Writing a book: What to look for in a collaborator

Jul 17, 2014 | Writing A Book

1995 was the year I discovered the joys of writing a book with a good collaborator. That was the year Jeff Senne and I wrote Cyberpower for Business. Inc magazine called that book, “a book every CEO should own.” It was a great book.

I learned a lot from writing that book with Jeff. Looking back, the most important thing a great collaboration can be a joyful and fulfilling way to produce a great book.

Benefits of Collaborative Writing

There are different kinds of collaborators. Jeff and I were co-authors. Since then I’ve worked professionally as a writing partner and author’s coach.

When you work with another person on a business book, you get two of everything. Jeff and I had different life experiences and different client and knowledge bases. The book was better because of that.

When you work with another person on a book, you can play to your strengths. Jeff and I split the interviews and research about evenly. We discussed every chapter before writing. After that, I wrote the chapter drafts, because I was the better writer. Jeff then applied his master summarizer and questioner skills. Every chapter was better because we collaborated than it would have been if one of us had written it alone.

Not all collaborations are created equal

Not all collaborations are good ones. I’ve worked with people where we just couldn’t seem to produce good work or where the project wasn’t fun for both of us. For a collaboration to result in a great experience and a great book, you need three things in common. Here’s what to look for in a collaborator.

You should have the same goals.

Goals can differ in a several ways. You should agree on the kind of book you want to produce, how you will work, and what the schedule will be.

You should have complementary skills and knowledge

Each of you should add to the power of the collaboration. You want positive synergy, a situation where 1 + 1 = 3, or even more. When this happens, collaboration can be a voyage of discovery.

You must have good chemistry.

If you don’t have good personal chemistry, the agreement on goals and skills won’t matter. Ask yourself, “Will I enjoy working intensely with this person for a year or more?” If the answer is anything but a resounding “Yes!” you probably should find another collaborator.