How two co-authors have worked together successfully at a distance

All writing projects have their own challenges and opportunities. When working with a co-author, there can be additional challenges to ensure that the manuscript is completed in a way that ultimately reflects a single published voice while covering all of the required topic areas.

In this article, Rex Hartson and Pardha Pyla, co-authors of the award-winning textbook, The UX Book 2 (Morgan Kauffman Publishing, 2019), share our experience of success working together at a distance. We have offered the following insight on how to manage issues of version control, file sharing, managing “pen” ownership, change tracking, handing off the pen, and organizing difficult text.

Top 5 tips for creating and maintaining a successful coauthoring relationship

Frank Carrano and Timothy Henry have coauthored two editions each of computer science textbooks Data Abstractions & Problem Solving with Walls And Mirrors C++ and Data Structures and Abstractions with JAVA. Here they detail their top five tips for maintaining a successful coauthoring relationship.

1) Have a Coauthoring Contract or Agreement

When you and your coauthor decided to work together, you may have been long-time friends and coworkers, you may have been connected by your publisher, or you may have met at a conference. However the relationship was established, it is important to have your writing relationship clearly stated in a contract. A coauthoring contractual agreement should specify royalty splits, writing responsibilities, and future edition commitments. If you have not worked together previously, you may want to consider a work-for-hire arrangement to test your ability to collaborate. This can reduce the risk to future editions. Another option is to add the coauthor for the current edition only. That is, amend your contract for one edition at a time.

How to find a coauthor: What you need, what you want, and where to look

The Joys and Agony of Co-Authoring: Practical and Legal Tips from Two Author-Lawyers”, presented by the award-winning co-authoring team of Karen Morris and Sten Sliger, the pair shared a list of both necessary and desirable traits to look for in a coauthor as well as tips on where to start searching for the people who possess them.

While working with a coauthor has several advantages, like a reduced workload, added expertise and creativity, and a different perspective, the wrong relationship can be a recipe for disaster. To increase your chance of success, this list provides some food for thought when considering a co-authoring relationship with someone.

Who can I get to write that chapter?

You are all set. The approach to your topic is inspired. A firm table of contents has been finalized. Your Book Proposal is great. And you now have a contract with a respected publisher!

But, who is going to do all this writing? You have probably carved out specific chapters that you will write. You may have spoken with some colleagues that like the project and said they would be glad to help out. You have a list of likely people to write other key chapters, but you will need more contributors. How do you go about identifying and asking people to contribute to your book?