How do book co-authors split revenue?
This is something that must be decided in advance, and if you don’t have a written agreement you’re fools.
Everything in publishing requires written contracts.
Frederik Pohl, who worked at various times as an author, an agent, and an editor, and who collaborated with a wide variety of co-authors, advised writers to always assume that everyone who signs the contract will be hit by a bus and killed, and their heirs hate each other.
Everything needs to be spelled out so clearly that those heirs won’t have anything to sue each other over, including who gets to decide anything that’s not spelled out.
Never, ever assume that good will and common sense will prevail.
So — most collaborations split the revenue evenly, but you don’t have to.
If one of you is a bigger name, or one did more of the work, you may agree on different shares.
Usually the publisher will prefer to write a single check, which they’ll send to whoever negotiated the publishing contract — usually that’s an agent, but sometimes it’s one of the authors.
That agent or author is then responsible for getting the money distributed properly.
I co-wrote one novel where my agent made the deal and represents both of us; he sends each of us a check for 50% of the proceeds (net after he takes his commission).
In another case where I did most of the work, and my agent doesn’t represent the other guy, my agent sends me all the money, and I then send my co-author his share, which is smaller than mine.
It’s whatever you agreed on in advance — and if you didn’t have a written agreement in advance, draw one up right now.
Normally this would be set out in the publishing agreement.
So let’s say you and a friend wrote a book together and submitted the manuscript to a publisher and they accepted: they’d send you both a contract which would set out where the royalties went and what proportion went to who.
If either of you disagreed, then you’d have to negotiate further — either with each other, or the publisher.
If you didn’t agree, and didn’t sign, it probably wouldn’t be published and thus you wouldn’t end up with any revenue to fight over anyway.
It’s not like the money comes in and then they have to split it; it’d get messy, fast.
Maybe that was the case one day, but most publishing agreements / contracts with authors (indeed, any contracts in the creative industries) are written to avoid mess, because ultimately, it’s bad for business if your authors start suing each other.
This completely depends on the specific co-authors.
It is typically decided what the split is BEFORE the writing has even begun.
Then it is cemented with a contract and the royalties are split in that fashion either in perpetuity or however long the contract specifies.