Are you someone looking to master the fundamentals of writing? Or are you struggling to learn the ins and outs of book marketing, preferring to sit on the sidelines while you remain hidden behind your desk? As indie authors, we wear a lot of hats, and there are an incredible amount of things to learn in order to run a successful business.
Although writing is often touted as a solitary endeavor, working under another person’s guidance can be a tremendous help in enabling an author to achieve their dreams. That is where coaches come in. Coaches help authors with both craft and career, their expertise ranging from novel writing to audience visibility and beyond. If you’ve exhausted avenues in which you can self-teach writing or business skills, or when you feel stuck at a point in your career and are looking for guidance on where to go next, a coach may be the solution. And as a coach with over eight years of experience helping authors to succeed, my goal is to lay out the guidelines for hiring one and provide you with the knowledge you need so you can make the best choice for your career.
There are two kinds of coaches: book coaches and author coaches. Primarily, book coaches will focus on helping the author write a book to the best of their ability, crafting plot and characters to be exceptional before or during the writing process in order to maximize reader enjoyment. This differs from a developmental editor or a beta reader, who helps polish the book after it’s already been written. If the author is writing a nonfiction piece, the book coach will help the author outline and hit on key points in the nonfiction topic. A book coach may also help an author with strategies on how to best market the book after publication.
Author coaches are more focused on the overall career of the client and what the author can do to utilize backlist and branding efficiently in order to gain more readers. Author coaches should take the entire catalog of the author, as well as the history of the author’s career, into account as they analyze what will work best for the author’s long-term success.
Within these different categories of coaching are coaches with various skill sets and specialities, such as plot outliners, advertising specialists, blurb writers, and more. It is up to the author to determine what type of coach is going to work best for them.
How to Choose a Coach
When hiring a coach, it’s important for an author to survey their weaknesses. Begin your search by listing out the ways you wish you could improve, both writing-wise and elsewhere. Have readers been pointing out certain weaknesses in your books that need work, such as characterization, word flow, or plot pacing? Or are you struggling to maintain visibility in the current market and unsure how your ads and newsletter can reach new readers? Are you unaware of the differences between listing your book in Kindle Unlimited or going wide and wish to know what your options are? Or perhaps you’re struggling with writing a blurb and would rather pay someone else to do the job than attempt to crank out advertising copy for hours on end.
Coaches can help with all these things. The importance of hiring a coach is to have them strengthen the flaws in your own catalog and business strategy. Coach may specialize in your genre, but it’s not always necessary, so long as they have knowledge of the fundamentals. Once you’ve determined your biggest weaknesses, your next step is to find a coach specializing in your chosen category who works well for you.
When hiring a coach, fostering a personal relationship is much more important than having a widely known instructor. If a coach has dozens or even hundreds of clients on their roster, they might not be able to give you the personal time needed to enhance your project. You might struggle to obtain their guidance, no matter how famous their most popular client may be. A lesser-known coach with only a few clients may work best for you.
At the same time, there are authors who advertise themselves as coaches who don’t have sufficient experience to be guiding anyone’s career. Finding a balance between the two is best; you want someone who will care about your career and make time for your project but has enough industry knowledge to give practical advice.
Asking for coaching recommendations on social media or in forums with authors you trust can be a good place to start. Before hiring a coach, see if they have any podcasts, YouTube or TikTok videos, or free content on what they offer. This will give you an idea of their coaching style, what kind of knowledge they have, and if you’ll mesh well together. If you’ve consumed a lot of their free content and found it helpful for your career, they may be the coach for you.
You can also locate coaches at conventions and meet-ups. Networking is just as important for coaching as it is for connecting with other authors. You never know who quietly offers coaching services alongside their author business. And if you’re unsure, ask. Some authors do not have a website or an advertised service for coaching, but they may consider taking another author under their wing and instructing them privately in what they know.
Coaches can be long- or short-term. You can hire a coach for an hour or for months at a time. Someone’s guidance over a single thirty-minute telephone call can be more valuable than a multi-week mentorship, if you’re getting the right advice.
Coaches also offer classes and courses to help teach a wide amount of people at the same time. If you’re wavering on hiring a coach, taking a seminar, class, or course can be a good test for whether the investment into their coaching is right for you.
The main goal is to determine if that coach’s energy matches your own. A good coach should be just as excited about their client’s success as the client is, and should be driven to help you succeed. If your coach isn’t, move on.
Take the Advice
Authors who hire coaches sometimes pay their mentor for the knowledge they provide, then fail to implement the advice given—perhaps because they disagree, or because carrying out the tasks suggested by the coach seems overwhelming.
You alone know what is best for your business and your books. If something feels off, then it’s okay to disregard a piece of advice a coach can give. But good clients also accept the flaws in their own businesses and work to correct them. If a coach tells you your plot needs to be rewritten, or that your blurb isn’t working, or a cover needs updating, it’s worth considering, because that could be the missing piece in your business.
It’s important to distinguish what your hurt pride and ego are telling you and your intuition. It’s acceptable to take the lion’s share of your coach’s advice and ignore other pieces. But if you’re consistently disregarding what your coach has to say, then either that coach is not a good fit or you are not ready to be coached. Being coached can sometimes be a grueling process, and it’s up to the author to decide if they can handle the mental pressures of what it requires. Coaches are there to push you to be the best you can be, and to do that, sometimes it means getting uncomfortable. Remind yourself that you are paying this person for their guidance, and if it helps with the longevity of your career, it’s worth any temporary discomfort, be it taking out scenes in a manuscript or revising your marketing strategy.
Your coach should strive for your success. Working together with a coach can be one of the greatest decisions of an author’s career. And done right, the experience can be fulfilling for both coach and client in a variety of ways. It’s all about finding the right fit.