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This old One Room Schoolhouse in Roaring Falls serves as our only currently available Classroom.  Due to its small size, we frequently hold classes outdoors under the spreading Chestnut tree, or seated along the edge of the old Stone Bridge.

The classes held here are devoted solely to helpful Writing Tips, and other goodies not directly associated with the Roaring Falls Series.  On occasion I may expound on certain facets of Roaring Falls in examples, as part of a lesson or two.

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Accidental Collaboration


A serious mistake which can easily happen to you!


All serious writers, including those interesting in learning to write; should be aware of the dangers and pitfalls associated with accepting help or suggestions from others, without first having an appropriate agreement in place.  This includes members of your own family, any outside services you may use, your most trusted and very best friend, even your publisher.

It is very easy to inadvertently let someone become a collaborator in your works!


There are many ways this can happen, both before and after your work has neared completion.  This most commonly occurs when you submit your manuscript to a publisher and they suggest you do a rewrite following their guidelines.  The publisher contributes suggestions, alterations and additions to your work in order to shape it more to their publishing standards and practices.

After working with you to polish your story to their liking, the publisher decides not to option or purchase your manuscript.  You beat the pavement seeking another publisher to buy your manuscript and finally find one who considers it a done deal.  The former publisher who dumped you, gets wind of the deal and demands compensation for their involvement in your manuscript.  They can legally claim an ownership interest in your manuscript.  By law, the collaborator has equal control of your work.

While working on your manuscript, you offer it in whole or in parts to your best friend to critique casually.  They offer a few suggestions, provide a couple of notes, or even a minor alteration.  Regardless of how they presented their suggestions, if you merge them into your work, this is collaboration.

Normally, since they are your best friend, this would cause no problems for you.  However, your friends situation may have changed considerably during the time you were trying to sell your manuscript.  They lost their job and their home is facing foreclosure, now in dire straits, they just heard though the grapevine of friends, that you were offered a sizable sum for your manuscript.  Friend or not, they are on a sinking ship and need money now, and feel they have earned a share of your windfall.  The publisher will demand a release from your friend who is now seeing dollar signs in front of his eyes.  As often happens, the publisher is not going to wait around for you to get all the necessary paperwork done, and tosses you out on your ear.

Regardless of how it happened, when someone's intellectual property is incorporated into your manuscript, they gain an ownership interest in your work.  If you do not own one-hundred percent of your work, you will have a very hard time finding a publisher willing to talk to you.  Most publishers will not work with you, even with all the documents in place, if required to negotiate with more than one person.  So even with agreements, make sure only one person has the authority to consummate the transaction.

Now that we have the necessity of having an agreement solidly in place, lets look at what it should include.  The most important issue is copyright ownership.  There is nothing wrong with having joint ownership and share equally in the royalties or even drawing up an agreement giving the primary author 70% and the co-author 30%, the amounts are whatever you agree on.  Most of my work is done under Teaming Agreements, where I have zero interest in the copyright, but do share in small part of the profits.  Teaming Agreements are also heavily used by clubs and groups where several authors get together to critique each others work.  In many cases, it becomes a mutual wash, where no member of the team shares in a published work.  Because they are all there for the same reason, to have their work critiqued and each member helps the other members, all to a mutual yet personally shared benefit.

One thing I would like to point out is by using an agreement, you are not locked into the default rules of the Copyright Act and can make up your own rules, provided they are clearly outlined in your agreement.  More often than not, collaboration agreements do not involve equal divisions, and always name the author and give the author full control over the management and sale of the manuscript.  In my case, the agreements I work under, usually state a flat fee for time worked, an extra bonus fee based on digital line count, and sometimes, a small percentage of the royalties if the book goes into second or later printings.  An additional provision allows for me to receive a small percentage of the first publication, if the run is one-third larger than their standard production.

In areas where I provide the complete storyline, in the capacity as a ghostwriter performing only the first rough draft, even if working from an outline, I often share a much higher percentage.  It is quite complicated how these team efforts are determined, and the fees or royalties distributed.  We are paid a flat fee for the rough draft, if accepted; another flat fee for a rewrite; then earn points for each area where we work on the project.  If the publisher offers the team a 15% royalty bonus for a particular novel, that percentage is divided by the total number of points issued to team members, and we are paid by how many points each of us have accumulated.

There are no blanket agreements that can be used, due to the many different special issues that arise among an author and those who contribute to the success of his work.  However, a generic agreement of non-collaboration often including an agreement of non-disclosure is used when you are hiring the services of a third party.  You are paying them for their services and the agreement assures that they cannot make any claims once they are paid for those services.  I use a Consulting Agreement for individuals with whom I work with on my own projects, such as a copy-editor who is only hired for correcting punctuation and/or grammatical errors.  If they offer any suggestions for a change, then we use a non-collaboration agreement and in special cases, a collaboration agreement.

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