What to look for in a book writing coach

Engaging a writing coach is like hiring a tour guide. They know where you want to go, the terrain you’ll need to cover, how long the road is, and where the obstacles are. Your writing coach has been there, done that, and can offer a close eye on what you’re doing but with enough distance to be objective. And if she’s talented, she’ll shorten the learning curve on your writing career and make the process fun!

But how do you know what to look for in a book writing coach?

If you’re ready to move past the baggage that’s getting in the way of your success, or transforming the writing process into something more enjoyable and effective, then hiring a writing coach is a great choice. Before you make the investment however, there are some crucial things to consider to ensure you get the most for your book writing coach buck. Let’s face it: You’re paying for a high level of expertise and skill, and that doesn’t – and shouldn’t – come cheaply.

These 6 things will help you identify what to look for in a book writing coach:

1. Chocolate or vanilla – not all coaches are the same flavour

As with coaches in any industry, not all book writing coaches are the same. Some are warm and fuzzy like your grandma. Some are strictly business. Some will insist you follow their routine and framework to a T, whilst others will let you forge your own path. Some book writing coaches only do phone meetings, whilst others prefer face-to-face (where practical) or online via Zoom/Skype. Before making a decision, be certain that the coach you’re considering operates in a manner that suits your style of work. You might like to also ask them if they believe they are the right coach for you – those with integrity will be happy to say “probably not, but here’s someone who could be,” if they genuinely believe they can’t help you.

2. Swipe right til you get it right

Few book writing coaches can appropriately cover every single genre and type of writing, as each area has special nuances. So it’s perfectly normal to seek a coach who has deep experience in your specific area of writing, such as fiction, personal development, business, memoir or travel writing. Keep searching until you really find someone who ‘gets you’ and understands your area of writing. Alternatively, you may feel that an outsider’s perspective on your work could have abundant value.

3. Trust but verify

Word of mouth referrals are excellent, IF you trust the source of the referral and the intent with which it has been given. (not that I’m cynical, but there are a LOT of affiliate marketing schemes out there that mean people refer people and services that they know little about). Regardless of whether you’ve been referred to a coach by someone you know, I would always encourage you to do some digging around of your own too. Look at a potential writing coach’s credentials to ensure she’s in a position to give you what you need. Feel free to reach out to people whose names appear on the coach’s testimonial page; ask them a quick question or two by email to get a candid response.

4. Taste test

Who doesn’t love a free taste tester? Sometimes they are just what you need to make a buying a decision. Whilst it’s harder to sample coaching in bite sized chunks (the very nature of the relationship requires regular ongoing contact to get results), most coaches have some kind of let’s-see-how-we-work-together option to start things off. For exactly this reason, I offer a free 20 minute virtual coffee chat to prospective clients so they can see and hear me, and understand my approach.

If you are considering a coach who doesn’t advertise a free session, simply ask for one. Most will be open to it, or even a short free trial run, if you’re truly serious about engaging their services.

5. Understanding versus firm agreement

Some coaches will be a little laissez faire about their agreements, whilst others have massive contracts full of legalese. Regardless of how it looks I definitely recommend you have some form of written agreement that outlines the terms of service, costs, deliverables, how you’ll work together and communication expectations. It should be a document you are happy to sign and stick to, as well as hold your coach accountable to.

6. Be realistic

Writing coaches can turn seeds of ideas into bestsellers BUT they are not magicians. They can’t turn crap into gold, nor make people write words if they don’t want to! So, if anyone promises you that you’ll be on the NY Times bestseller list or that you’ll have your hands on your book in a month despite your busy work and family schedule, be very wary…

Whether you’re new to writing or you’ve already got a big list of writing credits, a writing coach can be an invaluable part of your team. She’ll provide accountability, keep you on track when you wane and get you through the blocks. She also offers an invaluable objective perspective on your work (because let me tell you, you’ll be way too close to it to see the wood for the trees). She’ll also help you make publishing decisions and assist with promotion of the finished book.  And the best ones won’t just offer a temporary fix – they’ll teach you how to get through the tough times yourself so you can keep writing even when they’re not around. Who wouldn’t want this?


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