Friday, July 15, 2011

Question from a Writer on Collaborative Writing

Dear Mr. Eagan, I would appreciate some guidance from you, either via email or on your blog, with regard to what might be a unique situation. I have a contemporary romance that is ready for submission and also have finished a historical western romance with a collaborator that we think is a good fit for the Harlequin Historical line. Do you have any guidance on querying as collaborators, querying when you have a collaboration and your own manuscript ready to submit, as well as using a single pen name versus using both names? I haven't seen this situation specifically addressed. Your particular insight would be appreciated because of your genre-focused approach as a literary agent. Thank you so much for your time.

Surprisingly, this is not that unique of a situation. Honestly there are a lot of situations such as this that slide under the radar in the publishing industry. In any case, let me see if I can answer this for you. There are actually several issues here.

First of all, you are looking at writing under two different names and genres. There is certainly nothing wrong with this. There are indeed a lot of authors that do this. In most cases, it is used to keep things separate in terms of book keeping, and to also allow some writers to explore genres that might come in conflict with the other genre. This might include writers who do both inspirational writing and erotica (yes there are some that do this). With that said, I always encourage new writers to stick to one genre for a while. This allows you to concentrate your skill development in that one genre and really learn to master it before you move into something new. This also allows the agent or editor the ability to draw on other works in that genre when they are looking for new things. I have said this before, but if an agent passes on the first project, they might ask what else the person has. We would want something in that same genre.

Now, as far as the collaborative work, there is also nothing wrong with this. As long as you and your partner establish from the beginning how it is to be done and how the editorial process is going to work. Make sure this is also very clear to the agent and editor from the beginning. This is especially true if you are putting the project under one pen name.

Do these partnerships work? I have two names for you - Cathy Clamp and C.T. Adams. They have an awesome writing combination and it has proven to be very successful. The key for them is the approach they take with each book. Do some research on them to really get a feel of what they do.

The only issue that would make the collaborative writing process tough would be if something happens in the future. This cannot be some fly-by-night attempt. This has to be a combined serious attempt. I honestly don't know what the mess would look like (nor would I want to) if this partnership broke up after a project was sold. The contract negotiations to clean it up would be a serious mess. Can it be done though? Sure.

Just keep things in focus for both issues and you should be fine.



  1. Out of interest, would you recommend that a collaboration publish under just one name or do you think it doesn't make any difference?

  2. I just wanted to comment on this blog as this is how my writing partner and I work. When we queried, I wrote the query and signed it with only my name, but in the query I clearly stated that I work with a partner and what our joint qualifications are. On the manuscript, we are listed as 'Jen J. Danna with Ann Vanderlaan'. No one has suggested that we combine names under a single pen name.

    An example of collaborative writing is the House of Night series, written by the mother/daughter team of P.C. and Kristen Cast. They are very open about their collaboration on the series.

  3. Sorry, one other comment. Make sure that both partners are covered legally. Ann and I have a partnership contract that covers past and future work, as well as what happens if she decides to bow out and I continue to write our series solo. It's in the best interests of both partners to be legally protected, so do that at the beginning before any actual money starts changing hands. Then if you are signed, there's no awkward discussions because it's already all laid out.