It would seem to me that in this economic climate, being a collaborator, especially when a writer isn’t working on his/her own book or articles, is the way to go. In the past months, though, I have increasingly found that people who say they want to collaborate don’t understand what their role is.
The most important thing the collaborator must do is support the person he or she is collaborating with. If the collaborator is working with someone as a writer (and that person is the celebrity or expert whose name will sell the book) then the collaborator needs to understand that s/he is not the main author. In many instances s/he won’t sign a publishing agreement; his/her role is a supporting one in every way.
I have found that collaborators can often forget what their roles are meant to be. They want the same decision-making power in terms of copy, design and even cover approval that the author has; sometimes they even want to receive greater than a 50% share of proceeds which, in my mind, is just wrong and indicates that the person making such a request really doesn’t understand his/her role.
Last year I had the experience of a collaborator actually trying to convince her partner, the Author, to break a contract — something which was totally against the Author’s best interest. The collaborator had simply forgotten her role.
And I have experienced a collaborator actually asking for 60% of a project when the project would not exist but for the Author. Again, a mistake on the part of the collaborator.
These things are unfortunate, in my opinion, because collaborators can achieve great success both financially and professionally if they have a good track record with those they work with and with editors. I have had many wonderful experiences with collaborations and I am hoping to have many more. But the best collaborators know when to set aside their egos and focus on making the project (and a smooth writing process) the priority.