Today’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?