Recently, an author client of mine was feeling insecure about working with a writing coach and an illustrator. A tiny part of her felt like a fraud because she hadn’t created the whole book all by herself. A different client, who hired me as a ghostwriter, has had a couple people make casual comments about her “not really writing the book.” Hoo boy.
Collaboration can be hard for writers. There’s a pervasive myth about the Lone Writer—that fictional superhuman who generates a totally unique book, with no outside help, fueled only by coffee and their unshakable belief in their own awesomeness. They birth a masterpiece, and it’s just SO DAMN GOOD, the world can’t help but take notice.
But alas! The Lone Writer doesn’t exist.
Go ahead—pick up a book and flip to the acknowledgments section. What do you see? The dozens of people who made significant contributions to the writing, editing, publication, and marketing of the book. These collaborators can be paid service providers like a ghostwriter, editor, or coach, or a shared-work collaboration like a co-writer or critique group. And then, of course, there are the friends, family members, and early readers who provided invaluable emotional support and feedback.
Just because a book has one name on the cover, that doesn’t mean only one person made that book.
Why do I say this? Because I want writers to take heart. You don’t have to go it alone. Well—you could, if you prefer isolation, burnout, and hopelessness. Who am I to tell you what you want? But what I’m saying is that you don’t need to be the Lone Writer.
In my practice over the past four years, I’ve seen a definite trend:
Authors who collaborate are more likely to finish their book—and they have more fun doing it.
1. Authors who work with collaborators get to see how their writing affects real people. When you see that your collaborators find your work inspiring, moving, humorous—whatever!—it fuels your motivation to keep writing.
2. Authors are more likely to share their work with confidence when it’s been vetted by their collaborators. Sharing work is a great way to build an audience before the book is even out. Whether you’re blogging, sharing on social media, or contributing articles to a publication, you’re out there in the world, providing valuable content and building a name for yourself as a writer.
3. Authors who collaborate have built-in accountability buddies. Don’t feel like writing today? Too bad! Your collaborator is already at the coffee shop, waiting for you to show up. Chances are, once you get going, your inspiration will soon follow.
4. Authors who collaborate get the work done much more quickly. When you work together, you can make progress on multiple fronts. In a recent project, as I was ghostwriting the book, the author client cultivated a vibrant Facebook presence (with almost 500 organic “likes”) and crowdfunded $5,000 to help pay for book production.
5. Authors have an easier time maintaining their enthusiasm when they work with collaborators. For one thing, you get to delegate away the parts you don’t like or don’t want to learn. It’s easier to have fun when most of your energy is spent on those responsibilities that really resonate with you. Secondly, the process moves more quickly when you have a collaborator. If you’ve cranked out the book in a year or 18 months, it still feels fresh and fun. If you’ve been slogging away at the project for eight years, trying to do every piece of it by yourself, it’s going to start to feel like the proverbial albatross around your neck.
At the end of the day, what’s more important: Being the Lone Writer, or getting your book into the hands of the readers who need and want it?