One colleague said I seemed to be pretty negative about coauthoring when I wrote about that here recently. Since I have coauthored five books myself, I suppose one could suppose a certain autobiographical slant to my comments. That has not been the case. I coauthored three Bible study guides with my wife, another with my wife and a friend, and Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. with my former coworker at IVP, Linda Doll. Each was a very enjoyable experience with minimal problems.
But I was on the inside of the publishing process and knew the road bumps we might run over. So I had an advantage. Many authors are surprised at the difficulties that they may encounter. A wise editor will spell out for authors ahead of time what to anticipate and help them make key decisions (like voice or who has the last say) before work on the manuscript actually begins. That should help make it a positive experience.
As I mentioned here before, Tom Woll even thinks such issues should be memorialized in the contract of multi-author books to help ensure things go smoothly. The reason: He has seen way too many projects break down entirely over such issues. Contractual terms may be overkill, but he is right to point out the need to clearly (and in writing) settle these things beforehand.
With all these provisos lined up, now let me affirm the value of coauthoring. We are about to launch a series in which each book will pair an academic and a practitioner. One (not necessarily always the academic) will be older and the other younger. This seems an ideal sort of balance to achieve. The same could be done (with similar advantages) by pairing people of different genders, ethnicities, academic disciplines, denominations or countries.
Another multi-author format we pioneered and perfected at IVP is the four-views book in which each author argues for a different viewpoint on a controversial topic. After each main essay, the other three contributors offer brief responses. An introduction and conclusion by the volume editor (referee!) rounds out the book.
The multi-views book has a nice unity even with (or because of) the different voices. Another advantage, of course, is that it is not necessary or desirable to have a single voice throughout and the coauthors (contributors, really) don’t need to (and shouldn’t) rewrite each other’s material.
Coauthoring has many advantages. Being aware of the potential pitfalls ahead of time is the best way to make sure those advantages shine.
2 thoughts on “The Joys of Coauthoring”
It seems to me,coauthoring would be particularly advantageous in science and religion books. It is difficult to find people with true expertise in both disciplines. Too often the result is a book by a scientist with good science and mediocre theology or a book by a theologian with good theology and poor science. Having coauthors could greatly improve the quality of the books published and then hopefully the quality of public discussion on this topic.
I love the academic/practitioner idea! I feel many IVP authors addressing “practical” issues are more in-touch with the academic world than those writing for many other evangelical publishers, but actually having both an academic and a practitioner write together sounds even better.
One of my friends is our region’s representative of IV’s evangelism task force, and just a couple weeks ago she had the opportunity to be a part of something similar (though in person, rather than a book): a few days with other evangelism “scholars” and ministry leaders, each bringing their own unique angle to the discussion.
Such and exchange of ideas is so exciting, and I wish similar dialogue happened more often– glad for IVP books to be part of the solution!
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