Congratulations to Gwen Porter who won the second copy of The Teachers March! from the bonus blog.
Welcome back to my second conversation with Cat Michaels and Rosie Russell on their co-authoring journey. (If you missed the first post when they gave tips for successful collaboration, you'll find it here.) Today we'll talk about some of the technical, business, and creative aspects of their co-authoring project.
Carol: How did you decide who was going to write what?
Cat: Rosie and I learned co-writing is tons more challenging than deciding who’s writing what. We viewed our collaboration as a business. Before we wrote a jot, we contracted details up-front about our partnership.
Carol: What’s involved with your contracting process? Is it the same as signing a contract with a traditional publisher?
Cat: It’s very different, Carol. As Indie authors, contracting means mapping out the who, what, where, why, when, and how we’d work together – all those details creatives dislike thinking about!
I developed a Statement of Work (SOW) to spell things out before deciding to work together. With the SOW as our guide, we hashed out everything from identifying goals and target audience to head-spinning stuff like finances, writing, production milestones, and marketing strategies. It took weeks. It wasn’t fun, but it was worth the effort to avoid roadblocks later.
I learned the hard way about establishing clear expectations at the start of a project. Five years ago, I co-facilitated a short-story anthology collection with several other kid lit authors. After months of writing and editing, we couldn’t figure out how to manage royalties or taxes between people living in the US and abroad. Then someone submitted a Young Adult horror story, which didn’t fit our target audience of sweet reads for primary grade kids. So, we never published, and the project folded. That fiasco still haunts me.
Carol: After completing your statement of work, did you decide on content and writing roles?
Rosie: Figuring out writing roles was part of the up-front work. Cat had the big picture in mind, so she wrote the opening and ending sections. She also incorporated feedback from her local SCBWI critique group.
I knew the story’s details and had lots of ideas for plot mischief, so I drafted the middle. Then I’d hand those chapters over to Cat for her to do her magic with rewrites and editing.
We also created extensive storyboards for our character and added everything we could imagine about them: What did they look like? What did they like to do in their spare time? What were their personality traits? etc.
True story: I was telling my husband about what one of our characters did in our book that day. I was talking so real about her, my husband had to stop and ask me, “Who is that, and she did what?” It’s funny how your characters become so real to you in your head!
Carol: How did you keep track of your drafts and exchange feedback with each other?
Cat: This is where we got cozy with technology! We used Google’s shared drive for file exchange. We set up character boards and tons of other folders to house ideas and how-to articles in addition to our chapter drafts.
I also created an excel template to divide our book into its beginning, middle, and end. Shooting for the sweet spot of 30,000 words for a middle-grade tale, we estimated the number of chapters and page count for each chapter. Then we brainstormed chapters and sketched in scenes and story arcs. This spreadsheet became our book outline. We could see what we’d written, where we were headed, and tally word count.
Rosie: We wrote our first drafts in Word on our desktops but used Google docs to edit. That shared drive became our file cabinet in the sky! I highly recommend it.
We also checked in by email and replied to each other’s comments on Google Drive and agreed before moving on. Mostly, our comments went smoothly, but a few times, we’d have to talk them out.
Carol: You live 1,500 miles away from each other. How were you able to communicate and keep going?
Rosie: This is my first-time co-authoring. Cat taught me a world of knowledge on how to communicate through Google Docs.
We also touched base with each other almost daily, even if it was to catch up on small details. I think the key to co-writing is to communicate consistently and be very specific with how things are discussed. Having a plan and keeping organized has also been very helpful. Cat is the guru of folders, lists, and charts that saved us. She even made sure our monthly phone calls, which we called “Call Memories,” were documented and put in special folders.
If one of us needed to leave the office for a few days, we let each other know ahead of time. It really has been like a full-time job, but it’s doing what we love and that is writing!
Carol: How did you manage bumps in the road while co-writing?
Cat: To be honest, living in a pandemic was a major stumbling block for me. In the early days, I couldn’t concentrate. Didn’t want to write. Stepped away from the keyboard for weeks until I could wrap my head around the new normal. Rosie was very understanding.
Beyond Covid, we addressed critical success factors in our Statement of Work, so we didn’t have major stumbles. If differences popped up, we talked them through and kept going. It also helped to have a fab writing partner like Rosie! See our tips about finding your perfect co-author in part 1.
Carol: How did you decide on a title? Was it difficult to agree on one?
Rosie: It was a long process because we wanted a title that no one had used before, so it took weeks to find the perfect one, Just Between Sam and Me. Here's a you-tube video that describes their process.
Carol: Who are you using to print the book? How did you make that decision?
Cat: Because we live in two different states, managing author royalties and tax implications were our biggest production challenge.
That’s why we chose Bundle Rabbit before we started our partnership. This aggregator distributes print on demand books through Amazon and digital books across multiple platforms, like Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Best for us, it also tracks sales and manages co-author royalties and taxes.
Carol: Did you have any financial outlay?
w Biggest expenses:
- Hiring an artist to create the cover and half-dozen black and white interior illustrations.
- Hiring a graphic designer to format our print book (Cat’s formatting the e-book on her Vellum Software that runs on Mac OS).
w Other expenses:
· Swag, giveaways, Advance Reader Copies for industry reviewers who require print editions; plus postage and handling.
· Advertisements on sites like Amazon, Book Bub, Fussy Librarian, etc., especially around launch week.
· Fortunate to have professional editors among our friends and family, or editing would be a major expense.
· Impossible to put a price tag on support received from beta readers, author pals, newsletter subscribers, Street Team, and fellow bloggers like you, Carol! We could never succeed without it.
TOOLS TO USE
Carol: What software/tools would you recommend to writers who want to collaborate and self-publish?
· Google docs for co-editing and file sharing on Google Drive
· For Mac OS: Vellum software to format digital books
· Canva or Photoshop for creating marketing materials
· Excel or Google sheets to keep track of expenses
· Google calendar to manage dates for production, guest blogging, and marketing dates.
Carol: Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route? Has either of you self-published before?
Cat: This is my fifth book as an Indie, and I love the freedom of being an authorprenuer! Today’s publishing technology and social media channels make print-on-demand readily available, so why not?!? My books have been recognized with several writing awards, and my last book, Sweet T and the Turtle Team won the Wind Dancer Film competition and was considered for adaptation to TV or movies. I’m one happy Indie camper.
Rosie: I love being an Indie Author! It has given me the chance to make my books just the way I want them. I currently have nine children’s book titles. I’ve been able to include personal stories with the memories of family and friends that I love. I’m looking forward to making more.
Their middle-grade book, Just Between Sam and Me, will be released in print and digital formats on Dec. 2. Rosie and Cat will contact the winner, who will have 24 hours to respond in order to receive their advance print copy of the book as soon as it is available. The print copy is only available within the continental U.S. If you are outside the U.S. you will receive a digital ARC. PLEASE leave your comment with your email address if you are new to my blog. If you're uncomfortable leaving your email, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Giveaway ends September 22.
One (1) ARC paperback of Just Between Sam and Me – Continental US
One (1) ARC digital download of Just Between Sam and Me– International
16 September, midnight , ET
22 September, 12:00 am midnight, ET
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
Must be 18 years or older to enter, have a valid email address and USPS address (US), or current Amazon account (international). One (1) winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Sweepstake period and will be contacted by Cat Michaels via email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 24 hours to respond. If a winner does not respond within 48 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Prizes are provided by Cat Michaels and Rosie Russell, who also host and manage this giveaway. Host is not responsible for technical/internet difficulties. If you have questions, email to Cat Michaels: cat@catmichaelswriter (dot).com