How to find a co-author to help with the workload on a successful one-author textbook series
Computer science textbook author William Stallings, a 13-time winner of TAA’s Textbook Excellence Award, and five-time winner of TAA’s McGuffey Longevity Award, gives the following advice for someone trying to find a co-author to help with the workload on a successful one-author series:
“I have had four different coauthors on three different books and all the experiences have been largely positive. In every case, the coauthor was a professor who had taught a course using the then-current edition of the book. I think that is an essential prerequisite. This gives the professor insight into how students are reacting to the material and what needs to be changed to make it more attractive to students. As well, teaching from the book gives the professor insight into what needs to be changed to make his/her job easier and more effective.
Other than that main requirement, here is some additional advice:
- It’s good to get someone with an established reputation based on a good number of publications, someone who is relatively active at conferences, which will help promote the book, and someone who, based on his/her pubs, is a good, clear writer.
- In each case, after discussions with the potential coauthor, come up with a statement of work. The main component in this is who will be the lead author for each chapter. Since it is an existing book, usually there are not many new chapters, so for existing chapters, I try to divide it up so that we each get some of the chapters that need substantial revision. I also try to include a requirement for the co-author to supply some new homework problems and/or other supplemental material.
- Royalty division can be difficult to figure out. For an existing book with a new co-author, it’s not reasonable to just split the royalty on the basis of how many chapters each author is responsible for, since the original author has done all of the work up to this point and has established the reputation, such as it may be, of the book. What I have done is offer the coauthor a share that is a fair amount less than reflected by the chapter division, with the prospect that in future editions, we will progressively come closer to a division that reflects relative effort for the new edition.”
William Stallings has made a unique contribution to understanding the broad sweep of technical developments in computer networking and computer architecture. He has authored 17 titles, and counting revised editions, a total of over 40 books on various aspects of these subjects, including Computer Organization and Architecture, Operating Systems, and Computer Security. He is a member of the editorial board of Cryptologia, a scholarly journal devoted to all aspects of cryptology. He is a frequent lecturer and author of numerous technical papers. Learn more about Stallings on his website, by following him on Twitter, or by connecting with him on LinkedIn. He also maintains a website with resources for computer science students.