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Considering a Writing Collaboration

It really is a business relationship

I've recently started writing a book and I may be acquiring a partner or a collaborator in the project. Although I've done ghostwriting, which is a collaboration of a sort, I've only done one other book writing project that was a true collaboration. That was a book on software; the new book is much closer to my heart.

Dictionary.com defines collaboration as: To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort. That seems a good beginning for a book collaboration.

Collaboration Is A Business Arrangement

It's easy in the initial excitement of discovering and creating a writing collaboration to lose track of the fact that it's also a business arrangement. The parties to the collaboration are going into business together to get the book written and marketed. Ideally, a contract or letter of agreement will cover all that and more.

It helps to remember that writing a book is a monstrous project. It's tough for one person to complete a book; if you're not careful about your agreement, it can be almost impossible for two or three to actually get the work done in a timely fashion. In other words, the contract or agreement is critical.

Definition of the Writing Project

The first thing you and you partner need to get clear on is the project itself. This should include a purpose statement for the book, a working title and a working table of contents.

You may be surprised at how long this takes. Working out the purpose statement, title and working table of contents will probably reveal if the proposed collaboration is really a match or not. Disagreements here can signal trouble in the future. On the other hand, if you find you generally see these items the same way, the chances for success are excellent.

The Contract or Agreement

If you're in agreement on the purpose, working title and working table of contents, it's time to turn your attention to the actual agreement or contract. There are all sorts of ways to get this done; just make sure it includes the following:

  • Clear definition of the project
  • The completion date for the project
  • The division of work - are you each going to take certain chapters? Or will one of you draft and you pass the chapter back and forth?
  • How disagreements will be settled
  • The order of the names on the cover, etc.
  • Decision on going for a trade publisher or self-publishing.
  • How any income will be split. Is it a straight 50/50 or is there some reason why one collaborator should get more than another?
  • What happens if one of the collaborator dies or is unable to complete the project.
  • What happens if a wheel comes off the project and the collaboration fails?
  • An exit strategy for all parties prior to completion.
  • Marketing goals.
  • Marketing responsibilities.
  • How the copyright, trade marks, electronic rights, etc. will be held and handled.
  • How expenses will be handled.
  • Any restriction on competitive works by any collaborator.
  • How relationships with any agent will be handled.
  • A clause or two that provides for changing the contract during the collaborative process.
  • What happens if an agent, publisher or self-publishing doesn't materialize.

Spend serious time with each of these items, and don't hesitate to add more if it seems like a good idea. The contract or agreement is really your joint intentions and vision for the project. It needs to be in writing both for legal reasons and because, as the project progresses, memory fades and the agreement will help you stay on track.

Write well and often!

Publisher Marketing Association (PMA) has a sample collaborative contract. Use it as a guide to developing your own agreement.



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Email Anne: Anne@AboutFreelanceWriting.com

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