Ask Daphne! About Sharing Credit

December 1st, 2010 • Kate

twodifferentshoesToday’s Ask Daphne question comes to us from Shannon, who writes:

As with many writers, I have multiple projects going on at the same time. Recently, a friend of mine gave me a great idea for a MG sci-fi MS. My question is what are my obligations to him as the idea person? We’ve agreed on 50/50 which is more than fair. He came up with the climax and is helping with ideas along the way, but I am driving plot, coming up with more details and writing all of it.

So, would my friend be a co-author? When I/we query it, and it is accepted by some fabulous agent like you, what is the proper way to show that we worked on this together and to assure that our work is split 50/50?

Thank you for your blog. I follow lots of agents and publisher blogs and I think that yours is one of the most helpful I’ve seen – especially for first time writers.

Shannon, if I’d stopped to answer this after your first question, I’d say, “a kind acknowledgment”, and leave it at that. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and if your friend wanted credit for an idea, I’d suggest he write his own book.

But then you add that he’s helping with plot and further development along the way, so the 50/50 split you’ve agreed on doesn’t seem so entirely off-base.

Given that, I think it’s fair to call him a co-author. If you’re then able to secure a literary agent and a publishing deal, all of the contracts and such should be in both of your names, and it should be clear with your agent that all income (after her commission) is to be split 50/50 between the two of you.

In addition, you may want to draw up a separate agreement between you and your co-author, stating the terms of any sale. You might check with the Author’s Guild for a sample.

Now, I have a question for you! Who are your favorite co-author pairs? I worked with Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski on Dormia when I was at my old agency, and I also loved Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain. What about you?

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11 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About Sharing Credit”

  1. Trish Says:

    Levithan and Cohn!

  2. Julia Karr Says:

    Levithan and Green!

  3. Shannon Says:

    Well, I'm not sure if they count, but Mary Pope Osborne and Will Osborne. I'm a sucker for the Magic Tree House series. Too bad my kids are past that reading age.

    Thank you for the information! I just didn't want this to turn into the front page news article saying that I stole his idea and he's suing me for a gazillion dollars or something. 🙂

  4. Tami Says:

    Ilona Andrews is a pseudonym for a husband/wife author pair.

    I'm also a huge fan of an out of print series called the Gandalara Cycle, written by Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron.

  5. (a different) Shanno Says:

    Hi Daphne,

    Actually I've been wondering about a similar issue. An acquaintance of mine, an aspiring comedian, wrote a joke for me to use in my novel – it's featured on one page out of 400+. It's a perfect fit and I want to keep it, but I don't know what my obligations to him are in terms of credit and compensation if the novel is successful.

    As for co-author teams: I thought Diana Paxson and Marion Zimmer Bradley worked together well to ensure the continuation of the Avalon series.

  6. Stephanie Says:

    Surprisingly, I scanned my bookshelves to find I don't have any books by more than one author. Huh. But I do agree since he is helping create the book along the way it should be co-authored and 50/50 with a written agreement. They may be friends and it may seem like it should be informal, but it will protect them both.

    Oh, and can I just add that Shannon should get a little bit of kudos for taking the time to add "some fabulous agent like you" and "yours is one of the most helpful I've seen – especially for first time writers." What a doll!

  7. Shannon Says:

    Thank you Stephanie – I'm glad you noticed. 🙂 In a world that beats us down and cuts us off on the road even though we are going over the dad-blamed speed limit already (ok, I'm a little bitter about that), I feel a little bit of positive goes a long way.

  8. Joe Iriarte Says:

    Easy one: Debra Doyle and James MacDonald. They wrote the most amazing space opera/science fantasy series, the Mageworlds series. The first book is, iirc, The Price of the Stars. Think Firefly-level action, featuring a kick-ass heroine.

  9. Meghan Says:

    Growing up, I always enjoyed the 'Of Two Minds' series by Carol Matas and Perry Nodelman.

  10. Stephanie McDonnell Says:

    Definitely Shannon! I remember months ago reading Ms. Unfeasible here, where she posted about the truth on how the process works (I.E. Essentially the percentage of books written that actually get published) and she was so honest, but heart felt and sincere. Whereas, I read another blog regarding a particular question and the woman's answer alone made me terrified of her. I deleted her blog from my Faves list at that moment and decided I had no desire to submit to a professional who would answer a simple how-many-pages question so harshly.

  11. Jenn Says:

    Favorite co-author pair: Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett. I particularly like the interviews at the end of my edition of Good Omens that describes how they worked together and who came up with what.