How and Why to Joint Venture on a Non-Fiction Book

So let’s dive straight in – what is a joint venture book

Well, just like a business joint venture, a joint venture book is a partnership of two or more people. And also just like a business joint venture, the different types of book joint venture can vary a tremendous amount (more on this shortly).

So, what exactly are the benefits of a joint venture book?

Well, there’s many, depending on who you partner with and the agreement made with them. Here’s just a few:

  • The work load of creating and marketing a book is shared so a lot more can get done quickly.
  • You’re able to leverage the promotional abilities and networks of two people, rather than just one, so can reach a much wider audience.
  • Depending on who you partner with, it can add a lot of credibility to your book, and your project, which can help increase sales. For example, if you’re writing a marketing book and are able to sign up a well-known marketing consultant as a co-author, the credibility boost can be huge. This can only help sales.
  • Plus at the simplest level, working with other people can be very motivating and more fun than just working on your own. Plus, in some instances, working on a project with someone can lead to hugely lucrative business partnerships that last for years, even decades.

What are the potential downsides of joint ventures?

Joint ventures have huge potential upside, but it isn’t always plain sailing. Sometimes, relationships can sour badly, fade away, or simply never really get off the ground in the first instance.

For example:

  • Sometimes there can be falling out, even significant legal disagreements, between partners.
  • It can be frustrating when your partner doesn’t contribute as much time or money as was agreed. That’s why it’s so important for both partners to set clear expectations right at the start.
  • Your partner may just disappear on you due to personal reasons, sudden lack of interest in the project, or whatever it may be.
  • The partnership may even experience fraud from one of the parties. So getting to know your partner slowly rather than diving in head-first can be helpful.

Examples of Author Joint Ventures

Despite the possible pitfalls of joint ventures (also known as JVs), they can often be very successful, and very lucrative, and the results you see from them can often come to much more than you expect from just two people.

This may perhaps be due to the power of motivation working with others, through effectively leveraging the skills and networks of more than one person, or whatever it may be.

Here’s a couple of examples of successful author joint ventures, and how they benefit all parties involved (as a JV should do):

An example in fiction is James Patterson. He’s become more prolific than ever in recent years, and this isn’t because he’s writing more! It’s largely due to his partnership with other much lesser known writers.

Often, when a prominent author has help with the writing, it’s by a ghost writer. There’s actually a long tradition of some very famous authors using other writers (sometimes with attribution, other times not) to help create and publish more books. Tom Clancy is another well known example.

However, James Patterson has taken this one step further, and gives his partner writers credit on the cover. His name comes first of course and is what sells the book to people, and keeping the writing style to his proven formula definitely helps sales. So it’s safe to assume James is still involved with the proofing and editing process.

But this allows his output to increase significantly, even to several books a year, and keeps quality high.

An example in non-fiction is Dan Kennedy, a very successful marketing author and consultant. Recently he’s been teaming up with experts in certain fields to help him create and publish books on topics he may not have as much experience in as his co-author.

This gives Dan less work, allows him to leverage the expertise of his partner, and of course his co-author benefits from the very significant credibility that comes from being in a project with Dan Kenney, and also benefits from the significant marketing resources and expertise Dan has.

And with non-fiction, since it offers many more opportunities to profit after the sale of a book through courses, training, consulting and services, a JV book can help create new clients for both authors.

Some Different Types of Joint Ventures

Of course there’s almost any number of variations and terms that can be included in joint venture contracts. Let’s talk through some of the most common options:

  • You could have both your names on the cover of the book like the James Patterson example…
  • Or perhaps one of the partners could be entirely behind the scenes and just help with the writing and perhaps promotion work…
  • Or, just the introduction could be written by one of the partners, with the rest of the content created by the other.

So with each of these last three options, work and prominence is shared, often to very different degrees.

Let’s run through some more options:

  • Perhaps you could just use your partner’s knowledge and expertise to help put the content of the book together. This can be done by interviewing them, or by them just reviewing and applying corrections to the content. Once again, their involvement could either be prominent or behind the scenes, depending on what’s agreed. Not everyone wants their name out there!
  • As touched upon, your partner could also get involved with promotion too. That way, not only do they lend their name to the project and perhaps help with some or much of the content, but they get involved with marketing and other promotional activities like interviews, writing articles, and more. This can be a big help with increasing sales, particularly if their name helps attract positive attention in the market.
  • All this could even lead towards creating a fully fledged 50/50 project with your partner involved with much of the back end too (offers made beyond the sale of the book – most relevant to non fiction books). Even leading sooner or later to a full business partnership.

Possible Structures for Joint Ventures

The simplest type of joint venture is of course each partner gets 50% of profits (or 33% if there’s three partners… etc.). But this assumes each partner brings at least 50% of value to the project.

If one of the partners has a name that creates sales (like the James Patterson example above), even if that partner does far less than 50% of the work, the financial success of the project could perhaps be 90% attributed to their name, audience, and marketing prowess, so there’s more than one way to calculate value added to a project.

So really, as long as each partner is important for the project being a success, then 50/50 often avoids arguments, as long as both partners keep to the originally agreed terms.

But there’s many variations of percentage splits, and to help a book make as many sales as possible, you may choose to give away much or even all of the profit of the book to your partner, if it helps get them on board, excited about the project, and promoting as hard as they can.

Even if in that example you make no money on book sales, this may help grow the visibility and credibility of your name or your business in the market, which can be very beneficial for everything you publish after this book.

Beyond Simply Profit Sharing

And profit splits can be taken further than just financial gain. Your partner may want to also mention their own sites, own offers… etc. in the book. And that can be worth far more to them financially than a 50/50 split of book sales.

And things get more complicated, but also more lucrative, once you start to factor in back end partnerships and any profit sharing there.

But it really all depends on what sort of relationship you want to create with your partner. You may not want to be tied to someone for the long term, especially when you don’t really know them. On the other hand, successful joint ventures can last for years and just keep bringing in more and more value to both parties.

This could even mean you both end up sharing a multi-million dollar business, and become firm friends in the process. I’ve seen this happen more than once, and is the ideal goal of a partnership, but certainly can’t be guaranteed with everyone you work with!

How to Choose a JV Partner

A joint venture isn’t quite on the same level as a marriage, but some do end up lasting as long, perhaps even longer!

A joint venture could be as casual as a verbal agreement, just to see how things go, or even just something written in an email. And if either party doesn’t keep to their end of the deal, or if there’s any other reason one or both of the partners chooses to walk away, that’s then easy to do.

A slow start with someone new is definitely a good idea, rather than diving in and then being disappointed, even shocked, once you discover what they’re really like. Although such shock is less likely if they have existing credibility through a string of successful partnerships and positive visibility in the marketplace. Such credibility will be important for you too once you start to approach more prominent potential partners.

So as a partnership does progress, it may lead to legal agreements, even joint holdings in a business. But ironically, as the strength of your business relationship increases, you may have all the trappings of shared business owners, but you know and trust each other so well that none of that is really needed!

Finding a Suitable Partner…

Firstly, it depends on:

  • What you’re trying to achieve
  • Where you’re starting from
  • What you bring to the table
  • How your partner fills the gap in the project.

Perhaps you’re happy to do all the research, writing, editing, publishing, and even much of the promotion, and all the partner needs to do is lend their name and write a foreword.

In this case you would do all the work, and they do very little, but still benefit from the project as their involvement gives your book a huge credibility boost. Plus, they may end up doing some promotion even if that initially wasn’t the agreement, you never know.

But honestly, those who can bring a lot of value to a project do not lend their name readily. Would James Patterson partner with every single aspiring writer? Of course not!

So you need to have the credibility to convince high value partners to work with you. Therefore, don’t necessarily aim that high at the start. Start with more easily attainable partnerships, and grow from there. Then a track record with your books, partnerships, and business, is very helpful for building your credibility with future potential partners.

Deciding On the Partnership Structure

If you’re approaching someone who is relatively easy to partner with, then an informal agreement is a good start. Often trust can even largely be taken out of the equation, by setting up automatic profit sharing for example. It’s frustrating (and sometimes worrying) waiting for someone to pay you, so if a system is in place for making book sales automatically share profits, that can make both partners feel reassured.

Whereas approaching someone who’s prominent and very selectively does joint ventures may ask for a contract right from the start.

But generally, as a business partnership goes on, it may become more formal ironically as trust increases, and as structures are put in place to support your successful partnership. Whereas at the start when trust is at the lowest, it can often be more informal, but also much easier to walk away from as there isn’t such an attachment.