Cowriting — The pain that never ends
Okay, so that headline is a bit dramatic, but writing a book with others often sounds like a great idea and often is, but it's important to recognize that cowriting plus indie publishing can be a recipe for pain. I'm generally quite bullish on indie publishing, but this is definitely a counterpoint topic.
In 2006, I was one of the authors of Rapid Web Applications with TurboGears, which was mostly written by Mark Ramm, with a relatively smaller portion by Gigi Sayfan. The cowriting process itself went well: We each had our specific topics to write, and it wasn't the kind of work that truly needed a consistent voice throughout. We also wanted to get it into the market as quickly as was reasonable, as a useful addition to the official TurboGears documentation.
This is not a cautionary tale because Rapid Web Applications with TurboGears was published by Prentice Hall (Pearson). I still get royalty statements from them today, almost fifteen years later. That brings me to the problem of cowriting + indie publishing. Copyright lasts a long time. Someone is potentially on the hook for producing royalty statements and sending payments for, well, decades. Does that sound like something you want to do?
If you do want to cowrite a book and independently publish it, what options do you have to make this situation more tenable?
Some companies like Draft2Digital will do royalty splitting for you. As long as you're only doing ebooks and if you're happy giving them their percentage of your royalties, this seems like a fine option.
You can write your contract with the other authors (and you definitely need a contract!) such that terms can be reevaluated periodically. Some tech books will be ready for a second edition in just a couple of years, or may just become obsolete after a few years. If that's the case, maybe the length of time during which royalty splits are required is relatively limited and not a big deal.
In short, my opinion is that it's best to cowrite and use a traditional publisher, or write solo and, possibly, indie publish, but not cowrite+indie.
Quick publishing ook update: I haven't started my revision yet. I have another writing project that I promise to mention soon that has a definite deadline, so I need to finish getting that in shape first.
If you've got a story of successful indie cowriting, I'd love to hear it.