Dear Timmy, I like AllExperts and have used it much. not sure if you are the right person for this question. If not, I'd appreciate a name of someone who goes

I am writing a novel. Have been for awhile. I have at least three more I want to write. I will retire soon and have a very limited budget. I have a friend that is a writing coach. I have used her services often and have paid out at least $3000 for them. My idea now…I want to hire her to help me finish the book.
This will take lots of time. I am under no deadline, but will be 66 soon. I was thinking that I could offer her a deal where she could help me now and I would pay her with the proceeds from the book sales. My original thought was to split it 50-50 but cap it at some acceptable number, say $20K.
What are your thoughts? Sincerely, Dick Schlueter

Thank you for your question!

If you have looked at some of my previous answers you may know that I always advise questioners that mediators act as neutral third parties to disputes and never "get involved" in judging the merits of conflict, but merely use special techniques to help the parties decide how to negotiate their own settlement.

I am not an attorney and cannot give you legal advice but can respond from my mediation, management and consulting experience.  Note that your proposals may certainly develop legal ramifications and you may wish to consult an attorney.

The terms of an acceptable deal will almost certainly be driven by the willingness of your friend to be a friendly collaborator. If your friend likes what you are up to and thinks there is a ready market and distribution partner, you are more likely to be able to negotiate a "joint venture" of the type you are describing.  

So there are two competing concepts to manage: risk and reward. You are asking someone to go down a road with you and invest their time (time=money to technical writers) with the hope there will be a payoff. Therefore the skill itself is valuable, and then the risk itself is valuable. Both must be compensated in my view to be compelling.  

Therefore, if $20k represents the usual and customary billing that would be charged for the services, then that is the value of the skill in present value dollars.  To be compelling there is usually a need to offer something beyond the basic economic trade, since your friend will neither have the $20k now (and will suffer an opportunity cost penalty by trading time for no immediate cash, when time is the only fixed commodity they have to generate cash), and there is risk the friend may never get it, or get something less.

Hence, I would recommend you look at the marketplace economics of your book and see what can be done to make the case that the time spent is an investment that will pay off in more benefits than can be generated from just a straight time/$ exchange.  

You may wish to offer a more generous split (or the $20k is already a more generous split), or you may be willing to pay a discounted cash amount as-you-go, to both offset the risk and the no-cash impact to your friend.

Beyond the deal terms I would recommend an agreement that addresses the rights to the work.  What if you get hit by a truck tomorrow?  Does your collaboration give your friend then the right to complete the work and publish it?  Could the friend later make a copyright claim if the book somehow became a blockbuster and was unhappy with $20k alone?  These are some issues to consider, and you may wish to have a lawyer assist to create a comprehensive agreement.  

These are some ideas.  Feel free to follow up with additional questions.

For your general information, the pros and cons of the types of dispute resolution methods follows.


Arbitration, Mediation, and Litigation

Arbitration: the referral of a dispute to one or more impartial persons for final and binding determination outside of the judicial system

Benefits of Arbitration:

Confidential, no public record
Limited exchange of documentation, information
Quick, don't have to wait for a court date
Arbitrators have expertise in the subject matter and are trained in conflict resolution
Cheaper than litigation
Preserves business relationships

Negatives of Arbitration

It's often a compromise, no 100% winner
Complex arbitration can be costly
If not satisfied, may litigate the arbitration procedure
Poor results with an unskilled arbitrator
Both parties must agree to cooperate in the process

Mediation: the process by which parties submit their dispute to a neutral third party (the mediator) who works with the parties to reach a settlement of their dispute.

Benefits of Mediation:

Neutral mediator can objectively suggest alternatives not considered before
Parties are directly engaged in negotiating the settlement
Can be quicker than litigation
Less costly than litigation
Preserves business relationships
85% of American Arbitration Association cases mediated find successful solutions

Negatives of Mediation

may not reach a binding decision
unskilled mediator

Litigation: using the judicial system to resolve disputes

Benefits of litigation:

a clear winner and loser
uses a prescribed set of procedures
more predictable outcomes
is final

Negatives of Litigation:

waiting for court dates can do more harm
usually more expensive than mediation and arbitration
part of the public record


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Timmy Chou


I am a experienced Mediator and a partner in a management consulting firm. As a mediator I work as a third-party neutral and specialize in partnership/shareholder disputes, management/labor issues, company culture difficulties, and family-owned business problems. I can help describe why alternative dispute resolution may be a good choice for you. As an experienced management consultant I may be able to offer creative ideas to help resolve your organizational and business problems and disputes. "If you say conflict, I say opportunity".

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