Dr.Liz Alexander on Co-Authorship

My friend Dr.Liz Alexander recently co-authored a book called Thought Leadership Tweet. I am a big fan of thought leadership and also the executive editor of THINKaha (publisher of the book) so I will be doubly-biased when I say that the new book is fantastic. Please check it out.

What was also fascinating was that Liz co-authored this book with Craig Badings from another part of the world – Australia. Liz and Craig have not met before and the entire process of long-distance collaboration was awesome. In this interview, Liz shares her viewpoints on the book and more importantly co-authorship.

RS: Liz, tell us about your recently published book #ThoughtLeadership Tweet that you co-authored with Craig Badings.

LA: There is so much to think about when it comes to designing and delivering an effective organizational thought leadership campaign, Rajesh, we decided to capture all the necessary elements together in one short, immensely powerful book. By reading the introductory passages and working their way through each of the tweet-sized prompts in each section, readers will ensure they have addressed why they are engaging in a thought leadership campaign, what impact they want it to achieve for their organization, how to arrive at a unique, client-centric point of view, how to measure success – and much more!

RS: You and Craig have never actually met in person, yet you successfully co-authored a book together. How did you come into contact and where did the idea of doing this book come from?

Ah, the joys of serendipity supported by modern technology! I’d become extremely interested in thought leadership, as it was a focus for most of my clients who wanted to write high-impact books that differentiated them from their competition. I began following some of the major players in the thought leadership space, which — of course — included Craig. After some tweeting and emailing back and forth he and I decided to connect on Skype. I was already contracted to write #THOUGHT LEADERSHIP tweet and hadn’t come up with a value-proposition for readers beyond simply collecting quotes about the topic. Craig graciously offered to help me brainstorm ideas and as a result of those interactions we agreed to become co-authors.

Talk about two minds being better than one! We leveraged Craig’s experience with clients to come up with the notion of crafting tweet-sized prompts that offer readers a comprehensive range of questions they need to answer before attempting any organizational thought leadership campaign.

3. Liz, you have written something like 13 books by yourself…why were you open to / interested in co-authorship on this occasion?

Life is all about growth, isn’t it? I’d already proven that I could write and market high selling books internationally. But in some quarters I’d been pegged as a “lone wolf” and wanted to challenge that assumption – to myself as much as anyone else. What better way to do that than by co-authoring a book? Plus, I don’t write simply for the fun of it (although it is fun for me!) but to achieve commercial and critical success. I knew that given Craig’s expertise and experience around thought leadership this book would benefit. Really, it was a no-brainer!

4. How is it that with you in Austin, Texas and Craig in Sydney, Australia you could so happily produce a book together…what were some of your secrets to success?

Mutual respect and leveraging each other’s individual skills and talents, I guess. We talked on Skype about our shared vision for the book, identified what needed to happen to realize that vision, and volunteered to be responsible for those aspects we felt especially qualified to cover. Craig left the “leadership” to me in terms of liaising with the publisher. He drafted the initial framework for the book and then we divided up the various sections according to what we felt most passionate about. I’ve been a professional author for over 25 years so writing the introductory passages was quick and easy for me. Craig used to be an English teacher so he acted as our editor…really, it was a match made in heaven.

You can’t plan relationships like this; you just have to recognize them when you come across them and be prepared to play nicely together in service of that shared vision.

RS: Why is it that so many co-authorship experiences end badly?

Sadly, there are too many reasons to cover here, which is why I invite potential co-authors to read the real-life experiences outlined in this useful blog post.

One piece of advice I would give to anyone thinking of working with a co-author – especially someone they don’t know very well, as was the case with Craig and me – would be to have a contract. This was easy for us because I already had a publishing contract; all we had to do was add Craig’s name and send it over to him to read and sign.

But if you’re not working with a publisher, for goodness sakes draft a contract where everything is above board and you’ve articulated responsibilities and expectations for both parties.

RS: What pointers could you give others thinking about co-authorship, particularly around how best to divide up the workload?

There are things we can do (because we happen to be good at them), and things we love to do (for which we feel passion). I think it’s important to ensure there is a blend of both when undertaking a project like this. Both Craig and I share certain characteristics of curiosity, a love of research and reading, and the desire to write exceptional prose. So it was more a case of determining which particular sub-topics of thought leadership we knew most about and enjoyed explaining. I opted for many of the subjects I teach in the Strategic Communication Certificate Program for The University of Texas at Austin’s Professional Development Center.

RS: Finally, how are you handling the marketing of this book between you?

Craig has strong, international relationships with the individuals he’s interviewed over the years for his blog. So he’s reaching out to those people for testimonials, and to help promote the book. I’m a former freelance journalist interested in which media channels are talking extensively about thought leadership. So my role is to get us covered in major news sources, business magazines and the like.

Plus, we’re lucky enough to have an extremely supportive publisher in THINKaha Books who is prepared to give away a quantity of books to key influencers who can help us get the word out to potential readers. In fact, if anyone reading this post wants to join our team of supporters please get in touch so we can arrange for a free review copy to go to you, and bring you into the conversation around ensuring this book is super-successful!