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What to Do with Unwanted Collaboration Offers

December 31, 2019 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , ,

Dear Extra Squeeze Team,


My brother-in-law keeps sending me ideas for books.


He thinks I should write them and then share the profit with him (60% for him-40% for me—because he could crank them out if he just had the time, but he has a real job).


I’m so NOT interested.


I have tons of my own ideas and deadlines breathing down my neck. How to I get the jerk to leave me alone—besides skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas with the fam?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

Been there done that! High five! Here are my go-to favs.

A) My attorney has advised me not to listen to anyone else’s story ideas to protect the both of us.

B) MY real job – writing – just doesn’t leave time for anything else. AND IF THAT DOESN’T WORK…

C) I’d love to talk about it. The minimum fee for ghostwriting is $25,000 but you’re family. I’ll do it for $20,000. He should let you know when the check is in the mail.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

60/40?! His ideas are mostly in the fantasy realm, right?

What’s a ‘cool idea’ and what’s a ‘premise’? There’s a world of difference between those two and the success of each depends on how well a writer spins them into a story. Your bro-in-law needs a reality check. As Thomas Mann said, “The task of a writer consists of being able to make something out of an idea.”

I’m not much help with family advice but perhaps you could counter-challenge him. Offer a 70/30 split – with you at 70% – if he can flesh out one of his brilliant ideas to include plot details, dramatic arc, characterizations, atmosphere and killer resolution; say, 25 or 35 pages of concise, workable outline. If you feel what he offers is something you can work with it’s a possibility you may ‘write it’.

Perhaps that might help him understand where the lion’s share of work is in creating a novel. And it’s possible he’ll even learn that the original idea often morphs beyond recognition once the world building begins. Otherwise, maybe you just smile sweetly, remind him the world is full of grand ideas – remember Google Glass? – and pass him the sweet potatoes.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array

Hahaha! Your brother-in-law sounds like the kind of person I cannot stand. There’s always one in the workplace (usually a boss) – the one who takes all the credit while the rest of us sweat and toil away. My advice is never allow yourself to be the swan’s feet unless you can guarantee recognition (advice you have already self-issued, anyway. Phew!). The best way to get him to leave you alone is to tell him someone else came up with a better story idea/better financial split, and that you are collaborating on a book with them instead.

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.


Oh dear.  Something is terribly awry here.  Perhaps it would help to re-frame the situation and look at it again from other angles.

Angle One:  Maybe your brother-in-law is not quite as big a jerk as you imagine.  Maybe he knows you are highly creative. Maybe you are the most creative person he has ever met.  Perhaps he realizes you could spin his big ideas into bankable gold….and truth be told, you probably could, if you wanted to.  Let’s be grateful that he sees some of your amazing potential.  But, why does he only offer you 40%?  Maybe he fully expects you to negotiate with him and he has established some wiggle room for himself.

Hey, anything is possible…sometimes we jump to conclusions about people before we consider all the possibilities.  And, then too, sometimes we know a jerk when we see one.

Angle Two:  Maybe your brother-in-law is an even bigger jerk than you imagine. Seriously, if he low balls members of his own family in business deals, imagine how he treats the rest of the world.  Not likely fabulous.  Entitled and exploitative are never a good mix…they are toxic.

Soooo…  what would I do if I were in your shoes?

I personally would consider skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It seems to me that you need some time and space. The situation you described is less about the brother-in-law and more about you.  It sounds like you are feeling resentful and stressed, under-valued and pushed beyond your comfort level.  Forget about the the brother-in-law (jerk or not), focus on putting yourself front and center.  It seems to me that you need a chance to get ahead of all those deadlines breathing down your neck and focus on your own valuable ideas.  Let your brother-in-law’s wife figure him out.

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

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