Pros and Cons of Collaborative Books

54. Pros and Cons of Collaborative Books

Participating in a collaborative book seems like a great chance to finally get published without writing a whole book.

But before you say yes to a collaborative book (or anthology) consider what’s in it for you.

In this episode, I cover the pros and cons of contributing to a collaborative book.

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Episode Transcript

Hey there and welcome to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis.

Today, I want to talk about the idea of collaborative books and whether they’re a good opportunity for authors.

There’s an entirely different discussion to be had about the value of collaborative books for the person who pulls them together.

I’ll address that perspective on another episode.

For now, I want to address the pros and cons of collaborative books for people who want to become authors.

If you’re not familiar with collaborative books in the self-publishing world, they’re like anthologies.

One person serves as the editor and the publisher.

They pick a subject matter and a theme.

And then they invite authors to submit a chapter to the book.

A lot of people will think, “This is great! I can be an author without writing a whole book.”

But is it really that simple? Yes and no.

And is it really great? Maybe.

Let’s look at 3 pros of collaborative books for the contributors.

Pro #1. You probably won’t have to write more than 10 pages.

If you want to tell a story or share an idea, but it’s not enough for a whole book, a collaborative book could be a great option for you.

If you want to exercise your writing muscles and work your way up to writing your own book, a collaborative book can be a great place to start.

Pro #2. A collaborative book can get you some visibility.

If the editor (not the copy editor, but the editor who selects the pieces) has a solid platform and marketing plan, participating in the book could get you some visibility and potentially lead people to follow you.

Pro #3. You can call yourself a contributing author.

If you have no plans to write your own book anytime soon, that can add some credibility to your platform.

Now, let’s look at 3 cons of collaborative books.

When you take part in a collaborative book . . .

Con #1. You’re not quite an author yet.

You’re a contributing author when you take part in a collaborative book, but it would be disingenuous to call yourself an author just yet.

Don’t buy into a collaborative book under the misguided idea that writing 10 pages makes you an author.

Author equals authority because writing an entire book is an indication that you’ve done deeper or more expansive work on a topic.

There’s nothing wrong with being a contributing author. It’s just important to be aware of the difference.

Con #2. You have no control over the quality.

If you decide to do a collaborative book, you really have to trust the editor, and to some extent, the other contributing authors.

Some of these anthology editors do a fantastic job.

They only accept quality pieces. They hire an experienced copy editor. And they put real effort into the design.

So you could get a beautiful end product

But other editors accept work from whoever is willing to pay.

The don’t invest in professional copyediting or proofreading.

And they don’t invest in professionals to design the book.

In that case, you’re likely to end up with something you’re embarrassed to have your name on.

Con #3: Collaborative books require a financial investment.

Some are quite reasonable and worth the price.

But I’ve seen others that charge more than it would cost you to self-publish your own book and offer little in return.

That means you have to be really clear about how the business end of any collaborative book works.

How much does it cost to participate?

Is the editor investing some of that money in a team of publishing professionals to make the book great?

Will there be a standard for the work published or can anyone get in?

If one of the author’s work is subpar, will she have help to make it better?

Will you be able to get copies at cost to sell on your website or at speaking events or to give away to clients and customers?

Are you expected to buy a certain number of books?

Does the editor have plans for marketing the book?

Are you expected to do any marketing?

Speaking of marketing, don’t be fooled into thinking the book will sell well just because the editor has an audience.

I’ve seen collaborative books edited by influencers that barely sold because there was no marketing effort behind them.

Big name or not, they still need a marketing campaign for the book.

So what’s the bottom line on collaborative books.

I’ve consulted on collaborative book projects that I was proud to be a part of.

And I’ve talked with many people who felt cheated by the collaborative book projects they participated in.

Would I take part in a collaborative book?

Probably not, but maybe. But only under very specific circumstances, which haven’t presented themselves to me yet.

But you’re not me. You have your own decision-making factors to consider.

The bottom line to me is that you have to do your due diligence, as you would with any other investment and you’re best served by having reasonable expectations of what being a contributing author can do for you and for your business, your platform, or your story.

If you’re thinking about participating in a collaborative book:

  1. Go in with your eyes open.
  2. Ask lots of questions.
  3. Read the fine print.
  4. Make sure the money makes sense.
  5. And keep your author goals in mind.

That’s all for this episode, my friends. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, follow me on Instagram @candiceldavis for more writing tips and inspiration.

Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m Your Author Coach Candice L Davis. And I’ll see you next time.

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