Author coaches – who are they, what do they do, do you need one, and how can you find the best one for you?
Like any professional, even experienced writers may benefit from using a coach to help refine their craft. For beginners, engaging an author coach may help fast-track them to better writing and earlier success.
Over to ALLi partner member Boni Wagner-Stafford, whose business Ingenium Books offers author coaching services, to answer all the above questions and more.
Why Do Writers Need Author Coaches?
There are life coaches. Career coaches. Leadership coaches. Nutritional coaches. If you have ever found yourself wondering why this or that person needs a coach, because they already seem to have it so ‘together', consider that it’s probably precisely because they have a coach that they appear at or near the top of their game.
It’s the same with an author coach.
What is an Author Coach?
A professional author coach will guide you through the writing process, from the first seeds of an idea to the finished manuscript and sometimes beyond.
Imagine you’re a talented tennis player who wants to win Wimbledon. Your tennis coach will practise with you, help you improve your technique, and correct the little things you’re doing wrong. They will work out an exercise regime and practice schedule, give you advice on your diet, help you stay mentally focused. Your tennis coach may even become your confidante, your shoulder to cry on, and your cheerleader.
Your author coach will help you reach your goal, too. Whatever it takes. They will help you transform your idea into a book, guiding you every step of the way. Depending on where you are on your author journey, this might include:
- Helping you define your ideal reader
- Working up an outline and providing advice on the structure of your book
- Spotting story or logic gaps to fill
- Giving feedback on your writing style, and/or
- Creating a project plan for your book, helping you make decisions about things like distribution options or editors, proofreaders, or designers
When Do Writers Need Author Coaches?
- If you’re new to the author world, it’s a great time to work with an author coach. It’s almost like the tennis coach who teaches a novice player all the basics, from how to hold the racquet to different ways of hitting the ball.
- If you’re in the middle of your journey, with a book or more published, it’s a great time to work with an author coach. Do you have a habit of stepping too far forward with your left foot? Or perhaps your backswing packs just a bit too much punch and the ball tends to sail past the opposing service line.
- If you’re a seasoned author, with multiple credits and healthy sales, it’s a great time to work with an author coach. Here you may be ready to dig deeper into what your tennis court competition is doing to find out what you want to do more of. Or less of. Your tennis coach will focus on the subtler aspects of your game: attitude, body language, visioning of success.
Yup, the right author coach at the right time is always a good idea. It’s never too late.
How to Find the Right Author Coach for You
There are a number of factors that come into play when you’re ready to search for – and then hire – your author coach. What you look for in an author coach depends first on your own assessment of what you want and what you need.
- Be honest with yourself about where you’re at with your writing skills and where you think you want to improve.
- Be clear about what you need for your book.
- Define how you'd like to work with them. Would you prefer to work with a man or a woman? What about geography? Do you want to be able to meet in person? Or will you be comfortable with Skype or Zoom calls via the Internet?
- Identify your budget. No sense aiming for Wimbledon when your budget demands you spend more time at the public courts down the street.
When you’ve got a pretty good idea what you want and need, then it’s time to start your search. Finding people who offer author coaching services is the easy part, and it starts with a simple Google search. The ALLi Facebook Group and their approved partner lists are also great places to look. Here are a few things to watch for.
- Track record: look for someone with a proven track record. You’ll want to be able to check references, so look for someone who will provide you with contact information and permission to reach out to past clients.
- Genre: find author coaches who have worked with your genre before. For example, I offer author coaching only for non-fiction projects. If someone were to ask me to coach an author writing a romance or thriller novel, I’d be lost, metaphorically speaking. Look for specialization and be sure it matches you and your book.
- Personality and energy alignment: ask for a consultation where you can ask questions, engage in conversation, and see if it feels like a fit. You’ll be working closely together for potentially a long time, and you’ll likely be receiving feedback that might be tough to swallow. You want to be sure your author coach can give you objective advice and criticism without crushing your soul. Don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be and choose someone you’re immediately comfortable with.
What Will Your Author Coach Do for You?
Once you’ve chosen an author coach, the process will probably start with an in-depth conversation. You and your coach will come up with a strategy tailor-made for your book project. The work plan might look something like this.
- Content strategy and book focus.
- Your ideas for the book, why you want to write it, what you hope to accomplish.
- You may begin to carve out the broad strokes of a book outline.
- You might receive your first writing assignment (related to the book).
- Discussion leading to reader identification (a key element most indie authors miss!)
- A deeper dig into the content to include in your book.
- Feedback and assessment of your writing assignment from meeting #1.
- Your second writing assignment.
- How to set a purpose for each section and chapter.
- Feedback on writing assignment #2.
Every author and every book are different, of course. Your first few sessions with your author coach might look a little different.
Your coach will then monitor your progress. You’ll have regular sessions – once every two weeks, for instance – throughout the process. During these sessions, you’ll discuss what you’re doing right and what needs to change.
Be wary of coaches who agree with everything you have written. You’re not going to improve if all you get is, “That’s fantastic!”
Some of the Most Experienced and Skilled Authors Hire a Coach
If you’re an experienced writer who already has some publishing credits, do you still need a coach?
Does the tennis player who has won Wimbledon get rid of their coach? No. After all, they want to stay at the top of their game.
Every opponent they face in future will present a different challenge. A good tennis coach will help them analyze each opponent’s style and work out a strategy for winning each match.
As an author, every book project you tackle will be different too, with its own unique challenges and opportunities. An author coach will help ensure you don’t miss the opportunities and overcome any challenges. You’ll be able to reach new levels of skill and competence faster than you might get there on your own.
What your coach won’t do is write your book for you. That’s your job!
Want to talk to us about our author coaching services? Click here to book a free discovery call#Indieauthors - could you benefit from an author coach? Read this succinct post from @IngeniumBooks for all you need to know about the why, what, when, who & how of author coaching. Click To Tweet
OTHER TOP TIPS ON IMPROVING YOUR WRITING CRAFT
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive