Tuesday, August 24, 2021

So, I had some help writing my novel

I’m getting to query my fourth novel (first three ended up in the shredder without querying).  I’m very happy with how it turned out and I’m optimistic about getting somewhere with it.

Here’s the rub: it’s a collaboration.  The good news is our agreement is in writing and signed by both parties: the other writer gets paid (and has been paid in full) and I keep all rights and interests.

I wrote the first draft myself, a 30k word novella.  Confident I had a winning idea but so-so execution, I hired the other writer to help me clean it up and expand it to a novel length.  They assisted with writing an outline, writing certain scenes, guiding me through scene writing, and a substantial edit that resulted in a lot of their writing throughout the scenes I wrote. 

My question is, should I disclose this is a collaboration?  I have no shame I didn’t get over the finish line myself and I formed a team to get there.  I also have no interest in pretending this is only a product of myself, especially if I get asked later “how’d you write it?”  

At the same time, I don’t want to complicate getting an agent and getting a sale.

What’s the right thing to do?
This isn't a collaboration.
You hired what is for all intents and purposes an editor.
The reason it's not a collaboration is that you own all the rights.
A collaboration would mean your collaborater would have a percentage of those rights.
But the real question is of course, how much of the sausage making do you need to tell anyone about.
And more important: WHEN.
You do not need to mention this in an intial query.
If an agent requests the full, and wants to then have a phone call with you, that's when you say "I worked with an editor to sharpen this up."
You need to tell the agent BEFORE she sells the book so there is no question on the warranties and indemnites clause of any publishing contract


She can help you make sure that you have the right wording in any agreement with your editor.

Many MANY authors work with independent editors these days, and with varying levels of editorial input.  This is NOT a problem.


PAH said...

Editors do actual writing for authors--entire scenes and chapters? Real question, no sass intended. Seems like a fine line between editor and ghostwriter.

Seems like if a "substantial amount" of the final product is someone else's words then it's more than just a hired editor. Especially when most agents want to sign the writer and not the book (or is that just something they say?)... For example, when book #2 comes along do you hire out this "editor" again or work with the publisher's editor? How does that work long-term?


Craig F said...

No book is ever at its best if it was raised in a vacuum. It takes a veritable village to make a book work to its best.

Some do like to have a developmental editor re-write a few things. I haven't gone that way, I have a few critique partners I trust, and I hope that they trust me, they have been great.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

This makes sense to me. Sometimes agents do a lot of editorial work of this kind to make a book easier for them to sell. Or so I've noticed. I am guessing the agent accounts for this in the contract as well.

Panda in Chief said...

My first take on this was that this was more of an editor than a collaborator. Lots of writers also work as editors, because...well, you have a skill, and sometimes it's easier to see what needs help with someone else's work than with your own.

If the initial idea was come up with between two people, and they worked on it in tandem, then I would say it was a collaboration.

Good luck with your querying! Be sure to let us know if there is good news to come!

Colin Smith said...

If the other writer has been paid in full and has, essentially, signed over all rights, then it makes sense (at least to me) that this other writer is effectively an editor. At least they are acting in that capacity, even if they contributed to the writing. As Janet said, editors and agents often help with creative aspects of the work under their care. The final creative decisions however belong to the author, which is why theirs is the name on the cover. Not only do they get the praise for their literary genius, but they also receive the jabs from the critics and haters.

Beth Carpenter said...

Best of luck, OP!

AJ Blythe said...

Interesting question and for once I got close to the right answer. Good luck with your querying OP!