When an author’s not an author

Picture by Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot via Flickr creative commons
Picture by Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot via Flickr creative commons

In response to my post yesterday on my current collaborative writing experience, Brittany Zelkovich, who blogs under the fantastic title of I Emerged In London Rain, asked about whether I’ll be able to tell you guys about the book when it comes out. The short answer is no, but the long answer opens up some issues that interest me.

I’ve written before about the joys of working collaboratively and why I consider all writing to be collaborative. But the way that we view books, especially fiction, is that we expect them to be the work of a single author. Even in cases where this is demonstrably not true – there are several prominent fiction writers who work with collaborators but publish under only one name – it’s the way the book is usually marketed.

This obviously ties into the myth of the lone artist, creating from the magical art-space of their brain through magic and inspiration and pixie dust, but it’s also a matter of expectations. People expect to be reading a book by a particular, singular author, not a team, company or brand.

Like any books, the ones I’m writing with this great team are a business project as well as an artistic act. You can’t publish a book and not have business come into it. So to ensure the smooth running of the business side, the guy running the show has decided to just stick a single name down as the author and not to let people know that these books were actually created by a team in a fairly unusual process. I’m fine with that – at the end of the day I’m getting paid to write science fiction and that’s cool. But it’s interesting to think that how readers will react, or at least perceptions of how readers will react, are shaping this.

So I’m really curious to know, those of you reading this, do you read books by collaborative story writing teams? Has it ever made a difference to whether you bought or read a book? Do think it would be likely to? Do you have any other thoughts on the subject? Please share your opinions in the comments – they could be really useful for me and the people I’m working with.