Sharing the Credit
One of the main incentives for collaborating on a book, especially for beginning writers, is to get that all-important first book credit. Coauthor status looks just as good in your author's bio and can do just as much to help you market your next book idea as sole authorship.
Whose name goes first in the “A and B” sequence?
If one of you is an expert on the topic your book covers, that person's name usually should go first; in fact, a publisher may insist on it. If both of you are experts, or if that criterion doesn't apply to your book, the easiest solution is to list your names alphabetically.
“And,” “With,” or “As Told To”
When you think about teaming up with someone else for a book, then, it's important to discuss how you'll share the credit. There are three common ways coauthors share billing on a book cover:
Jane Jones and John Smith
John Smith with Jane Jones
John Smith as told to Jane Jones
Deciding which billing to use depends largely on the circumstances surrounding the collaboration. “And” is most often used when the two authors have more or less equal responsibility for creating the work. That doesn't necessarily mean that each of you writes 50,000 words of a 100,000-word manuscript. One of you may do the bulk of the writing, while the other supplies her expertise, research, and other materials.
“With” is often used when one of you is an expert and the other is a writer. Doctors and other professionals, for instance, often team up with professional writers for book projects because writers tend to be better at putting complex and technical ideas into everyday language. The “with” designation in the credit subtly alerts the reader that the first person listed is the authority on the book's topic and the second person listed is the one who makes the information readable for a general audience.
“As told to” is most often used in autobiographical books, although there may be other types of books in which this kind of billing is appropriate. Less subtly than “with,” the “as told to” designation tells the reader that the first person is the one the book is about, and the second person is the one who put the story into words.
The difference among these designations is fundamentally insignificant as far as your writing career is concerned. Having “with” or “as told to” in your billing doesn't diminish the accomplishment of getting published. You're still a credited coauthor, and that's what will matter most to publishers when you market your next book idea.
Actors, politicians, and other famous people routinely employ ghostwriters for their autobiographies and other books. While the collaboration process is much the same as for any other joint book project, the main difference — and the main disadvantage for beginning writers — is that you don't get credit for the writing. Under a ghostwriting arrangement, the copyright and all other rights belong to the person whose name appears on the work.
That said, ghostwriting could be a lucrative business if you aren't concerned about putting your own name on a book. The most common ghostwriting arrangements give the writer a flat fee to create the work, but you can negotiate for a percentage of royalties instead. Sometimes it's more advantageous for you to accept a lower flat fee — or none at all — in exchange for, say, 50 percent of the royalties, particularly if the book is expected to become a bestseller.