Saturday, November 3, 2012

Each One Teach One: Joan Holub on Writing with a Co-Author

Welcome back everyone, to the third installment of this wonderful series of interviews with Joan Holub, NC Author of 130 books for children and middle graders.  Thanks to all of you who have been stopping by, and also those sending emails saying how much you like the series.

Let's jump right in!  This week we'll talk about writing with a Co-Author and having a fabulous web presence!

So Joan, you and Suzanne Williams are currently co-authoring each book in the Goddess Girls series – writing the first draft separately and then revising as a team. From what the two of you have learned working together on these books so far, what are some tips you can give to authors who are hoping to co-author a book with another writer? Are there reasons for and against co-authoring books that you think are important for writers to consider before jumping into such an arrangement?  And how have you and Suzanne been able to work together so well and so collaboratively – what tips can you give us?

Suzanne and I first met at an SCBWI meeting. We didn’t really know how we’d co-write when we started, but figured it out along the way. These are some tips I’d offer to other authors considering a collaboration:

1. Use the word “we.” Early on, Suzanne and I agreed to use the word “we” as much as possible when discussing the series with others or with each other. It puts us in the collaborative mindset. It keeps egos in check. It reminds you that your paramount goal is to jointly write a fantastic book.

2. Have a good work ethic. Don’t make your co-author work harder than you’re working. She won’t like it.

3. Be organized. Make a schedule of interim deadlines to ensure you’ll meet your final deadlines.

4. Decide if ownership of the work and the money split are a 50/50 arrangement or something else right up front.

5. Decide how you’ll write together. Will you sit at a table and write one book together, talking it out as you go? Or will you do what Suzanne and I do? We write our series books in pairs. I write the rough draft for one book while Suzanne is writing the rough draft for the book that follows it in the series (or vice versa). When the drafts are finished, we trade them and thoroughly revise each other’s work. We trade back and forth numerous times, which has the effect of making each book sound like it was written by a single author. Working like this takes trust, something that has developed between us over time and with the success of the series.

Those are great suggestions, Joan!  It really does sound like you and Suzanne have built a truly amazing partnership, and it's definetly something that anyone wanting to co-author a series or book can learn from!

One other thing that I think many authors can learn from is the facebook page that you guys have created for the Goddess Girls' Series.  The series has its own active facebook page where you post updates and regularly receive notes from young readers asking questions, discussing Greek mythology, and saying how much they love the books! How and why did you, Susanne, and your publishers decide that a facebook page specifically for the Goddess Girls was a good way to connect with readers of this series? And would you recommend this to other authors?

We created the Goddess Girls Facebook page at because we both thougth it would be fun and that it might help get the word out about the series. It connects us with readers who are enthusiastic about our series, which keeps us excited about writing the books.

Sometimes we get valuable feedback from Goddess Girls readers on FB regarding what they like and dislike. Sometimes we’ll ask readers to vote on which title they like best for an upcoming book. When we were trying to decide on a title for the Goddess Girls book that will release this December, we asked if readers preferred Pandora the Curious or Pandora the Nosy. Turns out that grown-ups preferred Nosy. But kids preferred Curious and thought Nosy was negative. We wound up going with Pandora the Curious.

I think that's brilliant that you got feedback from your readers via the facebook page and used their suggestions to name the book, Joan and Suzanne! It's clear from reading the Goddess Girls' facebook page that readers go there to chat with you and share their ideas. I love the way you are also using the facebook page as a  venue to share extra educational "facts" about Greek mythology.  What a great idea!

Also, as other ways to connect with readers, here are some great examples of book marks and other hand-outs that Joan and Suzanne give out at book-readings and other events.

Thanks for the tips again today, Joan!  We'll all be back her next week to talk about working with Illustrators and Art Directors.

See you then!


Linda A. said...

I love that Joan and Suzanne have readers involved on FaceBook, mythology studies, and contests before the book is even published. The vote for title got me to thinking. Would children have wanted to read Nosy George? Curious definitely works much better, doesn't it?

Janelle said...

I thought that was great too, Linda, when Joan and Suzanne had their readers choose the name of the one book via their facebook page.

Janelle said...

Just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all of our great "secret" Writermorphosis international readers out there. I see you guys on the stats from this week, so welcome:
USA, Germany, Canada, France, Russia, Australia, UK, India, Greece and Poland! So glad to have you reading Writermorphosis!
- Janelle