Sometime back a friend and I lightly discussed writing a book together about a shared interest. Our goal was to write about what we had learned over the years and offer our own perspectives and commentaries on it.  Although we have yet to get down to the mechanics of writing, our enthusiasm is rekindled whenever we meet and talk about it.

Co-authored books are not a new phenomenon.  A quick check online or a visit to your local library will support this as there are examples across every genre. What has been appearing more and more over in recent years are books that comprise a number of different contributions from a number of different writers. The non-fiction market offers incredible opportunities for widening the net in this field. It gives would-be writers a platform where they can contribute their expertise and at the same time test the waters without undertaking the commitment of writing a complete book. It is also an opportunity for authors with similar ideas, challenges and goals to connect.

Multiple author books can take many formats but the most common approach in non-fiction is when each writer undertakes a different chapter or topic.  Provided it is well executed, this approach can add tremendous value to the subject matter. So what is in it for the reader? A broader perspective from difference sources can end up giving a much more diverse and in-depth view of a particular topic. Different theories and discussion points can be brought forward especially in scientific works. In other genres such as self-help books, different authors can share their own personal experiences and insights which may in turn resonate with a wider audience.

This shared experience can be very rewarding but as with any book there are a number of pitfalls that can be detrimental to the outcome. Here are some aspects that need to be considered:

  • Timelines. The more people involved in any project the more challenging timelines become. Deadlines need to be established well in advance and strictly followed.  
  • Consistency. Chapter or section lengths need to be discussed, agreed upon and adhered to in order avoid an imbalance of content. Language, style and formatting consistency is also very important.
  • Editing. The editorial process in this type of book is extremely important both in terms of content and copy editing. With so much different input from a variety of writers, the best route is using professional editors.

Whether you are acknowledged experts, or friends and family members who have stories to share, there has probably never been a better time to get together and write. Collaborating with other like minds on a subject one believes in and seeing it come to fruition in print can bring immeasurable satisfaction. The more the merrier.

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Mary Vaux-ClarkMary Vaux-Clark is a freelance editor, proof-reader and writer. Her areas of interest include current affairs, travel, history and sport. She has travelled widely and worked in Hong Kong as an editor and ESL teacher for over ten years.