FAQ: What is a book coach? And do you need one?

I’m currently in the middle of two book coaching jobs. This isn’t a service I’ve advertised in the past, but it is one I occasionally offer when a potential book editing client contacts me and it becomes clear they don’t quite know where to begin.

Book coaching is basically like having an editor who holds your hand throughout the writing process. Professional writers always have those editors along for the ride, but self-published authors don’t usually bring an editor on board until they have completed at least their first draft.

This is why a lot of would-be self-published authors will tell you they’ve got the first half of several books started on their laptops, all abandoned at some point in the process.

Some people have the drive and the know-how to propel them through the writing process once an idea gets in their heads. But plenty of others stumble along the way. Their ideas are too big. Or they don’t know where to begin. Or they find they’re a little all over the place in the writing process. And when they stumble, they often abandon what they’ve got—either because they convince themselves it’s no good, or they simply don’t know what to do with it next.

This is where a book coach comes in.

A book coach is the person who can help you with forming your story, so that you don’t have to go back after the fact and conduct massive rewrites. They also serve as a guide to keep you moving through the process.

I don’t personally believe that every author or book needs a book coach—every writer I’ve ever worked with has a different process, and I’ve known many who do best putting their heads down and working through that first draft on their own. But I’ve also received my share of manuscripts that jump all over the place and seem to reflect the author’s struggle to clearly commit to what they want their book to be. In those cases, a book coach could have proven to be extremely beneficial.

So, how does book coaching work?

On the two projects I’m currently working on, both writers came to the table with the strong desire to write a book. They also both had a swirl of ideas about what that book should be. But neither really knew where to begin, or even what to focus in on.

So our work together has involved first discussing all those incredible ideas, then honing in on which of those ideas would make the best book

From there, we determine a plan of action for bringing that book to fruition. This is a little different for everyone, because as I mentioned, everyone has a different process that works best for them. But I work with authors to find out what the best process for them might be—whether that means constructing an outline and working diligently through it, or giving them some free-writing assignments and seeing what we can come up with.

In all cases, a book coach is the person you send all your new writing to. They are the ones who are assigning you deadlines, checking in when you don’t meet those deadlines, helping you through blocks, and generally just working to keep you on track.

It truly is a comprehensive process that can mean the difference between a few unfinished (never-to-be-touched-again) chapters and publication for certain writers.

So who benefits most from a book coach?

  • First time writers. Writing a book can be daunting, and for someone who has never done it before, it can be quite easy to get overwhelmed and give up.
  • People with ideas they are passionate about but don’t know what to do with.
  • People who tend to get distracted easily and have a history of starting projects they never finish.

Both the book coaching projects I’m currently working on happen to be non-fiction books. But I’ve actually found that fiction novels tend to be the ones that benefit most from book coaching, since keeping a plot on track is something a lot of first time authors struggle with. When a non-fiction book gets off track, it’s usually a little easier to right the ship. But when a fiction novel goes off the rails, it can often mean having to toss most of what’s been written and start from scratch.

That’s where a book coach can save you a lot of time. And can help to ensure you actually make it to the finish line, rather than getting discouraged and giving up.

Either way, one of my favorite things about working as a book coach is the opportunity to help a writer turn that mess of ideas they have in their heads into something publishable. That may mean I have to be a cheerleader one day and a nag the next. But when you’re ready to stop talking about writing a book, and actually do it, it’s a process I love being a part of.

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