Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Querying with co-authors

May I ask what is the best way to present a query letter when the book has been co-authored? Does one author primarily take the literary reins and handle most of the communications? If bios are required, is it best to present a bio of the group or each individual?


You both sign the query, and you include a bio for each author.

If one of you is the designated point person (i.e. using your email rather than the other person's) that's ok with me, but I really prefer to email each author so that all communication is direct and clear.

Both authors are signed as clients to the agency.

And before you get started querying, make sure you have a collaboration agreement in place. A collaboration agreement covers the financial split, the credit on the book cover (stuff like whose name comes first), who is responsible for revisions, and what happens if one of the authors decides not to continue with the project before it's published.

I won't send a project on submission without those questions being answered and part of an agreement.

This does NOT apply to author/illustrator pairings for picture books in case you're wondering. Art and text are separate not joint contributions to the book, and each is covered by a different contract.

We see this mostly with academic books and non-fiction.

This is NOT how ghost writing or co-writing for hire books are handled either.

Any questions?

25 comments:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

For you old folks, as Arte Johnson used to say from behind the bushes, "Verrry interesting."

My mother and I tried to write a romance novel many years ago. Our collaboration ended when she wrote the love scenes. They were too spicy.

french sojourn said...


2n's, you're killin me!

kathy joyce said...

Trying to imagine my mom writing love scenes *and me reading them.* Blech, no!

Colin Smith said...

... so...? How does ghostwriting work? Do you sign as the soul author? Is there a different deadline? :D

2Ns: My youngest, who is 13, still finds it ikky when my wife and I kiss. :)

Lennon Faris said...

I've seen a couple people do this for fiction and I have no idea how they agree on the prose. Everyone's style is so different.

2Ns and Colin, you are cracking me up!

Colin Smith said...

Lennon: Stephen King and his son Owen have recently co-authored a novel. I saw an interview with them both and the interviewer asked about this (don't you love it when the interviewer actually asks questions you would ask?). They said they went back-and-forth, writing pieces and editing each other's work. They defy anyone to be able to tell who wrote which parts. According to them, the combination of their co-writing and editing created a whole 'nother voice. :)

Kitty said...

2Ns... My mother was the exact opposite. I had written a story about a woman who, in financial desperation, turned to prostitution. Her husband had no idea, but some disgusting bum discovered her secret and tried to blackmail her: “I want you t’climb on top of me and ride me just like you done with them others.” She killed him, instead.

My mother read the story and said: I was shocked that you wrote about a woman prostituting herself. Where on earth would you ever get such an idea?

So I asked her if she was shocked that the woman killed the bum, and she said no. He deserved it. OMG! It was my turn to be shocked.

kathy joyce said...

Colin,Don't make a specter of yourself. Apparitionly, you demon-strate a phantasmly simple understanding of ghostwriting. This is a grave problem, and I can't phantom how you will ghostwrite a story without haunting more information.

Ghostwriters need to spook freely, but be a crypt-ic presence in the tombs they write. There are guidelines for etherally-based ghostwriting practices, so that all parties are demised of the spirit of the collaboration. Ghostwritten materializations are common. Wraith practice, I'm sure you can die it.

Colin Smith said...

Of course, you're dead right, Kathy. When ghostwriting, author credits are immaterial, though it's only supernatural to ask about such things. But as ghouling a task ghostwriting can be, the rewards must be frightening. :D

CynthiaMc said...

Colin and Kathy - thanks for my first laugh of the day.

I once had a co-author for the Civil War book. It worked well for us at the time. He was a Lt. Col. In the Army, his job was research, and he had access to a lot of things that are available today but weren't back then. He wrote the battle scenes (he was also at one time out in the field and he had been to war). I wrote the mushy stuff. It worked for us.

Sherry Howard said...

You guys are on fire today!

Question:Does a co-authored submission from a newish author work against them? I have friends who co-author successfully in kidlit, but only after they were all established and already shared an agent.

Jill Warner said...

Aren't you all stealing Forti's thunder with your puns? I'm dying!

So if both authors are signed as clients, does that mean their individual projects are repped too? Or just the stuff they write together?

Colin Smith said...

"Forti's Thunder"--ooo... I like that. I might steal that for a story title... :)

This spooky talk is making me thirsty. Sprite anyone? ;)

Amy Johnson said...

Ooooh noooo! We're back to this punny business. Actually, I love it!

2Ns, I remember Arte Johnson's "Verrry interesting." But I'm sure I saw that in reruns.

RachelErin said...

Sherry I think people do it for different reasons.

At least sometimes, co-authoring can be a foot in the door. I heard an author speak last week whose big break was co-authoring MG books with James Patterson. He was the secondary author on those (I don't think it was his debut, but he was not well known before). He enjoys co-authoring, so on his new series, he's the lead author with another secondary author.

Sometimes established authors do it because they are friends and to cross-pollinate their audiences (e.g. Cassandra Clare and Holly Black).

There's anther (NYTBS) pair that started out together by liking each other's fan fiction, and they teamed up when they decided to write for publication - they have one name on the cover, however (it combines their names).

Casey Karp said...

Rachel hit a lot of the reasons there. I'll add one: part of the reason Dad and I collaborated was that he couldn't not write, but because of the chemo didn't think he had the stamina to write a whole book by himself.

As to how, we tried a lot of things. What worked for us was to write alternate chapters, rewrite each others' work, and then do revisions together. Lots of long phone calls!

YMMV, naturally. Everyone's work style differs, so figuring out how to mesh two styles is going to have to take some experimenting.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

AMY, I remember the original. My God I AM that old.

BJ Muntain said...

Usually, ghostwriters only do the writing. It would be the person who hired the ghostwriter who did the querying, etc., I would think. I mean, the whole purpose for a ghostwriter is to have them be silently in the background, happily spending their cheque, while the author takes all the credit. Of course, there would have to be some sort of contract here, too, saying all this.

2Ns: I, too, am that old. Arte Johnson used to come to Saskatchewan for a telethon. He was already one of my favourite people on TV, and then he became one of my favourite people ever. I haven't seen him acting recently, but he's still around, at 88 yo.

kathy joyce said...

Arte Johnson. What was the 70's comedy show he was on? Laugh-in? I remember a priest preaching that it was a sin for parents to let their kids watch it, because of the sexual humor. The poor guy would keel over today!

Colin, maybe we need to co-ghostwrite a book. If we were both be ghostwriters would that make the book invisible, or just humourless? Here's the first review: "Ephemeral! Transcendent... other-wordly prose that readers will follow like zombies."

Colin Smith said...

kathy: Laugh-In was late 60s. I should be old enough to know not to say that was before my time (just)... but... :D

I guess you could theoretically have a team ghostwriting a book for someone. Would the author conference call by seance? What if one of the writers turns out to be a poltergeist? Could be trouble. I guess that's where having a good agent counts... :)

kathy joyce said...

Late sixties. Wow, who knew I could have such vivid in utero memories? OK, have a good day all. I'm over the limit (probably in more than one way. :) Thanks for helping me procrastinate.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I loved Laugh In.
Sock it to me.

Panda in Chief said...

I actually have a project like that in the works. (It's a separate author and illustrator for a NF picture book, which is normally, and may still be a deal breaker) We had queried it before she got her agent for MG/YA work, with no takers with us as an author illustrator team. Fortunately, she was signed by an agent at the same agency as mine, and now they are collaborating on the sale of this book, with us as a team. I'll let you know how it all comes out.

Colin Smith said...

Guess what I've got going around my head?

"Yippie yi ooh! Yippie yi yay! Ghost writers in the sky..."

I considered doing a whole song parody, but I need to expend the creative energy elsewhere. Yeah, I can sense the disappointment from here... ;)

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

A bit late, but a heartfelt congratulations to Adib! Awesome! Fantastic! Thrilling!