by Steve Laube
Sometimes it is helpful to review publishing terms to make sure we are all talking about the same thing.
The cover of a book invariably will state the author’s name. Every once in a while there are two or more names listed (i.e. Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee). The use of “and” or “with” is the code word that tells the reader what type of professional relationship is between these names on the cover when it comes to how the book was written. Each is a “collaboration” but are not identical.
If the names are connected by an “And” they are co-authors. Each with top-billing. They have worked hard to create a book something that reflects both of their perspectives on the topic.
The cover to the right is a book from two of our clients coming out in December by Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre called Lean Body Fat Wallet: Discover the Powerful Connection to Help You Lose Weight, Dump Debt, and Save Money. They worked together to approach two rather different topics (wellness and finances) and put them under one umbrella of a book on general health and wealth. If you look carefully you will note that it lists Ellie AND Danna.
Books that use a “with” connecting the names on the cover mean that the first name is the principle person. It may be their story, or their idea, or any number variations of that. The second name is the writer. They are hired either by the principle person or by the publisher to put the book together.
The cover to the right is a book by Kim de Blecourt “WITH” Ginger Kolbaba called Until We All Come Home. It is Kim’s amazing story but Ginger put the words on the page. There are a number of highly skilled “with” writers, also known as collaborators who have a special talent for writing other people’s stories. Lyn Vincent is probably one of the most well known in our industry for collaborating on bestsellers like Heaven is for Real and Same Kind of Different as Me.
Note however that the principle is the person whose story is being told. But cover credit is given to the writer who has able actually make the story readable.
There is third type of collaboration that is hidden from the reading public. This is where the writer receives no cover credit for their work in writing the book. There are a lot of well known books that are written my someone who is not credited on the cover. I wish I could rattle off a bunch of titles or author names to “shock” you with the practice. But that would be unfair and in some cases we have non-disclosure agreements to prevent that information from getting out. I know of some organizations that have a writer on staff who does the writing of the books for that organization, but the writer does not receive a “with” credit on the cover.
Rather than distract from the intent of today’s post, let’s just say that the issue of ghostwriting can be a little controversial. A few claim that it is a form of lying to public or at least being deceptive. Others find it perfectly acceptable [see another great article linked here]. And still others draw the line at novels saying that ghosting non-fiction is okay but fiction is not.
Let’s just say that it is a fairly common practice for people who have tremendous ability as speakers and leaders but have neither the time nor expertise to have someone else write their books. So they, in essence, use a contractor to build the book. To carry that metaphor a little further, we might know the name of the building “Trump Towers” but we don’t know the name of the contractor who actually built it. In most cases the book idea itself came from the visible person’s speaking or their vision, but another person is the one who put flesh on the idea.
Be very careful before you get involved in any of the above three relationships. Make sure you have the nature of your relationship spelled out in a contract. We will not let our clients go very far with a project unless they have some sort of contractual agreement between them in a collaboration. I once saw a friendship dissolved between two writers when the publisher switched the names on the front cover of the book. The person who was now listed second claimed they had written most of the book and should get primary listing and accused the other writer of engineering the swap of names. Read the blog post about the lawsuit between the original people around the novel The Shack. A cautionary tale about the need to have things crystal clear in writing from the beginning.