Team Writer, Assemble!

Team Writer, Assemble!

Welcome back, loyal listener! This week, we talk about collaborative writing. As always, show notes are below the video. Don’t forget to hit the thumbs up on YouTube and subscribe to our various channels. We record live on Google Plus on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 PM PST. We’d love to have you watch live!




  • In literature, collaboration is a creative production made by two or more creative contributors. The word comes for the Latin meaning to “work together.”
  • Break down the English word: co + labor.
  • Definition from Alton L. Gansky’s Book of Snide Definitions: “Collaborations means doing 100% of the work for 50% of the pay.”

Different types of co-writing: (Many ways to slice the pie)

  • Collaborative (Shared credit)
    • “And” vs “with”. Name author = big name on the cover.
    • “Big name” with “small name on cover.”
  • Ghost writing (Non shared)
  • Franchise
  • Work for hire (A great topic for another ‘cast)
  • Team (e.g. The Harbingers Series)
  • Book doctoring

Summary of Al’s collaborations

  • Jeffery Struecker (3 novels)
    • The story behind the series
    • The story behind the collaborations
  • Mark Hitchcock (Novel)
    • The story behind the book
    • The story behind the collaboration
  • Bob Cornuke (Helped with 2 novels and reworked 1 nonfiction)
    • The story behind the series
    • The story behind the collaboration
  • Grant Jeffery (Novel)
    • The story behind the series
    • The story behind the collaboration
  • Bruce Fleet (Nonfiction)
    • The story behind the series
    • The story behind the collaboration
  • John Van Diest (Nonfiction)
    • The story behind the series
    • The story behind the collaboration


  • Income
  • Experience
  • Expanding network
  • A chance to work on a book you might not otherwise write.


  • Time
  • Less control
  • Chance of a bad personality match
  • Dealing with someone with less skill and education
  • Half-the money (at best)
    • Advance
    • Royalties
  • Loss of rights
  • Loss of control (you’re not the final decision maker)
  • Creative clashes

Adjusting Your Brain

  • Know that the partnership is sealed with a contract (unless you’re doing this on your own).
  • Know that no two collaborations are the same.
  • Understand that you are creating someone else’s product for them.
  • Be prepared to be the small name on the cover. (If your name’s not on the cover at all, then you’re not collaborating, you ghosting).

Things to Nail Down Before Entering into Collaboration

  • Is there a publisher involved?
  • Who are you working for?
  • Who makes the final decision?
  • Money
    • Advance split
    • Royalties
    • If private party, then how do you get paid?
      • Be careful writing for private parties, this can go bad quickly.
  • Due dates
  • How much work will your client be doing? What are his/her responsibilities.

Selecting a partner:

  • Someone who shares your vision
  • Someone who is reliable
  • Someone who is open to change/adaptation
  • Someone who understands the project is larger than the two people involved (the “gestalt” of the project).
  • Try doing “auditions.” Choose someone who’s work you admire, someone you feel you can succeed with.

Getting on the same page:

  • Meet/communicate frequently
  • Be a good listener.
  • Identify how married you are to a particular idea. Know the difference between a “deal-breaker” and something you simply “really want.”


  • Keep each other sharp as you go.
  • Fix easy errors.
  • Communicate on larger story issues.
  • Editing for style (when styles vary)

Handling conflict:

  • Establish who has final say early on (before project even begins, if possible).
  • Understand you’re working on a larger whole.
  • Make your points clear without making it personal.

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