Terry Tyler Blogspot

Terry Tyler

Author, Writer, Blogger

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Blogger for the UK Arts Directory

 

Author Pifalls. . . Part Two

 
(for part one, please go to the ‘Our Bloggers’ section at the top of the page, and click on my name)
or click on this link
 
 

Are you considering collaboration with another author?

 

Read this first!

 
Many people have, at some time or another, considered collaborating with someone on a writing project.  If you know the other person well, know how they write, are able to have frank and honest discussions (“You can’t put that in, it’s crap!”  “Oh. Okay.”) without them chucking their toys out of the pram, and if you trust them, it can work.  However, it is not something upon which to be embarked lightly – yes, I have horror stories…. 
 
I was discussing the subject  with a friend of mine who said, “basically, if someone is looking for people with whom to collaborate, it means they’re no good.  Otherwise, they’d be able to write it themselves and they wouldn’t need anyone else, would they?  Also, they wouldn’t want their own work to be diluted by someone else’s, or have to make compromises, which you always have to if you’re creating something with another person.” 
 
I don’t necessarily agree with this, and I can think of a few reasons why two perfectly able writers might want to join forces (different areas of expertise, for instance), but I can see his point; I’ve done it because I was asked and was moderately interested in the project, but it’s not something that would occur to me to do.  Aside from that, I’ve given the whole subject a lot of thought, and I’d say that you’re considering a collaboration, you need to ask yourself the following:
 
  • How well do you know this person?
  • How much have you read of this person’s work?  Do they have the same views as you on what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ writing?
  • Do you trust them?
  • Have you ever had a difference of opinion with them?  How did you resolve it?
  • How do they react to criticism?
  • If you’re not happy with what they produce, will you still want to put your name to it?
  • If you’re not happy with what they produce, will you be willing to re-write it?
 
If you are happy with the answers to those questions and decide to go ahead with it, you might want to do the following before you shake hands on it.
 
  • Agree on length/amount of words, and approximate deadline.
  • Decide whether you want to publish independently (‘indie’ publishing), use a small publishing company (e-publishing and print-on-demand – virtually the same as self-publishing, except that you get formatting done for you but lose control over pricing, editing, etc), or approach literary agents/traditional publishers.
  • If independently or e-publishing/POD, decide on the approach to marketing and who will do what.  Do not allow any marketing campaign to commence until you have both agreed on it.
  • Be clear about both your roles in the project.  Are you a co-writer, editor, ghost writer for the other person, or the main writer?  This is really, really important (you’ll see why later!)
  • Agree in what order your names will appear on the cover of the book – sounds trivial, but better to decide now.
  • Decide on how you will resolve a difference in opinion.
  • Consider getting it all down on paper, possibly in legal fashion.
 
I say all this from experience…. okay, you want the horror stories now, don’t you?
 
Recently, someone I know (we’ll call him Peregrine) agreed to collaborate with someone else (we’ll call her Dolores) (though actually her name is Betty) (….joke!). Peregrine met Dolores online, and agreed to the project because they’d become very friendly.  Once it started, though, he realised that her writing was not what he considered to be of a publishable standard, so he ended up re-writing practically all of it himself because he didn’t want his name on something that he didn’t feel was up to scratch.  I hear that Dolores now refers to it as ‘her’ novel, and has gone from being pleasant and friendly to listing his shortcomings to anyone who will listen, and several who would rather not.  Peregrine just wishes none of it had ever happened.
 
Another person I know, Tiberius (not his real name) agreed to co-write a book with a friend.  He spent three months writing his bit.  His friend (name unknown) was always going to start his bit, but never quite did….  so that was three months wasted for Tiberius, who can’t even finish it himself because the second half required the particular expertise (subject matter) of his ‘co-writer’. 
 
I’ve got a tale of my own, too.  I was asked to collaborate early in 2012, with a third party included, too, on a novel for teenagers that I thought might be fun.  We’ll call my co-writers (and I use the term loosely) Blossom and Maud.  From the outset my experience was similar to Peregrine’s, above – it ended up being written by me, with some of the material taken from their original ideas.  However, I didn’t mind this, and only ever wanted equal thirds in any credit/remuneration.  
 
Blossom volunteered to send the completed chapters to an agent or two, though of course I wrote the synopsis and story arc.  After rejection by two agents, I heard nothing about it for 9 months and presumed it was shelved, which I didn’t mind, as it wasn’t yet finished and I was busy with my own books.  But then I was told that an agent from a well known and reputable agency wanted to represent it – it had been submitted by Blossom without me being told.  
 
Despite this having been done without including me I was very pleased, obviously – but, as I learned later from the agent herself, it had been presented to her as having been written by Blossom and Maud, with me only involved in ‘publicity and editing consultation’.  I was asked by Blossom to finish the book – at this time I was dissuaded from talking to the agent (by which I mean various excuses were given about why I should not have her email address), and I then discovered pages on Facebook and Twitter for this novel Blossom and Maud were about to get published, with no mention of me at all….. before you ask, I did, of course, withdraw from the whole thing!
 
So, if ever you think about collaborating with someone else, please re-read this, and if anyone you know is about to do it, please give it to them!  Yes, collaborations can and do work, but you need to lay the ground rules first.  If I had done so, I might not have had to learn this lesson – I won’t get fooled again, and neither, I hope, will Peregrine and Tiberius.
 
Thanks . . . .
 

Terry Tyler

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