Karin Hurt and David Dye showed up at the same book writing workshop and decided to write a book together. The book they wrote is Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results–Without Losing Your Soul, published by AMACOM.
That’s the short version of the story. There’s a lot more before and after that fateful workshop.
Getting to know you
In the old, pre-internet days, Karin and David might not even have known much about each other, let alone connected. David came up in the nonprofit world and lives in Denver. Karin was an executive at Verizon and lives outside Washington DC.
Fortunately, they both had blogs and their first contact was reading each other’s blog. They blogged about the same things. They talked on the phone. They had the same values.
And, as it turned out, they were both thinking about writing a book about those values and how they’d learned to live them out at work. That’s why they both showed up at that book writing workshop, where they decided to write one book, together. So far so good.
Collaboration Test Number One: Will it make the book better?
The only reason to collaborate with anyone on a book is that you’ll turn out a better book that way. Karin and David bring different experience, stories, and teaching techniques to the same subject.
Collaboration Test Number Two: Can we work well together?
I’ve been part of a lot of collaborations over the years and I will tell you that this part always takes some work and some give-and-take because there will be differences of opinion and style. If there are no differences, you don’t need both of you. When I interviewed them, here’s how Karin described their differences.
“David will say ‘So if I knew I was going to collaborate, these are the characteristics that I would need to have in a co-author.’ And my story is, I ran into him at this publishing lab and said ‘Oh my gosh. We’re writing the same book. Let’s do it.’”
This always appears different when you look back than it did when you were starting. When a collaboration works, it seems inevitable, looking back. But to get the benefit of different strengths you have to do a lot of work all through the project. The good news is that more you do this successfully, the easier it gets.
Writing the book
Writing teams divide up the work in different ways. On some teams one person has their fingers on the keys and does most of the actual writing. On some teams there is a senior partner and a junior partner. Karin and David figured that they’d produce the best book if they split the writing equally. Here’s how that played out.
Getting the book done
The process began with a business plan for the book. The plan (which looks a lot like a book proposal) lays out decisions on the basics, especially things like who will buy the book and why. Then they started writing.
They set up Dropbox folders for each chapter then they filled the folders up with “anything we thought was relevant to the content from our prior work.” The decisions about who would write each chapter were a combination of who had the passion or experience and “who had the time that week.” Here’s how David describes what they did on every chapter.
“So one of us would do an initial draft. Then we would swap and the other person would read through and edit. Then the first person would get another chance at it. And then after that, we would consider it done for submission to the publisher.”
That process made sure that all the best stories and examples found their way into the book. It also produced chapters that were a joint effort and written in a single voice.
If you’re a manager, the result of this relationship and process is a business book that you will want to read.