Most nonfiction authors think that they need to go it alone. They see their book manuscripts as their babies, and they would never even think of hiring a nanny to help out. But, when you’re trying to run and grow a business, you don’t always have the time to write your book. You need some childcare for your baby book. You need someone to help with your book project so you can stay focused on your business.
For busy business owners, collaborative writing may be the solution. With collaborative writing, you get some extra help creating the manuscript of your book. That means your book gets written faster, and you get more time to keep working on your business. In this episode, I’m going to tell you all about collaborative writing and why you should consider it for your book project. And, I’ll go through the frequently asked questions I get about collaborative writing so you can decide if a collaborative writer is right for your book.
If you really want to finish your book but you absolutely don’t have the time to write it, listen up, because this episode may just have the solution to your problem.
Collaborative writing happens when two or more people work together to write a document. You see this a lot in corporate settings when employees all work together to create a written project. But, collaborative writing is also common in the book publishing world. Writing a full book is a lot of work, and many authors and writers struggle to write an entire manuscript. In those cases, they’ll often bring in a collaborative writer (or writers) to help them finish their manuscript, especially if they’re up against a deadline.
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If you see a book with more than 1 author listed, that book is a direct result of collaborative writing. Occasionally, you’ll see author’s listed as a bigger name “with” another writer. That’s another case of collaborative writing. Most often, the well-known author has a great idea but doesn’t have the time to flesh it all out themself. So, they bring in a collaborative writer to get a big chunk of the writing done and then they polish up the manuscript.
There are also books that are products of collaborative writing, but you’ll never see the writer’s name listed as an author. It’s not uncommon for very busy authors to bring in a collaborative writer and pay that writer to work without credit. I’ve actually done this multiple times for clients who don’t have the time to finish and polish their book manuscripts themselves.
Which brings us to my next point…
I know most of you are totally crunched for time, but you’d still love to write a book. In fact, when I ask you what’s holding you back from finishing your book, you overwhelmingly tell me that you don’t have time. Really, that’s why I’m here to teach you about collaborative writing—it’s a great option for those of you who are motivated to finish your book but you simply do not have the time to sit down and write.
If you’re listening to this, you’re probably trying to run a business and write a book at the same time. But, running your business is a full-time job. How in the world are you going to find the time to write a book on top of that? It’s possible, but it can be increasingly difficult. You have to sit down and think long and hard about where your time and effort is best spent. That might mean that you have to put most of your hours into taking care of your clients, leaving you with little to no time for your book.
A collaborative writer can help you finish your manuscript when you don’t have time to write. You can delegate as much or as little writing as you want, based on what you think you can reasonably finish yourself. But, if you know you need to finish your book because it’s going to be an amazing boost to your business (which it will be), I think that you should at least consider bringing on a collaborative writer.
Collaborative writing can look like a number of different things, some of which I’ve hinted already. You could find a co-author or authors for your book, which would fall under collaborative writing. You could hire a ghostwriter to write certain sections or chapters for you. Or, if you have a lot of content that’s broken into distinct pieces, you could hire a collaborative writer to fill in the holes for you.
So, how exactly does collaborative writing work? In all cases, the collaborative writing process should start with each writer defining what they are going to work on. Often, that looks like sitting down with an outline or book plan and deciding what you want to write and what you want to delegate to someone else. In general, most authors will choose to write the parts that suit their strengths and ask for help where they can pull in someone else’s expertise.
I’ll give you a few examples of how I’ve worked with my collaborative writing clients. I worked with one client who’s a medical professional with a strong online presence. She’s focused on creating great content for several years, which meant that she had a lot of good information just sitting in blog posts and videos. But, her practice was keeping her very busy, which meant that she didn’t have time to put it all together into her book.
This client brought me in to help piece together all of the content she had and to put it into a coherent book. I started by coming up with a suggested outline based on the content she had already created, and we worked together to decide what topics we needed to add that would be written from scratch. Then, based on that outline, I started to pull together the content for the book manuscript. I started by simply copying and pasting blog posts, which I then edited for content and added to areas that needed more explanation, for example. I also went in and wrote transitions between sections so the book didn’t feel like a bunch of blog posts that were copied and pasted. In some cases, I also married together two or more blog posts into one section of a chapter, reorganizing the content so that it flowed together nicely.
In this case, a lot of the content had already been created by the client. My primary job as the collaborative writer and editor was to go in and make sure that everything flowed together nicely.
Another example of collaborative writing I did with a client was a holistic wellness book. This client was a high-end one-on-one wellness coach and he wanted to take the method he used with his individual clients and put it into a book. He had done a lot of writing already, but it needed to be reorganized. (So, this project took on a little developmental editing as well.) My part of the writing primarily consisted of making sure that the book read well after it had been restructured. I also added in examples and material when the ideas in the book might have been a little confusing to a reader. And, with my scientific background, I was also asked to add in relevant citations to help support the author’s claims.
So, with this second book, my writing focused on making the content of the book clearer and easier to read. Again, a lot of that was adding transitions and information that would help the reader understand the concepts the author was presenting in the book. And, I provided added credibility by adding in descriptions of scientific research that supported what the author was saying.
These are just two examples of how a collaborative writer can work with an author. The common thread is this: authors who bring on collaborative writers need help adding to the content of their book because they don’t have the time or expertise to do so themselves.
This may leave you wondering, “Do I need a collaborative writer for my book?” That’s a great question! I think many business owners who want to write a book should consider bringing on a collaborative writer. Having that extra support can be the difference between actually finishing your book or letting it languish on your hard drive (or in your brain). And, it can be the difference between having a truly stellar book or one that’s “just okay.”
The first big reason that you should consider bringing on a collaborative writer is if you don’t have the time to write your book on your own. If this is you, you’re likely at the stage of business where you know that a book would help you take that business to the next level. But, you just don’t have the time to write it because all of your time is dedicated to taking care of your clients or doing things in your business that only you can do. In that case, it makes sense to bring on someone else to help you write your book. And, if you wind up needing to hire that person (or even split the royalties), you’re probably in a place where you can afford to do so.
Another instance why you might bring on a collaborative writer is if you need someone with additional expertise or credentials. For example, one of the big reasons I get brought onto projects as a collaborative writer is my scientific background. Many of these authors want citations in their books to bring added credibility to what they’re saying. But, they either don’t have the know-how or the time to find the right citations. I come in and do all of the research for them, including writing up the findings from the study in a way that their readers can easily understand (and using the citation style dictated by their style manual). They know that the quality of their book will be vastly improved by adding in the science to back up their claims, so they ask me to come help out.
The third big reason why a collaborative writer is right for you is if you have more money than time. If you really have more money than time, you’ll probably just hire a ghostwriter. But, if you have time to write some but not all of your book, hiring a collaborative writer could be the way to go. It’s also a good option if you have a lot of content that you can reuse in your book, but you don’t have the time to put it together so it all flows smoothly. We all wish that we had infinite time so we can write all of the books we’ve ever dreamed of. But, that’s not reality. Having a collaborative writer can bridge the gap between the book in your dreams and actually having that book in your hands.
You’ve decided that you want to give this collaborative writing thing a try. You know that it’s going to make the process of writing your book faster, and you’re excited that you don’t have to write the whole darn thing yourself. Now comes the tricky part: finding the right person or people to help you write your book. How do you find the perfect collaborative writer for your project?
First, find someone who has a background and experience in your niche. If they have no background in your niche or topic, you might not get the quality of work you’re expecting. But, when someone has experience in that niche, they’re more likely to know the conventions of that niche and even the material you want to include in your book. Overall, the writing you’ll get out of that writer will be better, and it will be better suited to your topic and book.
You might try looking to colleagues to see if they would want to co-write a book with you. Alternatively, you could look for a co-author who has a slightly different set of credentials than you, like a medical doctor pairing up with a psychologist to write a mind-body wellness book. In those cases, your strengths compliment the strengths of your co-author and work together to make the book as a whole even better.
When working with a colleague, try to find someone with whom you have a good rapport. Properly vet your coauthor and make sure they’re up for the job. Make sure that they’re going to be appropriately invested in the book, mentally and emotionally. (No one wants a repeat of high school where you get assigned to a big group project and you wind up having to do the whole project yourself.) And, make sure you get along with your potential coauthor, personality-wise. If you’re constantly butting heads or arguing, it’s going to be very difficult to work together to produce your book.
And, you can always hire your collaborative writer. Many ghostwriters also do collaborative writing. Again, try to find someone with a good amount of experience in your niche. Consider asking for samples of their writing, although keep in mind that a good ghostwriter or collaborative writer will work to match the tone of the primary author, which may not exactly be the voice you’re looking for. And, make sure that they understand and share your vision for your book. You’re going to ask them to help you accomplish something big for your business—they should definitely get the big picture of the project, how it fits into your overall business plan, and how they’re helping your book achieve its goal, like helping you bring in more clients to your business, helping to educate your audience, and so on.
Let’s say you’ve found the perfect collaborative writer for your project. How do you make sure that you have a successful working relationship, and ultimately create a successful book?
Here are a few tips for working with your collaborative writer.
Clearly define what pieces everyone is going to work on. Communication is so important when you’re working on something that’s a team effort! It would be a total waste of time for you to write a chapter, only to find out that your collaborative writer had been working on the same piece. I strongly recommend that you create a shared outline—that has worked really well for me and my clients. We’ll often assign parts of the book with colored highlighting, with one color for work assigned to me and another color for the writing my client is going to take on themself.
Decide who will get final say on parts of the book manuscript that you don’t agree on. Deciding on who has the final say is especially important if you’re not hiring your collaborative writer. You can do this for the whole book or chapter by chapter. For example, if you’re a personal trainer co-writing a fitness and diet plan with a dietitian, you might get final say on all of the fitness chapters, and your coauthor might get final say on all of the nutrition chapters. If you’re hiring your writer, you get final say because it’s your book, which makes the situation a lot easier.
Get a contract. Whether you’re co-writing with a colleague or hiring someone to help you finish writing your book, you need to get everything in formal writing. You also need to address questions like:
If you don’t have a formalized agreement, it can lead to all sorts of trouble. So, do yourself a favor and make sure you have everything worked out before you start on the project.
Your homework for this episode is to seriously ask yourself whether your book project needs a collaborative writer. If you’ve had a book outline or part of a book manuscript sitting on your hard drive for months or years, I think this is an option that you should seriously consider. Think of all of the amazing things your book will do for you, like give you instant authority and credibility, bring new attention and leads to your business, and cement you as a thought leader in your field. If your business would really benefit from everything a book will bring, it’s time to consider some different options to help you finally finish your book.
Curious about how I can help you finish your project with my collaborative writing services? Check out my services page and fill out the form to get in touch!
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