intimate partnership between you and your co-author. The best is if you can do it in person with a glass of wine, but any cyber drinks might help! :)
1. One Author Outlines, the Other Writes
At first glance, it may seem like this method leaves the writer with way more work, but fleshing out the outline of a book and creating the plot is no easy feat. With a detailed outline, the author responsible for writing the book can hit the ground running and quickly finish the first draft.
Pros: Plays to each co-author’s strengths and can help produce drafts in a shorter amount of time.
Cons: One co-author might feel as if they are doing more work. To avoid difficulties, it’s important to lay out the expectations for each role at the beginning of your partnership, as well as decide on royalty percentages upfront. Learn more in my 10-step co-author guide here.
For whom: This method works best if one author is less experienced in the specific genre or has a special talent for plotting.
2. Split It Up Chapter by Chapter
One of the simplest ways to co-author a book is by splitting it up chapter by chapter. Or, you can agree on writing large sections of the book. With this method, you’re sharing the writing workload evenly, in a straightforward way.
Meanwhile, you and your writing partner can refine the storyline together as the different chapters evolve. Also, I’ve met some authors who shared the workload in this way: specific scenes (like sexy or steamy ones in romance) were written by one author, and the more descriptive elements of the book were written by the other co-author.
Or maybe you have a knack for good dialog, while your partner doesn’t – the key is to take advantage of each co-author’s strengths.
Pros: This method clearly splits the workload, so there’s never a question of “Who did what?”
Cons: It can be difficult to maintain a cohesive voice, but this method is great for fiction books that switch point of view with every chapter, like romance.
For whom: This is the most equal way of splitting the work, and is best for authors who are similarly experienced in the genre.
3. Write Together, Equally
This is probably the most challenging approach and the most time-consuming, as it requires you to both be at the helm. But if you have a solid connection with your co-author (and decent writing collaboration skills!) this method can produce the most seamless reading experience.
Pros: You can collaborate in real-time and bounce ideas off each other. Provides a seamless experience for the reader.
Cons: It can be time-consuming, and is usually only possible if you can physically write together in the same space.
For whom: This method is the best if you can manage to write at the same time. Some co-authors live on different continents, so it might be challenging (except if you have a totally different biorhythm :)) Thankfully, many tools can streamline your workflow, like Slack for chatting and Google Docs for document sharing.
4. Both Authors Write, But One Edits
Many co-author teams I’ve met have one author play the role of editor, in addition to writing. This way you can ensure that the cohesion and the writing style will be unified. Since it might end up in an unequal workload, just be sure your royalty percentages reflect this when it’s time to split earnings.
Pros: The reader experience is great with the unified writing style.
Cons: One of you has to love editing. :)
For whom: This method works for authors who like editing and want to be included in both sides of the process (writing and/or editing). Editing can also be outsourced to other professionals.
Worldbuilding goes far beyond just the writing process. It can take your co-author projects to a new level, and open your team up to powerful collaborations in the future.
Worldbuilding is the co-creation of fictional worlds. This collaborative method is frequently used in genres such as science fiction and fantasy, where the creative opportunities are endless. The benefit of worldbuilding is that it expands your collaborative potential.
For example, one author might want to create an offshoot series within the world, allowing you to collectively build your back list and get the most commercial power from your ideas.
Secondly, as your fictional worlds start to gain traction and fans, you may attract the attention of higher-level authors who are interested in collaborating with you. With your combined audience, you can significantly boost your marketing efforts and readership.
A Few Reminders for a Successful Co-Author Partnership
Collaborations fail because of lack of preparation. A successful co-author partnership isn’t just about agreeing on the workload. Before you get started, you should iron out the business details, like royalty percentages. And when it comes time to split royalties every month, make sure you have a system in place that keeps your team happy and productive.
If you’re still handling this task manually, consider a service like PD Abacus. This comprehensive royalty splitting service for co-authors calculates royalties using imported Amazon KDP/KU data. It also generates royalty reports for your team, and has additional time-saving features to streamline your workflow.
Co-authoring is one of the best ways to engage more readers and strengthen your author relationships. There are many options for co-writing styles, but the most important thing is to find the best fitting one for you and your co-author.
The co-authoring journey may have ups and downs, but you will always learn something new, especially about how to improve your writing. And don’t forget to have fun with your co-authors as you celebrate a good job along the way.
Do you have a recently finished collaboration that you’re ready to publish? Consider PublishDrive! PublishDrive is a full-service self-publishing platform that allows you to distribute your books to over 400 online stores (including Amazon), market your work, and more.