Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chapter 11: No Platform? Then consider sharing someone else's platform by co-authoring

Before I acquired a publisher for my book on music, a high-profile author urged me to co-author the book with him. "If we publish it together," he said, "you'll get a much wider reading."

I agreed that simply by putting his name on the cover, I'd have a much broader appeal and gain a much broader reading. It was a hard decision. Maybe I should have gone that route. But I didn't. Today I'm happy with my decision. Here's why:

#1 - I thought credit should be given where credit was due. I felt that if the book cover read:

The Contemporary Christian Music Debate

By Big Name

With Steve Miller

the average reader would think, "So 'Big Name' did the research and wrote the book. Miller must be a professional writer who tidied things up a bit to get it ready for publication." I didn't think that was giving me proper credit.

#2 - It seemed unethical. I'd already researched and written the entire book. So what was "Big Name" going to do - write a forward and add a few of his own insights to several of the chapters? I know that insiders to the publishing industry would say, "Everybody knows what's going on here. The no-name author doesn't have the platform, so he writes the book, then we have the big- name guy give enough input to justify putting both of your names on it."

Of course, that's not the only way co-authoring works. Often it's truly a collaboration from start to finish. On the other end of the spectrum lie those books that just have a rubber stamp put on them by the high profile author. In my case, I didn't think it was legit to come across to the general public like someone else had written the book when I'd done it myself.

#3 - Co-authoring might hurt my chances for future book deals. Write the book myself and I'm truly a "published author" the next time I go knocking on publishers' doors. If I were "just a co-author," would they take the time to find out if I had actually written the book or not? Even if they knew I was the primary writer, wouldn't they wonder if it would have ever sold without the high profile "co-author?" I believe that leaving it in my name helped to establish me as an author in my own right.

On the other hand, other book projects aren't like mine. Co-authoring may be the best way to go in many cases.

#1 - By collaborating from start to finish with an established author, you might come out with a better product.

#2 - Even if your co-author isn't a big name author, if the person has fascinating experience in the field or a strong platform, you stand to gain by working together.

#3 - You're more likely to get a publisher, who knows that "Big Name" or "Big Platform" has a following who will buy the book.

#4 - You'll probably sell more books, which impacts more readers (isn't that what you're trying to do?) than selling no books or few books under your own name.

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