Many writers confess a proclivity toward introversion. The process of writing a draft can be a solo journey full of introspection. However, for many writers, the point of writing a story is to connect with others. Developing a finished product in a vacuum can lead to unintended reader confusion. Editing, proofreading, beta reading, and cover design all provide an opportunity to widen the author’s lens and discover gaps in their writing.
Our point is that writing often improves with input from multiple perspectives. The same is true for marketing.
Many famous authors have collaborated on novels together and subsequent book launch marketing campaigns together. Somehow they’ve found the yin to their yang, the peanut butter to their jelly, their Stephen King to their Peter Straub. I think of dynamic duos such as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett or Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey. How about the trio Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May, and Andre Norton?
There have been impressive successes, but I would wager for every book that makes it to market, there are dozens of attempts that fall off the rails. People are complex beings and rushing into something can be a big mistake. It’s essential to find the right fit, establish a division of labor that both parties are happy with, and know when and how to disengage from a commitment tactfully.
A prosperous partnership can lead to a fantastic book, more effective marketing, and, if you’re lucky, a lasting friendship.
Find the Right Fit
Always—and we mean always—read the author’s books before suggesting or agreeing to a collaboration.
Whether you want to produce more novels faster or divide and conquer marketing responsibilities, finding someone who shares your passions, writing style, and genre is vital. They should be someone you respect as a writer and enjoy reading.
Partnering with someone who wants to promote their cheery romance when you write true crime isn’t going to end well. You have different target demographics, and when you combine your efforts, you’re narrowing your market to people who like both of your styles.
Although it is important to remain within a single genre, there can be many opportunities within the subtleties of those categories. If you're a gritty crime mystery writer, it wouldn’t be a massive leap to partner with someone who writes fast-paced thrillers starring a CIA operative. Can you picture people who watch Bosch also watching Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime? We can.
Another reason to stick with a single genre is aesthetics. Color schemes, fonts, image selections, and ad copy simply work better if you’re selling a single brand.
An ideal personality fit and compatible communication style are just as important. We recommend finding someone who is equally (or better) acquainted with publishing novels unless you’re happy acting as a mentor. An author with a few books under their belt also demonstrates the stamina needed to commit to a writing career.
Finding someone with different marketing interests or strengths can benefit both parties. If you hate speaking in public but love geeking out on web design, someone who likes public speaking and is willing to spend time on social media may consider your talents an excellent tradeoff.
Assume You’ll Eventually Part Ways
Most of us have had relationships end on a sour note. Picture an ex-significant other. Now imagine putting your career as a novelist in the hands of that person.
Scary, isn’t it?
If you’re writing a novel together or committing to a shared website, social media platform, and co-branded events, you’ll want to hire a lawyer to help map out what happens when you part ways. Even if the split is amicable, some details should be established upfront, such as royalty splits, expense reimbursements, and dividing shared assets.
A novel written by two parties isn’t a straightforward process. Establishing a plot, characters, and even settling on names can be messy. Trading off paragraphs can seem disjointed unless your styles mesh very well, or each person assumes the perspective of a given character.
A good way to break the ice and determine if you’re a good fit is to form an anthology. Many writers can submit their stories for consideration. If you’re running point for recruiting and vetting writers, it can be a big undertaking. However, it’s a great way to figure out who’s easy to work with and how adaptive their writing style is.
The activities leading up to the anthology launch and promotion efforts in the weeks following are also a fantastic way to test someone’s marketing chops. If they’re just as passionate as you are about the book succeeding, the odds they’re a good match are excellent.
Some authors join together to form joint websites, social media accounts, and more. Many writers elect to maintain the autonomy of their brand, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring your options.
There are many ways you can collaborate with minimal commitment if you’re not ready for a full partnership with another author. For more tips and tricks on each of the following digital strategies and more, check out our blog on Digital Book Marketing Strategies That Sell
If you’re a fan of another writer, throw them a bone on social media. Talk up their book, tag their account, and link to Amazon. Chances are you’ll find a few people who will reciprocate. You can also be more intentional about your approach and formally suggest joint promotion. A short message with links to your reviews can go a long way in establishing credibility.
Virtual book launches used to be all the rage. I’ve seen a drastic drop in participation in the last few years, but a lot of authors have success with live streaming book readings or interviews with other authors. Including others is a great way to start a symbiotic marketing relationship.
Sharing a website is complicated. You’ll have to settle on a shared brand, domain name, who pays for what, and who owns the website if the partnership dissolves. A good middle ground is offering recommendations to their books on your novel description pages (similar to Amazon’s “You may also like” suggestions) in return for the same.
Sharing guest blog posts as described in our Blogging 101 for Writers and Authors
article or writing a review of another author’s work is a great way to encourage collaboration. Just make sure to let them know the review happened so they can share the good news on social media and (hopefully) link back to your website.
Including recommendations for other authors is a pretty standard practice in email marketing. It’s easy to work into your communication because readers are often interested in what you’re watching or reading when you’re not writing.
Collaboration can go a step further when you coordinate with authors on cross-promoting materials. If everyone is willing to share links during a sale or spread the news of a book launch, potential readership can grow exponentially once a few authors are involved.
A great way to put yourself in front of potential readers is to rent a table at a popular convention. You can also pitch a presentation or panel (or better yet multiple of each) to conventions related to your genre.
Think beyond writing conferences. If you write fantasy, check out Dragon Con and Norwescon. Sci-fi, horror, steampunk, zombies, superheroes, and various fan fiction all have a place in numerous conventions across the country.
Talk to your author network and see where other authors have had success. Don’t be afraid to ask if anyone is game for sitting in front of a bunch of strangers to talk about their favorite topic or share a vendor table to cut down on costs.
Once you establish a network of collaborative authors, the sky’s the limit. Book readings can be nerve-wracking on your own, but sharing a stage somehow takes some of the pressure off. If you find another author you could talk with all day, consider starting a podcast or vlog.
The Keys to Success
Feeling like an equal contributor is critical to avoiding resentment and maintaining a good relationship. Check in often with your partner to make sure they’re happy with your work. You’ll need to fight any tendencies toward conflict aversion and learn how to receive and provide feedback tactfully.
Define each of your responsibilities clearly and reevaluate how much work each of you has taken on often. Life throws us all curveballs. What seemed reasonable at the beginning may become untenable eight months later. People aren’t always comfortable sharing that they feel overwhelmed until they can’t take it anymore. Frequent check-ins and sharing honestly will help you avoid any surprises.
Partnerships can make life much easier, or they can add unnecessary stress. Weigh the pros and cons carefully before committing to a long-term business relationship. Once you’ve committed, remember to share your gratitude for the other person’s contributions. Forgive mistakes quickly because you’ll both make them.
Remember that a little kindness can go a long way in securing a lasting partnership.
Finally, develop a mission statement and branding document such as the one we outlined in our How and What to Outsource
article. Doing a bit of work upfront ensures you’ll remain on the same page throughout your partnership.