Why hiring a book coach makes you a badass (and a brief history)

In some ways, book coaching is a relatively new phenomenon: the professional book coach—someone an author hires to help them write a book— is a product of only the last decade or two.  However, the book coach has always been an essential and indispensable part of book writing since the writing of books began.  Authors have always had and greatly relied upon book coaches, they’ve just held different titles through time.   

The myth of creative isolation

It is a myth that all brilliant writers have written in isolation—sequestered away in some cozy home office or cabin in the woods somewhere creating magic on their own.  Save for a few exceptions, the best, most successful writers have always had support, including Western greats like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Maurice Sendak and E.B. White.  In the past, editors inside of publishing houses served as book coaches for authors.  

Book coaches of the past: publishing house editors

Historically, traditional publishers would contract with a promising author and together they would shape and craft their book ideas into form.  In-house editors were responsible for nurturing both the author and their books from start to finish.  Editors and authors would work closely for the duration of a project to ensure its success. 

Book Help

The shift in book publishing

In the last decade or so, the publishing world has changed dramatically.  Where publishers used to be the gatekeepers and curators of all the books that entered the market, our contemporary era has ushered in a new paradigm of book creation—specifically the rise of self-publishing and the popularity of eBooks.  Now anyone can publish a book.  It no longer takes 18 months to two years to publish a book (which is still the pace of traditional publishing); rather, books can be off your computer and into the marketplace as an eBook in a matter of hours.  

To deal with this massive sea change, traditional publishers had to adapt.  For one thing, they had to increase their publishing volume.  The average publishing house publishes up around 200 titles per quarter.  For authors, that equals a lot of competition for attention.  

Another change, connected to this increase in volume, is a marked decrease in the in-house services provided to authors.   Editors shifted away from being the nurturers of authors and their books, toward focusing more on acquisition— finding and publishing the big hit books that would garner the greatest return or the publishing house.  

Traditional publishing today: largely a DIY phenomenon

Now, publishers want authors to come to them with fairly polished works (not to mention a robust platform, which is a topic for another article).  Many publishers expect authors to have already sought out rounds of editing and have a very polished manuscript and marketing plan before they even contact a publisher.  

Yet authors’ need for sustained support didn’t disappear.  Not even a bit.  

Authors had to begin to look elsewhere for this necessary support—and so the book coach was born.  

We don’t create or gain mastery in isolation

When we want to learn a sport or get really strong at the gym, what do we do?  We hire personal trainers or belong to a team that is coached by one or more “experts” in the game.  When we want to learn an instrument or how to sing, we hire music instructors (and we practice, a lot).  When we need to develop a new professional skill in the workplace, we are trained by those who specialize in what we are learning to master.  When we are expecting a baby, we get professional support from midwives and doctors and we hire doulas to support our emotional journey.  

Point is— we develop skills and create with support of others.  I mean sure, there is a solo process at work as well— we need to practice, to study, to develop our our inner skill set, to consult our inner muses, to gestate our own creations—but we nearly always have support.  If we are to be successful and gain mastery at that which we are seeking to do.  

No matter how well trained people are, few can sustain their best performances on their own.  That’s where coaching comes in.
— Atul Gawande

Writing a book is no easy feat—it is a complex creation with myriad intricate factors to attend to.  Why do we imagine we can find our way alone, especially when most of us have never been taught how to do it in the first place? 

Getting a Sarod teacher (What is a sarod??? Exactly.)

It’s a little like picking up the Indian Sarod and just figuring you can sit in your room and learn how to play it well enough to perform on stage for a massive audience.  I mean, maybe you could, but you’ll probably just throw the dammed thing in the corner in frustration and let it collect dust foreverrrrrr.  BUT if you really want to succeed, you’d probably hire a Sarod teacher and make it so much easier on yourself; and much more likely you’ll actually learn the instrument…  

A doctor still has a doctor

And another thing: when a OBGYN doctor gets pregnant, guess what? They still have a team of support around them through pregnancy and the delivery of their baby.  Just because they are OBs doesn’t mean they don’t need support.  In our context, just because someone is an accomplished writer doesn’t mean they don’t need professional support when they go to birth a book.  

Ain't no shame in asking for book help

There is no shame in getting help and having a coach doesn’t suggest anything less of your competence as a writer—in fact, it shows you are smart enough to cull together the resources you need to be successful.  Basically hiring a book coach makes you a badass.  Just sayin’.

The value of a book coach

So that brings us right to the door of the book coach.  Why is having a book coach valuable?  There are many reasons.  

A book coach:

  • Offers sustained support, nurturing and guidance from the beginning of your project until your writing process is complete

  • Watches, witnesses, and reflects back what is working and what is not working in one’s writing process and book.

  • Holds up the mirror and holds the vision of what you are becoming and what you are creating

  • Believes in you, and your capacity to create and succeed in meeting your intentions for your book

  • Holds you accountable

  • Has been through the book writing process before and knows intimately the territory you are exploring

  • Offers emotional support when you need it

  • Helps you get unstuck and prevents you from getting stuck in the first place

  • Helps you navigate the whole process from establishing your author mindset, to honing your book ideas, to building a solid foundations…all the way through the writing process and into the editing stages

  • Offer you a place to process your experiences writing your book

  • Supports you in staying motivated and empowered and increases the chances you’ll actually enjoy book writing

  • Reduces the risk of failure or quitting, which happens VERY often to lone authors without support

  • Offers concrete and specific support for your writing—your book’s organization, your presentation of ideas and stories, your use of effective writing strategies, your style and language choice, and so much more.

  • Offers real-time feedback for your work, not to meddle with or modify your creation but to help you shape it so that it fully aligns with your vision.

  • Increases the effectiveness of your time (you spend less and less time in trial and error and more time with focused, supported efforts); this can decrease the amount of time you need to invest in your writing process

  • Helps you manage the inner critic and the obstacles to your success

Why can’t I just get a writing group, hire an editor, or take a weekend class?

Let’s be clear all of these resources are valuable and have their important roles in a writer’s life.  But they do not take the place of a book coach.  

A writing group may offer you emotional support, accountability, and some feedback on your writing.  Yet, they are not dedicated to supporting your unique book creation.  A writing group is akin to a pregnant women’s circle.  Yes, the support of those that are going through it with you is priceless, but your pregnant girlfriend is not the same as your doula or doctor.  They meet different needs. 

Your editor is not your book coach.  Editors are amazing.  Yet they are not the same as a book coach.  A book coach helps you from the conception of your ideas through the creation of your first draft (or subsequent drafts).  What if you do it alone and wait until you have a polished draft before you call in support?  You risk not making it to that milestone at all.  You may get stuck along the way.  You may flounder in resistance for months or even years.  You may give up before you even finish the first draft.  A book coach offers you editing support in real time as you are working on your book and helps you reach the stage where you are ready for an editor’s support. 

A workshop or weekend retreat in writing your book is divine but will not bring you the same value as hiring a book coach. These resources can help you work on a specific skill or learn a specific aspect of the writing process, or even help you get a few dozen pages written.  But this process is piecemeal, limited, and is not at all a substitution for sustained, focused, comprehensive support with your book process, which is what a book coach offers.  

If you are interested in learning specifically how a book coach might support you, many offer free discovery calls where you can learn more about them and their programs.  

Get the book writing help you need

I offer 3, 6 and 9 month programs for authors to support them in writing their books.  We work right from where you are in your process and move you forward to a complete draft, well prepared for the next steps on your publishing journey.  

Jaime Fleres