By: Osaro Althouse
Do you have a book in you? AWC-SB’s panel on Wednesday, November 10 at the Antioch campus posed this question. AWC-SB members and guests learned key characteristics oftentimes overlooked when working in collaboration with others. Co-authorship requires a thorough understanding of the people you choose to work with, but even more so individual preparation and self-examination, which caught the audience by surprise. Experienced industry experts, such as Lois Phillips, PhD, co-author of Women Seen and Heard: Lessons Learned from Successful Speakers; Joan Calder, children’s book author of Airplanes in the Garden: Monarch Butterflies Take Flight; Marla Miller, author, freelancer, teacher, and founder of Marketing The Muse; Marylove Thralls, writer, public relations professional, and co-author of The Empty Desk Survival Guide; and Saji Gunawardane, Attorney at Law, who focuses on individuals and corporations in business and contract matters, intellectual property, employment law, and regulatory compliance shared their valuable insights with a zealous audience.
The salient question of the audience appeared to be: What are the benefits and challenges of co-authorship? Marylove Thralls mentioned that while working on her books she appreciated using collaborators as a sounding board and the synergy she gained from working together with other people. She further enjoyed the collective wisdom both brought to the table, brainstorming, problem solving, and disparate perspectives. She also emphasized that it is appropriate to work in partnership if the involved people have complementary knowledge bases, noting a common pitfall is the underestimation of time spent from start to final product.
Marla Miller noted she enjoys taking on projects she is passionate about and genuinely in love with. People find her in areas she has expertise in. Those who want to collaborate should find an editor that would either co-author or “with-author” with them, which she did for her two books. Collaboration should enhance the final product. She emphasized the importance of talking to somebody who knows the business to determine if a book idea is worth sharing with the world. She recommends those interested in writing a book write a magazine piece, see if it gets placed, or create a blog to find their community.
Aware she lacked the skill to illustrate, Joan Calder sought a talented illustrator from the inception of her children’s book idea. Clearly defined roles between her and the illustrator contributed to a satisfying collaboration.
Saji Gunawardane claimed partnerships start with self-examination. He noted it is important to talk about the visions and passions as well as the hard questions. Each person involved should write down expectations ahead of time to avoid misunderstandings in the future.
On the topic of when to start talking about marketing, Marylove Thralls said she learned from experience that it is better to talk about it ahead of time. Joan Calder knew in advance she wanted to be responsible for marketing her self-published book and did so successfully with some help from her illustrator. Marla Miller is convinced the marketing process is an integral part of a book’s success and advised audience members to start before writing a book.
Panelists shared that the digital world opened more doors and that blogging has become more prominent. Marylove Thralls added that consistency and proper delegation of responsibilities are significant to maintaining an active blog. Saji said bloggers should protect themselves as much as they can by trade marking their logo and by including their name before publishing their content.
Each panelist ended with sharing a piece of advice with Thralls stating that life happens and flexibility, understanding, and patience are essential throughout the process. Joan Calder said trusting one’s intuition is important to enhance the whole experience. Marla Miller noted that bringing on a writer who can truly bring something to enhance the product is necessary for a successful collaboration, as is trust in one’s gut and knowledge on whether a book idea is truly a book. Lois Phillips claimed time consideration and financial planning are essential as well as the willingness to give away a lot of books to get people to buy a copy.
Panelists, members and friends concurred that self-examination, advanced preparation, and perseverance through the marketing stage are recipes for a successful book and an efficient collaboration with others.