I have been teaming up with experts in different fields for about five years now to produce books on a variety of topics, including bipolar disorder, food allergies, slam poetry, and real estate investing. I even co-authored a book on oceanography.
I could probably write books on these topics myself, but they wouldn’t be nearly as informative and would require about four times the effort in research alone. My co-authors have the requisite knowledge, but they lack the skills, time, or desire to write a book on their own… or they feel overwhelmed by the prospect. By teaming up, we complement one another and develop higher quality publications more efficiently and confidently.
Team writing benefits everyone involved: the content expert, writer, editor, and reader.
- Time savings: The most time-consuming aspect of writing is re-writing. The writer takes that off the expert’s plate. The writer can also take the lead in communicating with editorial, especially during the author review process.
- Scheduling: A deadline-oriented writer can keep manuscript development moving forward at a sufficient pace to meet or beat deadlines… assuming the expert cooperates.
- Table of contents (TOC) development: Good writers are analytical and able to break down a topic into chapters, headings, and subheadings. With a detailed TOC in place, the writing process is like shooting ducks.
- Lighter edits: The writer essentially does a very heavy pre-edit, which typically results in fewer and less involved editorial changes.
- Improved focus: The content expert can focus on providing comprehensive and valuable content rather than on making it read smoothly and clearly. Division of labor allows each team member to do what he or she does best.
- Improved marketing: The writer and content expert can team up post publication to promote the book. Promotional activities may include developing a website/blog and populating it with engaging content, writing articles for industry-related publications or websites, setting up an Amazon Author Central account, developing book descriptions, and preparing press releases.
Can the content expert write a book on his or her own? Probably. But most of the content experts I team up with earn substantially more money per hour in their field than by writing books. They write books more for recognition and positioning than for royalties, so teaming up with a professional writer to complete the project as quickly and efficiently as possible is a sound financial decision.
- Reduced research overhead: Research is time-consuming, and often writers don’t even have the insight to determine whether their sources are accurate and timely. A content expert is a walking library on his or her area of expertise. Research consists of merely transferring what’s in expert’s brain to paper. (That’s not always as easy as it sounds, but it’s a whole lot easier than having to become an expert.)
- Platform: Some professional writers develop a following and build their own platform, but writers like me are no names. For example, I can’t speak as an authority on food allergies, but my co-author, Dr. Wood, is a renowned expert in food allergies. Having a platform, a recognizable name, a website, speaking engagements, connections with influential members of a community, and so on sells books.
The writer must do some research to gain a general understanding of the topic. How much research depends on the expert’s ability to deliver essential information. In some cases, I write from research and then have the content expert review it. Very often, the information I provide is inaccurate or incomplete, but it starts a dialog that generates the necessary content.
- Experienced go-between: A seasoned writer can ease the burden for editorial by performing substantial edits before an editor steps in. The writer can also assist in project management.
- Fewer formatting headaches: A writer trained in preparing a manuscript in the required format can save editorial hours in re-formatting.
- Improved focus: Editors can focus more on improving a good manuscript rather than fixing a broken one.
- Another technical edit: Every how-to book goes through a technical review process in which an unbiased expert checks the content to ensure it’s accurate and complete. With two experts reviewing the manuscript, the content is sure to be even more accurate and complete.
- Better book: The bottom line is that team writing produces better books, assuming, of course, the content expert, writer, and editors all deliver.
Collaboration is key. When the content expert, writer, and editors join in a true collaboration, the project takes on a life of its own, and all parties drive each other to higher levels of passion and creativity. When it works right, everyone on the team inspires one another, writer’s block becomes a non-issue, and everybody wins.