Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Work of the Book Coach in the Past

Book coaches have been around for a long time. When I was the CEO of a publisher (we did about 200 titles a year), we occasionally worked with authors who had book coaches. We generally didn’t think much of their work. Why? Because they usually knew nothing about book publishing. They coaxed a writer into writing a whole book, chapter by chapter, helped the writer get organized, do research and use words, sentences and paragraphs that would entice an audience – all of which we were grateful for. Too often they gave what we felt was bad advice to the client regarding title selection, cover design and worst of all, bad advice about what they should demand in contract negotiations. Since we were a smaller niche publisher, most of our authors did not come through agents, so the book coach was the only professional they were working with who knew anything about the book publishing process.

When we sold the publishing company, I started working as a consultant to mid-sized publishers.  Over time, my clients became smaller start-up publishers, and then many of them were authors who were self publishing.  I consider myself a consultant and when I’m working with new writers, a coach.&nbspI would not have started doing this work if I had not worked for a mid-sized publisher and if I didn’t have an intimate knowledge of the book publishing industry.  I am shocked at how often someone who has written one book will consider that he or she has the background to coach others.

The book publishing industry is not an easy environment to work in and many of the traditional approaches are counter-intuitive.  There is no place you can learn book publishing, other than from more senior people at book publishing companies.  You might argue that there is a lot of information out there in books and on the Internet and you can certainly learn enough to self publish from these sources.  But this is not enough to master the subject enough to coach others.

I would assert that to become a book coach you must have worked at a mid-sized or large sized book publisher or for a reputable agency.  Even that isn’t enough.  You need to work with a book coach to learn how to provide the right information for each individual author.

So to begin to put some parameters around this discussion, I think there are several parts or specialties to the work of the book coach.  The book coach may choose to focus on just one part or all parts.

The classic book coach worked with writers on the writing process. Since twenty years ago publishers took care of the rest of the process, publishing and marketing, there was only a need for coaching in the writing process.  My focus is on non-fiction books, so you may see that bias in the following.

The book coach helped the writer:

  • Select a topic that would be marketable
  • Find the courage to get the words on paper
  • Develop a voice and viewpoint that would distinguish this writer from others on the topic
  • Have a profound understanding of the problems of the reader and how this book might solve them
  • Stay focused on the project and deadlines
  • Become a better writer
  • Find the energy for the rewriting and self-editing that the writer must do to polish the manuscript
  • Celebrate the successes and get perspective on set backs
  • By providing a place to get questions answered from someone who has worked with many writers and seen many challenges met in the book publishing process

In addition, the book coach required certain things from the writer:

  • Payment for services
  • Commitment to a level of professionalism and rigor that was appropriate to the importance of the work
  • Research where it was needed, where a manuscript was weak without it
  • Obtaining permissions where the work was not original (and the book coach would advise on how to do this)
  • A peer and audience review – a way to vet the material before it was sent to a publisher
  • An open mind and a willing spirit for true collaboration

In exchange, the writer could expect certain things from the book coach:

  • A contract outlining services to be rendered, with terms of payment and termination provisions
  • Complete confidentiality
  • Timetables and costs
  • Reliable recommendations to other service providers (editors, indexers, proofreaders, permissions specialists, literary agent and attorneys)
  • A professional level of advice based on years of experience and a professional background

All of these things are still true today when working with a professional book coach, but this job has now become so much more.