Not everyone who writes a nonfiction book is an expert who happens to be an excellent writer. Sometimes you’re an expert who needs a little help getting the words down. Or you’re a fantastic writer with an interest in a certain subject — but you’re not an expert.

That’s where collaboration comes in. Plenty of successful books are the result of collaboration between two coauthors, usually an expert in the subject and a writer.

Before getting involved in a coauthorship, though, you need to know what you’ll be getting into, what you can expect out of it and what you can do to protect yourself in case something goes wrong – or everything goes right and your book shoots straight to #1.

  • Hammer out a letter of agreement with your coauthor before you start writing.
  • Outline each person’s obligations and responsibilities.
  • Seek representation to protect you – a lawyer or agent.
  • If you’re the writer, keep a share of the royalties unless the upfront payment is significant ($20,000 not $2000).
  • If you’re the expert, protect your knowledge through nondisclosure agreements.

Writers’ organizations, like the National Writers Union, offer model collaboration agreements as a benefit of membership. Some will even help you hammer out your own agreement. Check to see if any of the organizations you belong to offer a benefit like this.