By Jason Kong
No matter what genre you write in, many others are writing there too.
That leads to a competitive environment, because everyone is fighting for attention and sales. Marketing will always be a challenge when you have a lot of players operating on the same turf.
But what’s interesting is that your rivals can also help you get noticed. Maybe their books are right next to yours in a bookstore. Perhaps a reader learns about your work through a conversation about a similar author. Connections like these happen all the time.
What if you could manufacture that kind of association, an arrangement with other writers whom you trust and whose work you respect?
You actually can. It’s called a partnership.
The Many Benefits of Collaboration
A partnership is nothing more than an agreement to work together so that everyone benefits. By joining forces, everyone gains more overall than by operating alone.
Many self-publishing authors have already discovered and enjoyed the rewards of partnering up. Some advantages include:
- Increasing your discoverability – Be found through the work of other writers. Boxed sets that include multiple authors accomplishes that quite well. Another example is using a shared website and brand that promotes a group of writers like Booklover’s Bench.
- Leveraging your resources – Pool your time, money, and skills to get a sum that’s greater than its parts. These days it’s not uncommon to see authors band together for this very purpose. You may know them as writers’ collectives, but they can also be called cooperatives.
- Creating new products together – Publishing more stories means additional income streams and increased visibility to your existing body of work. The obvious way is to co-write a book with another author, but there are definitely some clever ideas to go about doing that.
Joint ventures allow the contributors to accomplish more through cooperation. You can do however many you like, however long you like, and with whoever you like. The freedom to decide the terms is a wonderful part of the process.
6 Tips to Help You Get Started
Maybe partnerships sounds appealing but you’re unsure how to proceed. Here are some ideas that will assist you in just about any joint effort:
- Author a book worth sharing
You didn’t think you could skip this part, did you?
Even if you managed to partner with the most celebrated writer in your genre, all that attention won’t matter much if your fiction isn’t good. Fans and repeat customers are still the foundation of your long-term success. Subpar storytelling won’t take you there.
Get to the point where you have at least one book some readers want. Then you’ll really see the benefits of collaboration.
- Keep your radar active
If you achieve a certain amount of success, opportunities will start to find you. You’ll have your choice of partners.
Until then, you’ll need to seek your collaboration opportunities. Develop a habit of coming up with joint venture ideas, even if you don’t follow through on them. At the very least, pay attention to the partnerships other fiction writers are doing, and visualize whether you could do the same given your situation. It’s a useful exercise that will shift your mindset, to always be on the lookout for win-win arrangements.
Imagining what’s possible is a crucial step to creating your own good fortune.
- Get to know your peers
While you could work with others without really knowing them, that’s not easy to do. It’s preferable to seek a partnership with the fiction writers that you already know and trust.
The catch, of course, is that you can’t become familiar with your peers and their work overnight. So take the time to put yourself out there. Introduce yourself to a fellow writer and get to know him or her. Read other books within your genre. Gravitate towards people that you find interesting and keep in touch.
Do all this with an open mind. You may end up with a friend, supporter, partner, or nothing at all. Connect with who you like and see what happens.
- Understand who is contributing what
Before a partnership is consummated, you’ll want to consider the value each person brings to the table.
For example, if all the participants are similar in terms of success and storytelling ability, then the math is easy. Equal reward distribution for equal contributions makes sense.
Does that mean a best-selling author should never partner up with a first-time novelist?
Of course not. Everyone has their own criteria of what’s acceptable, so it’s only unfair if a participant sees it that way. Remember, the point of collaborating is that everyone ends up better off than the alternative.
But at least have the discussion with your potential partners, to reduce the possibility of future regret and hurt feelings.
- Recognize the impact to your brand
Aligning yourself with a fellow author isn’t a decision that you should take lightly.
A partnership is about having readers see the work of another fiction writer alongside yours. How their books are perceived could very well influence how yours are, whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent.
Therefore, you should respect the writing of any author you partner with. Don’t dive into a joint venture to reach more eyeballs at the cost of tainting your brand. It’s not easy to disassociate yourself from a negative perception tied to a group that you’re part of.
Also, consider the potential author’s reputation in addition to the books she wrote. Fair or not, your credibility and that of your collaborator may become intertwined through association.
- Get partnership terms in writing
This may seem unnecessary at times, especially if the participants are already good friends. And it’s true that a formal agreement is not a safeguard against all disputes. Someone could become unhappy with an arrangement down the line for any number of unforeseen reasons.
Still, you have a chance to prevent a ton of problems by getting the key points written down. People change their minds, people forget what was said, people start off with different expectations from the get-go. You can avoid or minimize these issues by documenting the terms when the partnership is formed.
Take some time to be clear in the beginning. A formal contract may be necessary, or it may not. But having written words as a reference is better than nothing.
What If You Don’t Feel Ready?
If you’ve never been in a partnership before, you may feel intimidated to try. That’s natural.
Once you publish a book you’re proud of, you can always look to start small. Find some fellow fiction writers you feel comfortable with and suggest a collaboration project, something with an end date.
Initiation is your friend because you’ll gain experience. And having that history under your belt will arm you with better decision-making ability the next time around.
Just remember there’s no one right way to partner up. There may be better ways and certainly different ways, but you should mostly care about the ways that work for you.
What is your greatest stumbling block to getting started with a partnership? Let us know in the comments.
Jason Kong is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. He also runs Storyrally, an email-based subscription that helps fiction writers with their online marketing.
You can learn more about Jason here.