Partnership Considerations

A guest post by Sandra Fitzpatrick.

Greetings!

Thanks to the Fictorians for letting me have some space on their blog. I hope this can help people understand partnerships. There are tax and legal implications that differ slightly between Canada and the US, but I hope to give everyone a starting point.

Partnerships are when two or more people get together for a purpose. For this blog, the basis of the partnership is that you want to share a writing project with other people. It can be the best thing that ever happened to all of you or the worst.

Partnerships need to be thought out carefully. It may seem to wreck the mood of creativity and joy to think about what might happen if things go wrong. Partnerships can range in size from two people to any number. They may grow. They don’t have to be registered with the government but everyone has to pay taxes on the profits and can deduct many expenses if there isn’t. If there is significant income, you should think about registering it or forming a corporation to hold the rights to the work. Either gives everyone involved protection and more structure that makes the bookkeeping and who’s responsible for what easier.

Think of this as a prenuptial agreement. The excitement of starting a new life with someone you love. You’ll never have any troubles. And then the lawyers get involved. Yuck. Bummer. But… The most import question a writer can ask: What if?

Some discussion topics are:

Who owns the project?

Who are the writers, editors, illustrators or publishers of the project? For writers, are you a plotter or a pantser? Can you work with someone who is the opposite?

What percentage of the work and what type will be done by each person? If you are doing a children’s picture book, pairing with an artist may be the obvious division of labor. But is the artist the writer’s partner or an employee? It makes a legal difference.

Communication is key to a partnership in the arts or any other endeavor. Living in different cities makes sitting down and brainstorming difficult. How will you arrange those meetings? Skype is cheaper than long distance phone calls. Emoticons only go so far in showing your passion on a topic in email. Recording your sessions eliminates the ‘Didn’t I write down that fantastic idea?’ blues. Or the ‘I said, you said’ memory lapses.

How will you fund the project to get the book to a publisher or self-publishing? Do a Kickstarter campaign or each contribute an equal amount? An arts grant to help cover printing costs of your new magazine? What happens if that isn’t enough to cover the expenses?

How are royalties split? Evenly? In the case of an anthology, the stories may be purchased and only the editors get royalties. How much can you afford to pay for the stories?

If one person drops out of a larger partnership, what compensation will they get in the future? How do new people join? Or can they?

Who is the final authority on what happens to the overall plot line of the series? Who decides on the little details of adding characters or major plot threads?

If one partner dies, who inherits their share? This supposes that you have a finished book. Or an unfinished one but lots of notes. (Everyone should have a will. Really.)

For an anthology or a magazine, who makes the final decision on what stories to include? Who gets to deal with the slush pile? Who is the faster reader? The better line editor?

How will you shut down the partnership if everyone gets tired of it and wants out? What if not everyone does?

The lawyers’ fees. Who pays them? Can you sit down and go ‘what if’ with each other? And still remain friends and complete the project? A lawyer is a neutral party. If you know a publisher, ask them for a referral to their lawyer. You can look up information on the net, but most articles have limited information for a writing partnership.

Examples:

Two people write a book together. They thrash out the general plot line and take turns writing chapters. Each edits the other’s chapters. What is the time limit on writing your chapter? Or they could alternate books, or have subplots within the novel, each following their own main character. Each has expertise that makes the book(s) better.

A big name and a newcomer collaborate on a book. This can boost sales because the big name will sell the book. The newcomer will be noticed. Be careful. Is the newcomer putting in 90% of the work and getting 10% of the profit? How much does the big name make just because his name was on a book someone else wrote?

Anthologies can be fun. Choose a theme, a publisher and send out word for submissions. Are the editors guaranteed a story spot? Is there a set fee for each story and/or a percentage of royalties? Who’s the better copy editor?

Shared universe series. The overall coordinator supervises the universe with veto power over plot lines. New authors can be invited in or just ask. These series can get very large and complex. More plot and character oversight is needed once you get past three or four partners.

Enjoy your writing partnership!

Guest Writer Bio:
Sandra head shotI’m a tax preparer and financial advisor in Canada with eight years experience in the trenches of business tax returns. I’ve done tax seminars for writers, artists and other creative folk over the years. I write sf and fantasy in my non-tax months. My husband Gary is working on a detective series when not confusing medical students.

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