Welcome to the first installment of my Book Coach Corner series. Today’s column discusses book coaches and how they can help you at any stage in the writing process.
Why Might You Need a Book Coach?
Historically, publishing houses employed editors who worked closely with their contracted authors on revising and finalizing their manuscripts prior to publishing. Over time, many publishers have either cut their marketing budgets and/or shifted them to the big-name, revenue-generating authors in their book of business, leaving little to no dollars or editor focus for first-time or early-in-their-career writers.
Instead, publishers are in search of manuscripts that are ready (or close-to-ready) for prime-time before they are pitched to them. Agents have become pickier when deciding whether to take on manuscripts for representation since they will now have to do much of the heavy lifting that the editors once did if the manuscript isn’t already polished.
As the snowball rolls downhill, many writers have selected alternate publishing approaches, such as self-publishing or hybrid publishing, for their books. While others who want to continue with traditional publishing have chosen to address their skills and story gaps by hiring a book coach to help them navigate the story writing process, so they can put forth the best manuscript and pitching package they can when they begin pitching to agents.
What Does a Book Coach Do?
A book coach is the partner that rounds out your writing journey regardless of whether you’re just starting out, stuck in the middle, or ready to start (or have already started) pitching. A book coach will assess where you are at and determine what you need to move forward. Book coaches focus on multi-disciplines, including the story drafting process, pitching, and cheerleading, as explained below.
Story Drafting Process
Brainstorming and Concept Development
Book coaches help you get your creative juices flowing and think outside your bubble. They can hold up a mirror for you, push you to dig deeper, tease out your ideas and creativity, and help you gain more insight into you and your story that you’re too close to see alone. Book coaches also help you focus on the key elements of story structure, so you can more effectively plan before you begin writing. They can help you develop your story idea into a story roadmap, so you will spend less time writing with no clear destination.
Book coaches study what agents are looking for, so they can help writers focus their time on the things that will move the needle for their story. There are many effective writing and story methods available. You may have discovered one you think works, but no method is one-size fits all for writers or for writing stages. For example, what works for you in concept development and your initial draft may not work for you during revisions. Book coaches can introduce writing methods that can add to your writing toolkit and keep you moving forward productively.
Drafting and Revision Feedback
Book coaches evaluate initial draft pages and complete manuscripts to assess whether your story works on both the structural and story level. They can identify opportunities to improve your skill gaps earlier in the drafting process than if you work solo. They can also determine if you have writing patterns that will turn agents off if not corrected before pitching.
Many writers take advantage of the common feedback options (e.g., alpha and beta readers and critique partners) prior to pitching to get a second set of eyes and different perspective on their story; but since most of the time their selected readers are not being compensated, the writer is fighting for attention and quality input.
Plus, the feedback provided is often not structured, so the comments lead to chaos and angst for the writer. Whereas a book coach is a dedicated partner who knows the writer and their story almost as well (if not as well), is focused on the needle-moving items that will make the manuscript stronger and provides constructive feedback in a controlled framework that can be digested and implemented.
Book coaches design project roadmaps to move you through the writing and publishing paces as efficiently and effectively as possible, so you can focus on the work and not where you’re headed or what’s coming next. They keep writers accountable to following their story roadmap, which allows you to focus your time and energy on writing and minimizes time spent on planning and administration.
Some writers can’t pull the trigger to pitch, while others rush too soon to contact agents. If you’re a cautious writer, a book coach can help you determine when your manuscript is ready to pitch, as well as help you prepare your pitch package and identify agents to query. If you think you’ve jumped the gun because you’re batting .000 with your agent pitches, a book coach can help you reassess your pitch package and your manuscript to identify what might be preventing agents from being interested and then design a roadmap to get you back on track. Book coaches can also help you manage the pitching process once you begin querying, including how to deal with interested agents.
Accountability and Leveling Up
Book coaches are your (not so) secret weapon if you need or want to be pushed to prioritize your writing time—or yourself—move forward when you’re stuck, move faster when you have some traction, discover a new perspective, and/or improve your writing.
You share your heart and soul when you share your manuscript with someone else, so it’s preferable to have in your corner someone committed to helping you write the best story you can. Book coaches are there for all the possible ups and downs of a writing journey, from wanting to quit instead of facing one more agent rejection to screaming from the rooftops when an agent offers you representation, and everything in between.
Selecting a Book Coach
If you’re interested in working with a book coach, here are some things to keep in mind:
You must be open to trying new things, receiving constructive feedback, and digging in and doing the hard work if you want to maximize the coaching relationship.
Book coaches are often solopreneurs who bring different skills, expertise, and genre focuses to their businesses; so, it’s important to do some “good fit” research upfront. If you already know your writing gaps, seek out a book coach whose strengths will help you fill in those gaps. Many coaches will ask you to complete a questionnaire and provide a writing sample to assess you for fit as well. Some book coaches also provide free consultations to determine what you need and whether you and the book coach would be a good fit.
Book coaching services are as varied as the coaches themselves, so it’s important to ensure the book coach’s workflows and scheduling sync up with your own. Although some book coaches enjoy coaching across the story writing spectrum (i.e., idea generation to agent representation), others prefer to focus on specific phases of the writing process based on their own skills and interests (e.g., story concept to completed manuscript, but not pitching – or vice versa).
If you are short on time to research or feeling intimidated by too many options, Author Accelerator provides a book coach matching service that pairs writers with one of their certified book coaches for a minimal fee.
I hope you found this introduction to book coaching helpful. Future columns will focus on specific aspects of book coaching, the book coach/writer relationship, and the story drafting and pitching processes. If you have additional questions about book coaching, please leave them in the comments below.
Until next time, happy writing!
Tell us in the comments: Have you worked with a book coach before?
Richelle Lyn is a book coach and writer. Her favorite fiction reads involve leading ladies who push boundaries and conquer their fears while preferably digging for secrets, learning magic, and/or saving the World. She’s also a fan of non-fiction reads focused on personal growth and transformation. She loves her tea hot and her coffee iced. She calls South Florida home, but her favorite place to be is on a trip. You can check her out on Instagram, Twitter, or www.MindYourGapTrip.com.