Written by Phil Wade
Copyright © Phil Wade 2016
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One of the easiest ways into ebook writing is to write with a friend or a bunch of them. It means less work for each person, more ideas, extra pairs of eyes to spot problems and support. From an investment angle though, it also equals less time per person and, if you have costs, a lower price for editing and the cover.
Great teams can make great ebooks and if it works out the first time, you might want to continue like that. Writing is a very solitary activity so hours, weeks or months completely in your own bubble and thoughts isn’t exactly the most inspiring thought. With 1 or more co-writers though, it becomes a social activity and can be very enjoyable and rewarding.
There are writers who always work with their partner of choice, there are others who like a regular team of 3 or more and there are even those who just enjoy working with different people and so get involved in or start any group projects they can. You can be any or all or even none of those.
Chapter 1: The call
Everything starts with putting yourself out there and asking either people you know or posting a call for co-writers. You could do this on Facebook, Twitter or via other social media sites, writer’s groups or anywhere you feel your ideal co-writers visit.
To attract the right people, you need a very clear description of the project and how the co-writing process will work. You also want to word it so the right kind of people apply i.e. people who are compatible with you and compliment your skills. A too vague ‘want to write with me?’ could create lots of questions as people attempt to figure out what exactly you are offering. The more precise you are at this point, the less hassle further down the line.
Don’t be afraid of being turned down or the infamous ‘why? question as some people might just not be a good match or even understand the reason for your project. If it something quite unusual to the norm then it may take several calls. In fact, even just putting ‘ebook’ in your call is enough to confuse some so make sure you pick the right places where people are familiar with ebooks and if possible, the writing or construction process.
Chapter 2: The response
The 2 extremes after placing a call are that either you will have no replies or you will have too many. Both situations have related problems but it’s generally better to have more than less as it means you can cut he workload down to even less that you had planned or adapt your idea and add new content.
In the case of no response, think about why you failed. It’s often just a case of reaching out in the wrong place to the wrong people. If it happens several times, it could be worth asking people you know and seeing who they know who might know someone who knows someone etc. You might also want to rethink your demands and consider how much time and effort you are demanding of would-be teammates. For instance, a call like ‘anyone interested in co-writing a free 50 page book on the theory of ….?’ stands a high chance of not getting even a single like on Facebook.
When you do get some responses, it’s good to get to know the people to establish a relationship and to openly discuss the project as honestly as you can. You might find out that they have their own ideas and want to take a more active role. On the other side, you may discover they only have 3 minutes spare this year to write 1 line. It really takes all sorts so see what best works for you and the ebook.
Chapter 3: The team
In a traditional writing project, there would be a writer or a team of writers, an editor, someone for the design and some kind of project manager and proofreaders. Roles would be clearly defined and everyone’s role would fit together nicely as cogs in the publishing machine. On an indie project, everything depends on the people, especially if you only had a vague concept for your ebook during the call.
Most ebooks usually have units or chapters so if you know what they are, ask people to sign up for them or suggest specific ones to people. Another more creative approach is to let writers say what they want to write about. In the first example, you are more of a series editor with writers working on your project. For the second, it is more collaborative. Both can work.
Enquire about interests and skills too. You could uncover a master editor or a novice proof-reader in your group. People sign up for writing projects for many reasons. You could have those who want to write, people looking to get known, others after some writing or editing experience for their CV or even a person wanting to pick up tips for their own ebook project. Knowing motivations and what people can do will help you make everyone happy by making sure they do what they want to and need to do.
Chapter 4: The chaos
10 co-writers writing 10 units means potentially 10 emails or more a day. To control the chaos of communication, you can set suggested tasks and deadlines and then give direct feedback. If you failed to cover the style of the writing, the length of pages, the type of headings and formatting, you might end up actually rewriting at this point unless you are completely open to everyone doing their own thing. Generally though, readers like continuity so ensuring everyone sets out to write with the same guidelines is key. A well greased writing project will need very little contact between co-writers and also little editing.
Questions and doubts can sometimes be useful so it is always good to address them even if they seem to challenge your sacred vision of your ebook. When you are in the writing stage, things will come up like problems, challenges, difficulties and ideas, things you never imagined when you sat in your room pondering your final product. Simple things like formatting can actually be huge as if 1 person changes something, everyone must follow for standardisation. Even if someone writes 1 sentence more than the page limit, it means asking them to reconstruct the entire paragraph. Another common issue is repetition and it is often just by accident. If you keep track of the writing, you can spot it and deal with asap. If you leave the writing and check it later, you may have a tough time contacting people and getting things changed.
Chapter 5: Networks
5 writers means 5 networks or ‘PLNs’ which you can and should exploit for every purpose. For example, a writer with many colleague friends in a school will be a great source for potential case studies of teaching and probably proofing. Connections can help you find new contributors, source relevant data to mould the book and even secure technical help when the publication process gets tough.
Advertising and sales are the key difficulties for ebooks but if you have 10 co-writers all active in associations with blogs and Twitter feeds, you have a wide world at your fingertips. Just 1 tweet from 1 co-writer can get viewed and retweeted many times. For freebie ebooks, you could raise awareness in 5 minutes by just asking each co-writer to announce the ebook on their social media sites and blogs.
For those looking for big sales, the greater he amount of people hearing about your ebook, the higher the product awareness which is step number 1 in the sales chain. A combined assault of posts and hash tags across then net then sharing will do your read wonders. Readers often like to know and trust authors so things like chatting with co-writers on Twitter is free and gets attention and trust. Interactive with potential readers though is even better.
Good luck and remember to use the #ELTebook hashtag if you share ebooks about ELT.