Dear Editorial Anonymous:Yes: Developmental Editor. She should not get authorial credit as she did none of the writing.
First off, thanks so much for doing this-- your site is a map for all the people out there picking through the children's publishing minefield-- a resource that is truly appreciated. Please know that I mean it and wasn't just buttering you up--- even though I do have a big, long juicy question for you:::
On the topic of Intellectual Property (which you seem to be addressing lately):
Two years ago I was on a remote beach in Mozambique, camping on the sand, when an idea hit me for an epic middle grade adventure story. I don't use "epic" as self-praise here, the story is big and sprawls across continents. Anyway, it hit like a bolt of lightning and I dropped everything (a novel based on a short story that I had recently won an award for) so that I could immerse myself in it.
As the idea crystallized I told it excitedly to my then girlfriend (we were into the second month of a thirteen month round-the-world trip together, sharing everything). She loved it, felt a deep connection point and became wildly passionate about the characters. Over the next ten months, crisscrossing the tropics in a spirit of joy and freedom, we kicked notes around about this story. It was an incredibly rich time creatively. Still, I always thought of the story as mine--- though I will readily admit that her viewpoints, ideas and characters enriched the story deeply. There is a possibility that at some point it was no longer mine but ours, I'm totally open to that. In fact, in Australia, after months of beautiful note taking we had a fight because I talked about the book as "mine," she told me that ever since that day in Mozambique she had considered it "ours." We settled it, I reassured her that I wouldn't try to take anything away from her contributions.
When we returned to America I began writing the first draft, getting down the bones. I did this alone, at the computer. However, we were living in the same house, when the writing of a particular scene brought tears to my eyes she was right there and I read it to her immediately. As I wrote she was working on other books, sometimes we would talk about the story, sometimes I would show her pages. When the first draft was written she started going through each chapter, one at a time. She would edit them heavily, sometimes as many as three pages of notes for a ten page chapter. She talked about characters, gave ideas, challenged me to not let myself off the hook. Basically the perfect notes to turn a first draft into a second draft. She kept me consistent and she challenged my research. I can say without doubt that her notes pushed me to write better, made the book stronger and brought about a more richly layered product.
Recently we have broken up, which surprisingly hasn't affected the working relationship too dramatically-- but after I published a piece in last month's SCBWI Bulletin and the by-line mentioned "his book" (SCBWI is very generous with by-lines, I didn't write it) she became worried about how our whole thing was defined. I respect that. She has worked hard and doesn't want to be left out in the cold should the book be fortunate enough to get published. At the same time, I have worked on this book endlessly, researched for thousands of hours and put the words on the page. I have a hard time giving up the title of "author." If I were to guess, I would say that in pure time the ratio for hours put in (mine to hers) is somewhere around twelve to one.
We have talked about crediting her as co-creator. We have talked about publishing (yes, I'm with you, should we be so lucky...) under a single pseudonym and explaining on the "about the author" blurb that the name represents both of us and outline our respective roles in that space.
I feel like I can handle both of those options.
So here are a my questions:
1. Is there already a name for the role she has?
This is not to say that I don't appreciate the importance of her role. She contributed many ideas that you used and that you feel made the book better, and offered criticism that helped you make your book stronger and more fully realized.
This is the work that an editor does, though of course a publishing house's editor likely wouldn't have joined you at such an early stage in the book's development, or had that much time to give your project. (A publishing house's editor would be paid for her work, and expect no credit.)
Let's be clear: the idea for the story sounds like it was developed so communally between the two of you that the idea may indeed belong to both of you. And your ex deserves some credit for that role.
However, if you were the one who did the work of writing the book, then there's your answer. You are the author. Period.
She edited it--but she should not expect any more credit for that than another writer's critique group might get (which is, of course, often zero). I understand that she did that editing because she loves the story and (presumably) loves the body and heart and brains you've given it in written word form. She feels invested in the story, which is good in that it's allowed her to offer the story her creativity, too-- but possibly bad in that it's making her think her creativity in the making of the book is in some way equal to yours. Does she happen to think that it's easy to write a book once you have an idea for it? (It isn't.) Does she think she could have done the same work as well as you did? (It doesn't matter if she could have--she didn't. You. Wrote. The. Book.)
2. If we decide to credit her as co-creator as in: Created by "DICK and JANE" Written by DICK, should we send it out to agents and publishers that way or add that in once someone wants to buy or rep the story?Truthfully (and my comments above notwithstanding), you can credit her however you like. The publisher probably won't care. And you can decide to share the royalties with her or not as you like.
I would say that the least you should do is to put it in the acknowledgments that her ideas and critique made a tremendous difference to the book-- which gives credit to both the degree and nature of her contribution.
But I would suggest that the fairest, kindest thing to do would be to say "by DICK (and in smaller type) co-creator JANE". Or maybe "by DICK with help from JANE". And perhaps offer her a 1-2% royalty.
But calling her an author (or implying it by putting her name on the cover without a modifier like "co-creator") is a lie.
There's a difference between someone who's chivalrous and someone who's a doormat. Offering her authorial credit and half the royalties is not laying your coat over a puddle for her. It's laying yourself down in the street for her to walk on. But I don't judge. That's the relationship some people want to be in.
3. What would your suggestion be if you were editing the book and I came to you with this little quandary but hadn't yet found any possibly suitable solutions? I realize that at some point I delved into Dear Abby territory, sorry about that. The truth is that I really want to honor her role, while at the same time respecting the fact that I have worked endlessly and put the actual words down on the page.Writing a book is not like building a skyscraper. In architecture, the person who drew the blueprints gets the credit, not the construction company that put the building together. That's because outside of the blueprints, buildings are mostly built the same way. It's the architect's design that makes the building unique.
Stories are not like that. I'm sure we can all think of some Classics of English Literature that have very little in the way of overall design. We don't read them or laud them for their design--we read them and laud them for their writing.
So while design may be important to a story, it is nothing compared to the work of expressing the story. Stories are more like Frankenstein's monster. It doesn't matter who helped dig up the body parts. The author is the guy who breathed life into them.