27 September 2013

Collaborative Book Writing 101

by Kelly DeBie

Waves frantically to our readers...how have you all been?

It’s been quiet around here for the past few months. I blame summer.

Now that it’s officially fall, it seems that almost every writer I know has begun to hunker down and get serious about writing again.

One of the biggest projects I am working on currently is a collaborative book. The title of it is Sunshine After The Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother, and it should be available as an ebook next month, in hard copy shortly thereafter. 

It is the brainchild of Alexa Bigwarfe, who is currently in Washington, DC advocating on behalf of the March of Dimes.

As the title suggests, it is a book targeted to an audience of women who have endured infertility, miscarriages, stillbirths and the loss of their children. Assembling the writers for the book was made possible only through years of connections online of women who were willing to tell bits and pieces of their stories in their blogs.

With each story shared, others would come out of the woodwork, leaving comments and even being brave enough to write about their own losses. Over time, more and more of us became connected to each other, so when the idea of the book came to be, it didn't take long to circle the wagons.

This specific subject matter was quite amenable to a group approach because each of the contributors had a different experience to share, and as a cumulative whole we have addressed a large spectrum of maternal grief issues. An individual writer would, hopefully, only have experienced one or a few of those losses, but not all of them. Bringing our stories together lends more credibility to the book as a whole because we are all speaking from experience, not speculation.

As with any kind of collaborative project, each contributor brought their own background and experience to the piece, in addition to their own style and approach. We've been fortunate thus far that we are all on the same page as far as content and structure go. We've worked together to pull quotes from our own experiences to open each chapter as well.

I don't honestly know how much of the heavy lifting Alexa has done with the book, as she has been the one responsible for all the details. She found the editor and has been the contact person for everything, all the way down to choosing the images for the cover. I suspect she has put far more work into this than she leads on, and for all her efforts, we are tremendously grateful.

With this particular project, there hasn't been a financial motivation to write the book. There never was, and from the beginning, we agreed that the majority of the proceeds would be put back into printing additional books to distribute to hospitals and clinics to help grieving mothers. As an individual writer, I may eventually see a small return on it, but this particular book wasn't written for that reason. It was written to help other women. In the event that a collaborative book is written purely for profit, you would have to make sure that all contributors are agreed on the distribution of income from it ahead of time after all overhead was covered.

Obviously, how you go about gathering writers for a collaborative book will depend on the subject matter. Given the right subject matter, a collaborative approach can be preferred to solo writing, and I believe this is one of those subjects. It certainly cuts down on the amount of material that each person needs to generate, but provides a legitimate publishing opportunity.

In addition to all that, you also have a larger circle of influence built in for marketing simply by virtue of the fact that different writers contributed to the piece, and each will share it with their friends and fans. This book has already drawn a significant amount of interest as a result of our varying reaches.

This book has been a true labor of love, built from years of pain, put together for a reason, and is one that I am proud to say that I am a part of.

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