Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The "Co-" Pieces: Co-Author, Collaboration, Commission - Diane Coleman

I told you a little bit about Anees, my mentor and co-writer for The Truth About Islam and Cry of the Heart and Quest of the Mind. Did I tell you that his native language is Arabic? Did I tell you he has a big booming voice and laughs HA HA HA and calls me “the Queen”? Well, he does and it’s no exaggeration to say that I love him like a brother.

But brothers and sisters sometimes (often?) don’t see eye-to-eye. When Anees and I collaborate, it’s like we dump all the book jigsaw pieces on a big tray and we pass that tray back and forth, back and forth, as we pick through them for the ones we need. And—here’s the kicker—sometimes I throw extra pieces on the tray and sometimes Anees does. And sometimes these pieces don’t look like we’re working on the same puzzle at all.

HA. HA. HA.

Collaboration is a relationship like any other. It requires flexibility, respect, graciousness, honesty, generosity, mutual submission, and a very healthy dose of good humor.

I’ve found that it’s really important from the get-go for collaborators to clarify their roles in the process. One may be the visionary and the other the mechanic, as was the case for Anees and me. Both Truth and Cry are a blend of us both, a sort of cross-cultural, cross-gender, syncretistic hybrid. (An early reviewer of Truth remarked that it sounded like it was written in Arabicized English. I’m not so sure he meant it as a compliment, but I choose to think of it that way. (Arabicized English…I like that.)

If you decide to collaborate with someone—a national, or a team mate, or organization leader—you will experience the same thing. The book you create will be a happy blend of your combined personalities and experiences.

My other two books, Lead Pencil and Bruno-isms were privately commissioned. A commissioned project is like being given a publisher’s advance. The upside of this is that you know that your hard work will definitely go to print. The downside is that you must tailor the manuscript to meet the commissioning agent’s time schedule and content guidelines. You will be paid for the time you spend on the project, but may or may not receive ongoing royalties, depending upon how the book is distributed and the contract you negotiate.

Bear in mind also that you may not be identified as the real writer (true ghost writing) or you may be acknowledged with the line “With (insert name here).”

But you may want to pitch this kind of project to your company or NGO. It’s a good way to get published and build your credentials as a writer. Plus, a book written from a “field perspective” can be a great asset to your organization for recruiting and training.

In any case, you have a story to tell. Now, GO WRITE YOUR BOOK!


[Editor’s Note: This is Diane’s final post. Thank you, Diane, for your wit and informative posts. You keep writing too!]

2 comments:

Jamie Jo said...

Thank you, Diane! I love having this blog archived so we can go back to different "lessons" when we need them most. In the past I have considered co-authoring a book with a very similar-minded coworker and friend, but this is not the season for such a venture (if ever).

You've given us some great tips here. We really appreciate it, both now and later.

charis said...

Thanks, Jamie Jo! I hope the seasons change soon and you can write your book. When you do, let me know and I'll buy the first copy! :)

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