Writing and publishing shouldn’t be done in isolation no matter what those old tropes would suggest. You know the ones…the writer holed up in their crummy, dim lit apartment (because they didn’t have enough money to keep the lights on), hunched over a keyboard with the remnants of a meal on the plate beside them. I don’t know about you but I think of Johnny Depp in "Secret Window." You don’t want to be that kind of writer. If you’ve seen that movie you’ll totally know why. Johnny Depp aside, the book writing journey isn’t one to go alone.
At some point, you’ll need others, whether that’s an editor, a publisher, or some beta readers (the first few outsiders who read and provide feedback). For some, especially those who are brand new babes to writing a book, they may want to work with a book coach before they have the need for any of those other folks. Those people (editors, publishers, and beta readers) come toward the end of the manuscript development and a great book coach helps you get there.
Here are the 5 things you want in a great book coach (or any publishing partner).
1. They’re a human who gives a shit
Work with a great book coach who cares about you, your success, your vision, your goals, and your book project. You don’t want someone transactional. You’re about to write a book. This is a big deal. It’s going to take time, energy, and effort–a lot of it.
So you want someone who is going to go the whole distance with you that also believes in you, cheers you on, wipes the sweat from your brow, hands you water, and helps you stretch those muscles and think about the big picture when you get lost in the weeds.
They’re also there to help you keep pace. They tell you to push when you need to push (i.e. meet a deadline, get another chapter done) or to slow down when you need a break (i.e. take a day off, recalibrate). They’re your person on this journey and have your best interests in mind.
2. They’re not there to make a buck
Which means that they’re not in it for the money, even if you think that they’re charging a lot. You’ll find some who charge a lot and they’re very impersonal and you don’t feel supported. You’ll find others who charge a lot and they’re worth their weight in gold because they’ve truly got your back (See #1.)
You want the people who put your relationship first and the transaction second. You want the person who isn’t just trying to sell you a service and who actually wants to serve you. Someone who understands that writing a book is an investment and that the author is unlikely to make back their money on sales alone which means the financial investment the author has made in their services should not be taken in vain. (See #3 and #4.)
3. They’ve got experience backing them up
A great book coach has experience to back them up. They’ve either written and published themselves, have a degree or certificate in writing/publishing, and/or have been in the publishing industry a while. These things can be subjective, of course. How many books should they have written and published to consider them experienced? How many years in publishing to be considered an expert? What kind of degree “counts”?
I don’t think there’s a magic number or answer to any of these but a great book coach should be able to draw from their experiences in such a way that you’re confident in their ability to lead you. When they’re talking to you as a prospective author client, they should be able to talk about previous books they’ve worked on, share current publishing trends or industry standards, refer to others they know in the industry or reputable resources, and have clients they’ve worked with that can testify that they rock. If they are just going straight to dollar signs and signing on the bottom line, you’re not looking at the book coach you want to work with (see #1 and #2.)
4. They’re honest (sometimes painfully so)
With their industry knowledge and experience, a great book coach should be honest about how publishing works, including what and who to look out for, the advantages and disadvantages of the publishing options available to you, and how you make back your ROI (hint: it’s not in book sales alone). Just to name a few. And they’re being honest with you because they care about your success. (Go back to #1 and review.)
They should also be honest with you about your book idea and goals and if they’re relevant and realistic. And when you’re writing the damn thing, they better be giving you constructive feedback and not just blowing smoke up your hiney to get the book done faster. If a book coach is just nodding and saying that everything you’re writing is wonderful and perfect then I would be suspicious as to whether they actually care (see #1 again); if they are just trying to make a buck (see #2); or, if they’ve got the experience to back them up (see #3).
5. They’ve got a sweet blend of strategy and creativity
It’s great if you’ve got a book coach who is a solid writer with amazing editorial skills to help make that manuscript sound and look awesome. But if they can’t also help you think strategically about what you’re going to do with that book, how you’re going to build a platform around this book, or what is the best approach to publishing your book, you might only have half of what is helpful. Writing and publishing a book is more involved than just the writing.
A great book coach helps you see the long-term picture, knowing that once you have a manuscript your job is hardly done. You’ve still got to publish and promote the damn thing and both of those things include a thousand smaller tasks and activities to consider. A great book coach doesn’t have to be an expert in publishing and promoting but they need to know enough to help you put your big author britches on so you can be successful beyond just the writing of the manuscript.
New artists need instructors. New musicians need teachers. New weight-lifters need trainers. New authors need great book coaches. But in order to get a great book coach, you need to know what to look for. Now you do.
Would you like to have a 20-min story stroll and talk about writing and publishing a book with a great book coach? Book one here.