SPS-369: Training with a Book Coach – with Jennie Nash
We all want to write the best story that we can. Yet the process can be challenging and at times, we might not know what to do next. That’s where book coaches can help and Jennie Nash chats with us all about the role of a book coach, how much they cost, and if book coaching services are right for you.
- Why feedback from loved ones on your writing may be detrimental
- The role and purpose of a book coach
- How to decide if a book coach is right for you
- Jennie’s advice and course on helping writers become book coaches
- How much you can expect to pay for a book coach
Resources mentioned in this episode:
ADS FOR AUTHORS: OPEN NOW – FOR A LIMITED PERIOD
WEBINAR: How to Use Ads to Supercharge Organic Sales with Rachel McLean.
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
SPS-369: Training with a Book Coach - with Jennie Nash
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self Publishing Show.
Jennie Nash: There's a lot of imposter syndrome. Who am I to tell somebody how to do this? And a lot of times people think that you have to be a successful writer to be a good book coach. That's something that I will argue till the end of time. I think it's a very different skill.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson, and first time author James Blatch, as they shine a light on the secrets of self publishing success. This is The Self Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It's Friday, which means it's The Self Publishing show with me, James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: If you're watching on YouTube, I'm wearing lots of layers. I've been outside today and I've got hat hair. I feel very self-conscious.
Mark Dawson: You do.
James Blatch: Mark Dawson, we have some Patreon supporters to mention.
Mark Dawson: No messing around today, straight in with the Patreons or the patrons. So yes, Honour Rae Corder from Tennessee, USA. Laura Burton, no address given. And Kevin P. Sullivan from New York, USA. Thank you to Honour Rae, who she's been in the community for years, Laura and Kevin.
James Blatch: Laura's been around as well.
Mark Dawson: Yes, they're all very familiar, so thank you.
James Blatch: These are familiar names.
Mark Dawson: They are, so thank you very much to the three of you for supporting the podcast and joining our happy band of Patreon fans. And where do we send people if they want to support the podcast?
James Blatch: To patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. Yeah, great to see Honour Rae on there. Haven't spoken to her for a while. So it's a way of getting involved in the podcast. You get some goodies, and you support the podcast, and you get stuff first as well. And if we do a PDF giveaway, of which I think we did last week, didn't we? We've got one next week as well. Definitely one around at the moment. You get that automatically without having to sign up or go through a landing page. Right, we have a couple of things to mention before we crack on with our interview today, which is about editing book coaching. We are going to talk about the Ads for Authors course, which is open for enrollment. This is the course which teaches you how to run paid ads to sell your books, which is quite an important thing to do.
Mark Dawson: It is, yeah. So we had our Facebook Ads Expedition, which we ran the week before we launched the course. And we had about 4,000 authors in a Facebook group following... I produced seven videos and then some email content that went along with that. And some authors are getting some really good results now. So I saw someone today adding new subscribers at 20 cents per subscriber, which that's very good. So enjoyed that. And then we segued seamlessly into the launch of the main course on-
James Blatch: Isn't that worth segue?
Mark Dawson: No, James. No, you can have a segue, but it's segue. Oh my God.
James Blatch: Is it?
Mark Dawson: Yes. Yes, you segue, but you can have a segue. Oh my goodness. This is-
James Blatch: S-E-G-U-E, isn't that segue?
Mark Dawson: It's not pronounced segway.
James Blatch: Oh, isn't it? Okay.
Mark Dawson: You don't say, "I segued into..." You say you segued into something. Oh my God.
James Blatch: Do you?
Mark Dawson: Yes, you do. You haven't been saying, "I segued into something," have you?
James Blatch: I thought two things joined together, like in a radio format, was a segue.
Mark Dawson: It is, yes. You can say it... Oh my God, I never thought I'd have a discussion like this on the podcast. So you can have a segue on a radio show, but the actual verb is to segue.
James Blatch: Is it? I'd never heard that before. Never heard anyone say it.
Mark Dawson: I'm going to look like a right tit, when it comes out.
James Blatch: I'm assume you're right. You should never mock somebody for this type of error because it means they've learnt through reading, by the way. And it's the same as hyperbole, which I thought was a different word from hyperbole, just because I've been reading it.
Mark Dawson: Do you say hyperbole? I am looking now online.
James Blatch: Well, you don't have to do this online, but people will know. We'll get 5,000 emails if you're wrong, but I'm sure you're right. So we'll get no emails if you're right.
Mark Dawson: I'll have a look. I'm seeing some interesting definitions here.
James Blatch: Anyway-
Mark Dawson: So we'll look at this later.
James Blatch: Anyway, where were you segueing to on this conversation?
Mark Dawson: Yes, I was going... So we went from the exhibition to the course launch. And so, yeah, the course is open now. So not just Facebook, Amazon, TikTok, BookBub, and plenty of other stuff as well. And it's the course that I think we're probably best known for, that's been out the longest and has had a part to play. Not going to say it was the main thing, definitely the writing is the main thing. But it's had a part to play in a number of very successful indie authors, who went from not selling very many copies to selling, in some cases, millions of copies. I can think of a couple of authors, off the top of my head, who've done very well. And are generous enough to credit some of their success to learning how to advertise on the course.
James Blatch: Well, to be fair, people like Shayne Silvers, he sat down and said to us it was all of his success. Because he was writing and trying, and nothing happened until he did Facebook Ads for Authors. And he has now a gazillion.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, he's doing very well.
James Blatch: And cherished member of the indie community. And the same could be said for Lucy. Lucy Score actually had an Amazon number one because she's such a brilliant writer. And she gets, intuitively, a lot right. But I think she also then... Coast is probably not the right word, but the course was what unlocked her potential marketing wise. And I've just been editing an interview with her this afternoon, which I recorded in September last year. So yeah, there are plenty of authors.
Mark Dawson: Were you holding onto a tree, as you recorded her?
James Blatch: There is a moment in the interview where the windows rattled behind, and she's like, "The hurricane is coming."
Mark Dawson: Just imagine you both-
James Blatch: The hurricane was coming at the time of the interview.
Mark Dawson: ... gripping on to trees or lampposts.
James Blatch: One more question, please, Miss Score.
Mark Dawson: While you're both horizontal. Yeah, so it's lovely to hear stuff like that. So I look forward to seeing that.
James Blatch: And me.
Mark Dawson: Yes, and you as well. You've done very well, yeah.
James Blatch: I'm not a gazillionaire yet from books.
Mark Dawson: Got to start somewhere. Yes, so lots of authors have done well. So anyway, I'll stop waffling about the course. But if you want to find out more, it is at selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors, A-D-S for authors. And that will give you all the information that you need.
James Blatch: It will. Good. We also have a webinar next week with Rachel McLean. And Rachel is a very, very good talker, who has, I think, an ability to bring some clarity to what we should be doing. And it is a world in which you are... People who go through the Facebook Ads Expedition are starting to realise this now, but there's a lot of different things. It's like when you talk about lead magnets, and landing pages, and connecting Mailchimp to Facebook. And there's lots of bits. What Rachel does is really narrow down to the key components and simplify that process.
It's a very good webinar for newish authors who are getting going. Or if you've got a few books out and you're trying to get your sales up. That webinar's going to take place actually on Monday. So this will be released on Friday the 27th of January. The webinar will be on Monday the 30th at 9:00 PM UK, which I think is about 4:00 PM Eastern, but don't hold me to that. Look it up. And if you want to join that webinar, couldn't be simpler, go to selfpublishingformula.com/rachel, R-A-C-H-E-L, signup. We will see you on there. We actually do have a TikTok webinar ahead of us, but I think this email would've gone out... This podcast, by the way, would've gone out just after that, so I can't push that at this stage. Okay, Mark, I think we can go-
Mark Dawson: Hang on.
James Blatch: Oh, go on. Here we go. Oh, you're segueing somewhere.
Mark Dawson: I think I'm about to segue. Actually, I'm about to segue into... This is how it's pronounced.
James Blatch: So mea culpa.
Automated voice: Segue.
Mark Dawson: There we go. James is right, I am wrong. Apparently, it is not pronounced segue. It is pronounced segway.
James Blatch: But I'm not going to mock you because you've learned that from reading. You've looked at the word. It's the same as as hyperbole with me. And my wife fell off her chair laughing about five years ago, when I was in my forties and was saying hyperbole and hyperbole.
Mark Dawson: Such a lot of hyperbole.
James Blatch: The moment realising they are the same word.
Mark Dawson: Is it like the Super Bowl?
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: Is this like one up from the Super Bowl?
James Blatch: The Superberly. Okay, here we go. Right, let's get onto our interview. Our interviewee is somebody who will be familiar to regular listeners to The Self Publishing Show. She is Jennie Nash, somebody who actually played a pivotal role in my movement into writing novels. And she did that because she is a big fan and advocate of book coaching. I love the concept of book coaching. I'm unashamedly a big fan of it. So instead of writing a book all by yourself in the dark, hoping everything's fine, then handing it to a development editor at the end. Book coaching does the development editing and a few other things along the way, chapter by chapter. Keeps you accountable, gives you feedback as you're writing, which is when you really need it, when you're learning your trade. It was perfect for me. Obviously, it is another cost and we talk about that in the interview as well.
But this is about book coaching, not just from an author point of view. We also talk about it as if it's something you might want to go into book coaching. And a bit like sports coaching, you don't have to necessarily be the best writer in the world to be a good editor. In fact, we know that's the case. But you might just be somebody who has the aptitude to be a really good book coach and that's something you can add to your repertoire. Okay, let's listen to Jennie Nash, and then Mark and I will be back. Repertoire. Here we go. Here's Jennie.
Speaker 1: This is The Self Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Jennie Nash, welcome back to The Self Publishing Show. We've spoken a few times on BookLab episodes, but I think this is only your second time as a proper full-length interview, I think.
Jennie Nash: Only my second time, what are there people who've been on 10 times? I think this is a privilege.
James Blatch: No, I think someone's been on three times. But I would expect you to be up there in terms of appearances. But here we go. It's a full length feature version, not a novella, but a novel length Jennie Nash episode today. And we're going to be talking about book coaching, which is your gig, your thing.
Jennie Nash: It is. I call myself an evangelist for book coaching. I'm all about it.
James Blatch: Well, so am I, funnily enough, because it rescued me from... It's exactly what I needed. It's so funny, when I look back at that episode in the sense of what happened to me. I was really going nowhere with my book. And I interviewed you, and you described book coaching. And all the way through the interview I just kept thinking, "This is exactly what I need." But it was too perfect, and I didn't say anything at the time. I think I messaged you after and said, "Do you know, I think this is for me." And you sorted out a coach for me. And it was absolutely 100% what I needed. And it took me from somebody flailing about, not really sure of a lot of aspects of novel writing, to on the road to writing a novel. And it was investment in my career, which has seen dividends. So that's my little advert for book coaching. But why don't we start with a explanation, I suppose, of what it is. And how it differs from the traditional editorial services that people can get.
Jennie Nash: Right, so most of us know what an editor does and why we need one. They come in when the work is finished to help make it better. And even a developmental editor is going to come in when you have a finished manuscript. And they're going to figure out how do we continue to develop this? And anybody who's been edited usually has loved it. There's nothing like having somebody else in your story with you, in the creative process with you, paying attention. Usually, we're all scrabbling for people to pay attention like, "Please read my pages. Please read my book. Please tell me what's going on." So when you get those eyes on your pages, people are usually thrilled.
And a book coach takes that idea one step further. And we're usually in the process with the writer, while they're writing. So instead of waiting until they're finished, we're helping them establish what needs to be done. We're working with the writing and the writer. So both the habits of the writer and the accountability, keeping the project on track, helping them understand the marketplace. A lot of writers new to this have no idea what they're entering, and this industry, as you well know, is very complicated, changing all the time. There's a lot to master. So having a book coach is... Just like having a basketball coach is going to help you improve your skills and get you ready for the game and help you do a better job, we're in there with people while they're working.
James Blatch: And a good basketball coach will work with you about problems off the court as well as on, which is something I think you just alluded to. That might not just be the writing, it might be imposter syndrome or not working hard enough and stuff like that. Stuff that we have to face as writers. You work with that as well.
Jennie Nash: 100%. And I'm really careful, both in my own book coaching and in the book coaches I train, not to pretend we're therapists because we're not. The therapists are if somebody has trauma in their past, or they're trying to sort out something in their life and they're trying to heal, that's therapy. But what a book coach can do is those things you talked about are exactly it. It turns out everybody has imposter syndrome. I don't care how accomplished you are in another field or in this field, at a certain point, everybody has it. And keeping a project on track... A book is a very complex undertaking. There's a lot of moving parts to it. There's a lot that goes on. And keeping that on track, and keeping accountable, is really important for a lot of writers. And some people have that skill and others need to develop that skill.
So a book coach is helping... And I would say, it's interesting at this point in my career, I've been doing this quite a long time. And I have come to believe that those intangible things, those internal things, about the writer, are the thing that makes the biggest difference between somebody, first of all, who finishes a book. But second of all, who gets it all the way over into publication. Those internal characteristics of the writer matter way more than any craft issue. You have to learn your craft, you just do. But we see so many people who stall out, or they start and stop over and over again, or they write the first three chapters over and over again and those first three chapters are amazing. And then they don't finish. Or a lot of people, also, will get close to finishing and then they'll freak out. And they'll put it in a drawer and that perfectionist tendency kicks in. So I, more and more, see that those are the things that matter. And those are the things that I'm helping my clients with, and helping people work through. I find it infinitely fascinating, actually.
James Blatch: Yeah, it is fascinating. And this is something that is attainable by everybody, the mindset side of pushing through and getting it completed. But it's incredibly helpful to have somebody leading there. I was thinking as you were saying that about the pop stars who become big successful pop stars, who we know their names. There's a million boys and girls who have amazing singing voices. But when you hear someone like Kylie Minogue or Katy Perry... Who's the big one? My daughter loves the biggest one in the world at the moment. I've forgotten her name.
Jennie Nash: Taylor Swift.
James Blatch: Taylor Swift, it was on at Christmas, pretty fun. When you hear them interviewed, they are incredibly driven, focused people on being successful. So that's the difference. Not the talent, necessarily. Obviously, there's talent there, but it's not necessarily that, not all that. It's that they decided to do it. They were the ones who kept going during those low bits, kept going through it. And as a novelist, it sounds like a strange analogy, but it is like that. It's hard writing a novel.
How many novels get started and never get finished, do you think?
Jennie Nash: Most people, really, the vast majority of people have a novel, I think tucked in their drawer. I love the idea, thinking about someone like Taylor Swift. I think about her all the time. Like you said, one of the biggest stars in the world. And what she has to endure in terms of demands on her time, what her fans expect of her, all those things that come with being in the spotlight and being on the stage. Anybody who's trying to write a novel is actually trying to step into a tiny piece of that. We're never going to be performing to an arena full of screaming fans. But writing and publishing a novel is very much stepping into a public spotlight. You're putting something out to sell. You're wanting people to read it. You're inviting people to judge it. That is literally what the online world is, is, "Judge this book. Give us the thumbs up or down, or stars," or whatever it is.
And people are not ignorant of this. We know this, subconsciously or consciously, that when we cross over that line to finishing and publishing, we are putting ourselves out there. And things can happen out there that are out of our control, that are scary and uncomfortable. And so I actually do think that becoming comfortable with those elements is a really important part of becoming a writer. It's saying, "I'm going to take up space. And I'm going to raise my voice." And when I see someone like Taylor Swift out there, just walking onto that stage and being in her body as that person that all those fans are looking at. Talk about taking up space and claiming that power. And novelists are doing the same thing. We're doing the same thing. It's a kind of a performance.
James Blatch: Yeah. And you do put yourself out there. And that's part of dealing with having had a published novel is dealing with that. And everybody goes searching for those negative reviews, of course. So having somebody holding your hand professionally. And your family don't always understand this. It's like any job. There's an amount of lip service your partner may pay to your tales of woe about your work job. But it's a bit different from having somebody who knows what they're talking about professionally. So I think we'll talk a little bit, in a moment, about what makes a book coach and how to get there. But just before we finish-
Jennie Nash: Well, I-
James Blatch: Go on.
Jennie Nash: I want to pick up on what you said because I think it's critically important. I think more damage is done by writers giving their fragile work to their family than almost anything else. I'm not kidding. Because people don't understand that there's... The folks who love you, love you. But they totally don't understand what it is you're trying to do. And they're either going to give you feedback that feels thin, like, "Wow, look at you. You wrote a book, good job. I'm so proud of you, honey." Which is not really what you want. Or they're going to presume that they understand things about your book, or your process, that they don't really understand. And they often will say things that shut people down. I've talked to more writers who have had somebody say something nasty or mean, or even just a little bit ignorant, that shut down their writing process.
So I often think one of the best things any writer who's trying to get their first book done can do is just be really discerning about who you give your work to, who you show it to. And make sure that you're not feeding it to the lions.
James Blatch: Yeah, that's a really good point. It's funny, I have lots of friends who are very supportive of my writing. And for that reason, there's one person I know in my private life who I give an advance copy of my book to. And the reason I do that is because he rips through novels all the time. He reads them nonstop. He loves Clive Cussler. He's always going on to me about these classics I should read from John le Carre. And he is perfect as an ARC reader for me. But I've hand selected him out of a lot of my friends who it'd be pointless giving it to. Half of them don't read, they don't read novels. Most people don't read novels, actually, when you ask people. And you're exactly right. The worst thing you can do is give a novel to somebody who doesn't really read novels. Because what position have they got to give you feedback on?
Jennie Nash: Well, and I had the experience with my husband, who comes from the world of finance. And I would give him my novels in progress. And they were fresh and new, and I was trying to get the emotional arc down. And did this novel work? And he would give me feedback about my grammar, and my word choice, and the very functional parts of it. And I would say, "No, no, no, that's not what I want. That's not what I'm looking for."
James Blatch: Doesn't really matter at that stage, yeah.
Jennie Nash: Right. And he would say, "But it's wrong." And we would get into actual fights. And I had to come to the realisation that just don't give him the work. Just don't do it. You're not going to get what you need from that interaction.
James Blatch: The thing is, he's not going to give you his spreadsheet, is he?
Jennie Nash: Please don't give me a spreadsheet.
James Blatch: What do you think of this report and accounts, the profit and loss table?
Jennie Nash: That's a really good point. Yeah, people think that if you read, you know how to evaluate writing, and you know how to create writing. And they're very different skills.
James Blatch: Yeah, yeah. Okay, let's talk about being a book coach then. There'll be people listening to this who think, "Oh, I could use the services of a book coach." And there'll be others thinking, "I like the idea of being that person." And this is also something I think you facilitate.
Jennie Nash: I do. And I have been a book coach, my own self, for 12 years now. And I largely, actually, turned away from my writing career because I like it so much. And I think it uses more of my talents. I have come back to writing in recent years, but I went away from it for a while because I liked it so much. But a lot of book coaches are using book coaching to build a steady stream of income in order to facilitate their writing career. And you know from your experience, when books come out, there's usually a big bump of income. And then you're going to have to invest in it, and write those second, third books in order to really build that income. James, didn't you just make money for the first time? Did I see that somewhere?
James Blatch: Yeah. Well, I actually made money my first year, not much, but I made about £750 pounds, about nearly $1,000. I'm now making money month on month, not, again, huge amounts. I've only got two published books and one and a half audio books. But yeah, it was a hard slog. And it is when you've only got one or two books. And I'm really nitty about the marketing, so I'm right next to Mark. I'm feeding off all of this. I'm right in the best possible position to market. Really nitty about Facebook ads. So everything I can do gets me just about making a profit with two books. So what you're saying is, at the moment, I need to be focusing on writing books three, four, five, six, seven, eight. That's where, hopefully-
Jennie Nash: Sure. And you have a job to support that long slog of getting the books into-
James Blatch: Yeah, I have several jobs.
Jennie Nash: great shape. Right, so a lot of people are using book coaching to fill that gap, and to get them over that hump. And they also find that they really like... Evaluating somebody else's work is the best way to learn about your own work. And it's the best way to see, when you're trying to figure out with someone else's work, why is this scene not working? Why is it flat? Why is it not connecting to the ones before? What's going on here? And you're trying to... It's like undoing a knot. And you get the language to be able to explain, "Oh, this is what is happening here." The protagonist has lost agency, say. Well, then, when you go back to your own work, and you're doing your own editing, and you're going through your own scenes, it's like, "Oh look, I'm doing the same thing." Or identifying an info dump in someone else's work, for example. When you've seen a few, it's just a pattern you can recognise again and again and again. Then you go back to your own work and there it is.
So a lot of writers find that it's a great way to build their own muscle. And then it's a great way to have a little extra income until they get their books up and running, or even after that. We have a lot of book coaches who do both because they love both.
James Blatch: So if you want to learn something, teach it.
Jennie Nash: I think so. And it's funny with writing, you can read something, maybe you start reading a novel and it just isn't working for you, and you put it down and you don't finish. Most readers aren't going to say why. They're not going to identify why did that not capture my attention, when this other one, I couldn't put it down? When this other one, I was just in it, and I was turning the pages, and I stayed up late. They're not thinking, "Why did that happen with one and not the other?" And as a book coach, that's all we're thinking about, all the time, is why, why, why? And trying to come up with the language and the words to articulate that to help the writer see it. And that process of going from the evidence to articulating the evidence, and then having to have a conversation with someone about it, yeah, it's just amazing training.
James Blatch: Yeah. We should also say, I was talking about making money, and scratching a profit out of things in the early stages. I also see editing, and development editing, and book coaching as investment at this stage. And I'm not even looking to get that money back immediately. That's like paying for your educational qualification to be a doctor or whatever. You do need to invest in that. It's a lot cheaper than becoming a doctor.
Jennie Nash: Yeah, yeah. I think one of the things that's wonderful about our industry is that anyone can publish a book, anyone can learn how to do it. Your tools and classes are teaching people exactly what they need to do in advance of publishing, while they come up to publishing, how to produce that book. The information is all there, for sure. So anybody can do it. And there's some people, the way that they learn is, give me the information, shut me in a room, and let me go do this by my own self. I think those folks are pretty rare. And, sometimes, those are the people that are lifted up as, "Look, here's this debut author who wrote their book in eight weeks and never showed it to anyone. And it hit the Best Seller List and made a tonne of money." It doesn't usually work like that. And most people need more training.
And one of the reasons that I am an evangelist for book coaching is that I taught for 13 years at the UCLA Writers' Programme, which is one of the largest adult education writers' programmes in the country. They do a lot of TV writing because it's in Los Angeles, so there's that whole component of the Writers' Programme as well. And I taught in that programme for 13 years. And it was very frustrating to be an instructor in that programme, because I would have 20, 25, 30 students and every one of those students wanted me to read their pages. That's how you learn. What am I specifically doing well? And as the instructor, I simply couldn't do it. I couldn't read 25 pages from 20 students every week. It was literally impossible. And for what I was being paid, for sure, impossible.
And I saw that what was happening in the teaching of writing was that the institutions were moving toward things that could be taught. What can you teach in a six-week or a 10-week class? Well, you can teach how to write a scene, how to write better dialogue, how to craft better characters, how to think about structuring a novel. You can do discreet, skill-based learning in that period of time. But what you can't do is give that one-on-one intensive feedback. And a lot of people that need that in order to learn. And, "Tell me what I'm doing well with my work, or not doing well with my work." And in the absence of that, you just get a lot of craft discussion. So I sometimes will see a manuscript where the craft is actually great. The scenes are good, the dialogue is good, the characterization's good. But the whole thing isn't holding together because it's piecemeal, and it's strung together, and not delivering an immersive experience to the reader. So to get that kind of training, I do think you need to invest in having somebody tell you what's really going on.
James Blatch: Yeah. Well, this is two people who are completely convinced about it. And some people listening to this might think, "This is too much. You both love book coaching, there must be something wrong with it." But, honestly, my experience was very positive. And, obviously, you are a book coach and you train book coaches, so you're going to be positive about it. So I apologise, there's no third party here who's a cynical person here. But you'll have to imagine that.
Jennie Nash: Well, I can offer a cynical view.
James Blatch: Okay, go ahead.
Jennie Nash: I've heard it a lot, so I'm happy to offer a cynical view. The cynical view is that it's expensive. Getting one-on-one help is expensive, whether that's from an editor or a book coach, it just is. Because it's one-on-one. It's not a group, it's not a class. And if somebody's trying to break into writing, and they are deciding how to spend their money... Let's say you have a chunk of money that you can invest in this project, where is the best way to spend that money? I am not going to begin to pretend to be able to tell somebody that. It's going to depend on their experience, what they're bringing to the table, all of that. But you were speaking before about the marketing, the Facebook ads, you've got to have budget to do that. Because if you write a beautiful book that nobody ever hears about, that doesn't matter. It's like a tree falling in the forest and nobody hearing it.
So that would be the negative side is, "Well, this sounds great, but it's expensive. And I don't have that money." Or, "I'm trying to write books to get the money. Now, you're telling me I have to spend it on some other thing." So that's the other side, I think, of the equation. And something that I hear a lot, that I don't have an answer for, is that there is a certain elitism to that. That there's only a certain kind of writer who could afford that. And it shuts out other kinds of writers. And I think that's a real criticism. It's a true point. Like I said, I don't have an answer for it. But those are some of the things that may be in listener's heads like, "Well, that's great, but I certainly can't afford that. And I need to get..." It's like a catch-22. I need to write the books to make the money in order to afford something like that.
James Blatch: It's worth saying, I didn't need a development editor after having a book coach through that stage of the writing. I went then to copy edit. And I think you'd expect that to be the case, would you not, if you worked with a book coach?
Jennie Nash: I would. Yeah, I would. I think working with the book coach, you can go right to proofreading, usually, with that. Well, and you said something earlier, James, that you now feel that you've got your skills in a place where you don't need that anymore. You've up upped your game, where you're working on your third book, and you get it now. You're doing it, you're rolling.
James Blatch: Yeah, I haven't used a development editor for book three. I'm going straight to copy.
Jennie Nash: Right. So that's something to think about as well. And I see that many, many times, where people are done with me. My voice is in their head, they've learned what they need to learn. "Oh, I need to ask why about that. I need to figure out why that emotion's not on the page. I see my info dumps now." They build that muscle. And it's not like you need to coach for life. Some people like working with the coach and continue. But it is something that you... Not outgrow, but it's scaffolding that you use to build a skill.
James Blatch: I think scaffolding is a really good expression, because you can read a lot of books, self-help books on writing. And so info dumps, for instance, is quite a big one that once you positively identify it, and you know what yours look like, you should pick those up. But I found with a book coach, there were much more subtle things that I was doing. I can even remember one of them, if I was in a scene, I used to say that somebody was watching somebody doing something all the time. So, "He watched as she kicked off her shoes, tucked her feet under her lap, and took a sip of her tea." And it was pointed out to me that you don't have to say that he's watching that because it's in the scene. And the scene went so much nicer when he sat down, she kicked off her shoes, and sat down as well. But it was just something I didn't even know I was doing.
Now, I don't know if a book's going to tell you that. But once you've been through that process, then when you write a new scene, you can hear exactly your voice, or whoever's voice, in your head telling you, "Uh-uh-uh." So that's where I am now, I think, when I write a scene. It is mainly your voice, Jennie, in my head.
Jennie Nash: Well, I love hearing this story of your progression into book three. And you're becoming a pro, that's what happens, is become a pro at all the different aspects of making the money, the running of the ads, the marketing, and the writing of the book too.
James Blatch: It's very exciting.
Jennie Nash: So that's a little bit of the... So it's not all just positive. That's a little bit the down-
James Blatch: So what does it take to become a book coach? What do you have to do? There's probably not a formal qualification, I'm assuming, for it?
Jennie Nash: No, it's an apprentice position, much like becoming an editor or an agent. There's a lot of positions in publishing that people become by doing it. So it is work that you become by doing it. I have been talking to a lot of people who don't realise that they're book coaching. They're already doing it, and they don't realise they're doing it. And, oftentimes, those are folks in a writing group who, they're the person that everybody wants to send their pages to. And everybody asks to read. And, "Oh, will you look this over?" And they're already functioning somewhat in that way. They just don't realise that they're doing it. And, oftentimes, when I point out that that's a job, and that they could in fact get paid for it, it's like giant light bulbs go off. And they realise, "Oh, that is something I would like to do in a more solid and sustainable way." So that's the one thing is some people are doing it and they don't realise that they're doing it.
And then, the other way in, we've seen a lot of people who are editors. Maybe they're freelance editors, and they're being paid in that way for that work. And when they realise that they could come into the process earlier, help that writer earlier, and not just when it's done, they realise that's something that they could take on. So it's usually people adjacent to the work that then turn into it and become it. I run a company called Author Accelerator that trains book coaches. And the vast majority of our coaches come from teaching, academia, librarians, copywriters. So those adjacent to coaching fields. I've started to hear quite a number of life coaches request training to be book coaches. Because it turns out that the career in a life coach, when somebody's helping somebody figure out what they want next; or what they want to do with their lives; or why they're feeling a sense of meaningless; or want a sense of purpose in their lives, oftentimes, it comes up that they want to write a book. So those people are adjacent to it as well.
Book writing for so many people is a deep aspiration that they've wanted for their whole lives. And when they finally let themselves say, "I'm going to do this, I'm going to commit to this," they're so excited. So yeah, becoming a book coach is, I think, first of all, acknowledging that it's a thing that you're close to. And then easing more into the work... It's a framework. It's looking at it in a different way, rather than coming in when the writing's done. Coming in and thinking about helping the writer as well as the writing. So it's the mindset shift that gets most people there.
James Blatch: And what's involved in your course on book coaching?
Jennie Nash: So we have a very robust training course that actually has people doing book coaching. So people learn, there's practicums in which they're working with writers. And one thing that is interesting is, they're usually working with writers for no cost. So they're helping people while they're in training. It's like if you go to get your haircut with somebody who's apprenticing, you're not going to pay or you're not going to pay as much. And maybe you're not going to get the best haircut of your life, but you're going to learn something. It's somewhat like that for the writers. But for the coaches, they have to go out and find people who they can coach. And to actually do the work because there's no other way to learn it other than doing it.
So we're guiding people through three specific practicums, at three different parts of the book writing process. And helping them figure out what to do, how to do it, how to have the coaching call, how to do the follow-up, how to think about what writers need. We're talking to them about the red flags that might come up for you. And we're talking about money, we're talking about marketing, how to price your services, how to talk to people about it. What's fascinating to me is that the things we were talking about with writers are exactly the same things with people becoming book coaches. There's a lot of imposter syndrome. Who am I to tell somebody how to do this? And who am I that they're going to listen to me? A lot of times, people think that you have to be a successful writer to be a good book coach. And that's something that I will argue till the end of time. I think it's a very different skill.
James Blatch: Well, we know that just from the best editors in the world, working in traditional publishing companies, very often haven't written a book.
Jennie Nash: That's right. But there is a sense of imposter syndrome that people have to get over. I find that there's a huge amount of work that has to be done around money. I said before that a lot of people book coaching realise that they have been doing it. And then they want to make a shift to be paid for that work. And that can be very daunting to suddenly say, "Oh, I was doing this to be nice to people and for my friends. And, now, I'm going to be charging money for it." And we see a lot of undercharging. So I'm frequently talking to book coaches about the pricing of their services, and how to think about them. And how to think about... This is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, what I was saying before, the way writing is taught is usually very piecemeal. Writers get a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and a little bit of the other. And what a book coach is doing is giving more of a whole solution and an investment in that whole process.
And so for the book coach, it's thinking about... Here's a perfect example, a very tangible example. You might ask somebody to edit, let's just say, your description of your book that's going to go up on Amazon. We might call it the jacket copy, the description of your book. You could hire someone for... It's only 250 words. You could pay very, very little to have somebody correct those words to make sure your English is correct. Or, now, you could use AI software, which is so good, and correct most of those words. And these are all good things. Yes, have correct words, have no mistakes. But a book coach is going to be able to talk to you about the use of those words in a more holistic way. And how are they capturing what the story is really about? And are they speaking to the genre expectations of that reader? And a little more marketing focused understanding of what those words are doing and not just correcting them.
And that's just a tiny example of a more holistic solution that is looking at what does that writer need? Why do they want those words edited? So that's something that we look at too. So there's many different layers to the work. And I think that's why I enjoy it so much is it's being part of somebody's creative process is a huge privilege. And being let into their work while it's still in process is... Somebody's really putting their trust in you. And I love it, even when it doesn't go well. This is a roll of the dice, writing a book. You don't know, you can't guarantee, really, anything.
And that's an aspect that I enjoy about book coaching too, is that it's not math. It's not if you do X, Y is going to happen. There's some prediction possible. But you didn't know when you started out that your books were going to break even at this time or in this way. And you still don't know. And what's going to happen at book six? We can guess and we can predict, but you don't really know. And so a book coach has to be comfortable with that uncertainty. And I, for one, just love being... I love writers. I love the bravery that they have. That they're willing to do this thing, and take this risk, and make something out of nothing. It's incredible. We're making something out of thin air that is going to impact another person, that another person's going to spend time with and energy with. And that's just an incredible thing that we do. And I love being part of that and being in it with somebody. And that's the kind of thing, if somebody's drawn to, they would love book coaching.
James Blatch: Yeah, it is an amazing thing. And I was chatting to Mark today, I was talking about book four. And what I might do is a little bit different, slightly, change the tone. But pick one of my characters and be a little bit more... Well, for a start, make it a serial that goes book to book. So far they've all been standalones with some overlapping characters. So a slightly different take on things. And I was saying to him how much I love this bit at the moment, where there's this blank page. I haven't finished book three, so I'm just ruminating what book four's going to be about.
And one way I was thinking about it, there are all these people and characters, and there are tanks and planes, and world situations that are all going to do what I say. They're all going to move. If one country's going to invade another, that will be my decision. Somebody's going to die or live, that'll be my decision. If they're going to fall in love. They're all yet to happen.
And I'm not saying I have a God complex, but it is incredible what we do as writers, just that creativity of creating that universe. And then handing it to somebody to read. It's a big thing, isn't it?
Jennie Nash: It's a really big thing. And I love the way you describe that. How many places in your life do you have that kind of power and control?
James Blatch: Maybe we're all psychopaths, more or less, there you go.
Jennie Nash: I think it's true, I think it's true. And I do want to just point something out, because you know that you sit in a place of extreme privilege. But the fact that you get to go to Mark Dawson, and chit-chat about your fourth book and what it might be, that's the thing most writers don't have. And that's what a book coach can be for those people that don't sit at Mark Dawson's right-hand side.
James Blatch: Which is, he never gives me any help, by the way. But anyway, yes. Finally, I want to just want to focus on the writer's experience as we finish up here. And when is the right time to take on a book coach? And what would that experience look like? When's the end of the experience? What happens?
Jennie Nash: That's a good question. So what I normally say is that if there's any budget whatsoever for editorial help on your book, do it as soon in the process as possible. Don't wait until you have a finished manuscript. Because, oftentimes, what you're doing is baking in problems. And someone like a book coach can help you on the fundamental outline of your story, those fundamental building blocks. And make sure that they're solid, and in good shape, and that you're hitting your genre conventions, and that the plan is good. That is an incredibly beneficial time to get book coaching.
And it doesn't have to be that long an engagement. We have a blueprint process that we walk people through; it's a 14-step process. And the coaches do it in different ways and different styles. But a writer can get through that in four weeks, six weeks. It can be a very short period of time. And then you have this very solid roadmap, and you can go off and write the book, and know that you're not going to be baking in any fatal flaws. To me, that is the best possible investment is to do it at the beginning.
So most people don't do that. Most people write forward, they've got that vision, like you're saying, and they just want to get it on the page. Or they're doing something like NaNoWriMo, and they're racing to get the words down. And that, I recognise, is what a lot of writers are going to do. And if that's you, and if that's the case, and you've got a finished manuscript, that's the point at which I would seek help. To make sure, "Okay, what do I have to fix or shore up in order to make it better for my next round?" So either when you're starting and you have nothing, or when you've got a finished manuscript.
And one mistake a lot of writers make is they think that the point is to make everything perfect before they give it to that coach or editor. And that's not true. You're giving it to that coach or editor in order to make it more perfect. They can help you, even if it's got flaws in it. That's part of what they're going to do is help you figure that out. So don't imagine that... The reason it's a mistake is, if you get all the way till the point where you're polishing your words, and you think that you're that close to publishing it, that this is my polish edit. And then you go and you give it to someone for feedback, you're not really going to be open to feedback. You're probably going to work very hard to protect what you've written so that you don't have to ruin it or tear it apart. So you want to go to seek help at a point at which you still have energy to process feedback and to make it part of the work. You can be too far in to have help be useful.
James Blatch: Yes, you just don't want to hear, at that stage, there's a fundamental problem with this. Although, I assume in the old days of traditional publishing, in the 1970s and '60s, that's probably exactly what they told them, isn't it? "Yeah, good first, but try again." And think about how depressing that was, but then it took so long to get every book out.
All right, finally, costs. How much can people expect to pay for a book coach? And then, in terms of becoming a book coach, how much should they expect to invest in that?
Jennie Nash: So people can expect to pay for a book coach anywhere starting around $400 to a whole heck of a lot more. It just depends on how long you're in it, and how long you're doing it. But our coaches are setting their own prices. And that's a $400 investment is about the entry level. And when I say a whole heck of a lot more, I have clients who are working on their third books, and they just want to work with a book coach. They've got publishers, they're in it, they want me in their process, and they're paying me many thousands of dollars a month. So it can go up to really a much higher price point. But there are definite entry level points that are more affordable.
In terms of how much it costs, our book coach training programme is $2,400. And that's for a six to nine month training programme that involves a lot of support, and feedback, and help, and a very robust course. And most people are earning... In the first year, 48% of our book coaches earn at least $15,000. And of that 48%... I'm just trying to look to make sure I get my statistics right. 40% of that 48% made more than $30,000 in their first year. So people are absolutely earning that money back pretty quickly. And then, those folks that are earning the $15,000, the $30,000, they're doing it part-time. We have folks who are doing book coaching full-time making six figures and multiple six figures. So the earning potential is there. And that $2,400 class includes a year of support after you're certified. And our community includes ongoing education, and referrals, and all kinds of great things. So that's the investment.
James Blatch: Book coaching still doesn't have the place in our ecosystem that editing does, does it? Writers who first-
Jennie Nash: Book coaching is super new. It's very new. And it's come up from the changes in the publishing industry where, what you guys are doing, is empowering writers to take control of their own writing destiny. And the entire industry has moved to that in every way. Even those who are going for traditional publishing deals, they're not editing the way they used to. They're not nurturing careers the way they used to. They expect you to come in with a ready to go book. And so the movement to that writers have to build their own teams and get their own help, that's where book coaching has come from. This was work that used to be done inside the publishing house. It's what were referring to, the nurturing a career along, helping a writer figure out what to write next, looking at their pages while they wrote. That was all done back in the day, but those days are long gone. So book coaching has filled that gap. And that's why it's new is that that's a new thing in our industry that it's not done anymore.
James Blatch: A perfect, succinct way to sum everything up and wrap it up. Thank you very much indeed, Jennie. Thank you for your time in sunny Los Angeles. I can see the Californian sun flooding that picture there. It's nighttime here and it's snowy, which is nice. You're Santa Barbara way, aren't you? Are you?
Jennie Nash: Yes, yes. And it is always sunny here, but I'm looking at your Christmas sweater and thinking that sounds lovely today.
James Blatch: If you're in California, that's what you dream of. And when we're in Northern Europe, you dream of those sunsets. But yeah, there you go.
Jennie Nash: Well, enjoy the snow, and enjoy the winter time. And thanks for having me back.
Speaker 1: This is The Self Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: There you go. So that is Jennie Nash. I love talking to Jennie. She's got so much experience in that field. And she's built this Author Accelerator business. As I say, I'm a fan because I used it and it worked for me. And it came exactly the right time. And the more I think about it, Mark, how difficult it is writing a novel... And oh God, I'm doing book four now, and I'm suddenly really running into roadblocks. I whined on last week about this. And I'm finding it really hard, again, suddenly. It's something a lot of people do just struggle with by themselves. But the amount of self-help books around today and book coaches, I think is probably one step up from that. Another human who listens to what you're trying to do and professionally talks you through it. There's a cost involved, unfortunately, with that, but very, very welcome aspect, I think, to the indie writing community.
Mark Dawson: Therapy.
James Blatch: Therapy, yeah. Bit of therapy. We all need that.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it's useful. And, also, if you're paying something, especially when it can be quite expensive sometimes, it's a good way to hold yourself accountable. Because you're going to feel you need to get value for money. You've invested in something, there's no point in wasting the money. You've got to follow through. So there are lots of reasons why it can be effective. But there are other ways too. I find go for a walk, that's a pretty good way at least to clear small blocks and things like that. But yeah, occasionally, you need to speak to somebody else. And an editor is a pretty good place to start.
James Blatch: Yeah. Well I did another interesting interview, which I recorded earlier this week, and I'm trying to work out who that was. I'm looking at the... Was it Helena? No, it wasn't Helena. Who on earth was it? I did an interview in the last week.
Mark Dawson: A very interesting interview that you can't remember.
James Blatch: Kate Pickford. It was Kate who I interviewed earlier this week. Sorry, I do do a lot of interviews. And it was a very, very good interview. It's coming up soon. And Kate talked about the human brain, the most creative part of the human brain, only really working when you're not doing something else. Or you can do something repetitive, which is classically, as she points out, why we have ideas in the shower. Because you're doing a repetitive process, that you're not engaging that part of your brain, and it starts to be creative. So walking is excellent. Shut up. Walking is excellent, exercising, running. Or meditating, or forcing yourself to have this period. What's wrong with you, man? Yes, so that's-
Mark Dawson: I'm just thinking of your repetitive things you do repetitively in the shower.
James Blatch: Shut up. I know what you're thinking, but we don't need to lower the tone of this august show.
Mark Dawson: It's late on a Friday when we're recording this. I'm allowed to be sweaty now and again.
James Blatch: I'm going out to Wetherspoon's tonight, so I'm pumped. Huntingdon Wetherspoon's, go out for a fight.
Mark Dawson: I'm not.
James Blatch: Yeah, look, there are lots of things going on in the background. Thank you very much indeed to Jennie. We've had a really busy week. Obviously, we've had this Facebook Ads Expedition. By the way, you can still go to that Facebook group, and you can still take part in the expedition. It's not time expired. Those videos are all still there. If you go to... In fact, we've got a quick link to get to it, which is selfpublishingformula.com/facebookchallenge, all one word. The group actually is called Facebook for Authors, so you'll probably find it if you search on Facebook. And there's videos there, you can start doing them tomorrow. And there's lots of people in the group who've worked through that and are asking each other questions. It's a really good, supportive place to be.
And yes, there's some plans for potentially to roll out that teaching in other forms. I had a really brilliant call with TikTok this morning, I had a conference call with them. Obviously, they're very interested in working with organisations like us to reach authors. And make sure that they're using the platform as well as they can do. So we'll see where that goes. We're looking forward to having them probably at our conference in June. I think that's it.
Mark Dawson: Yes, that is it. So yeah, we'll talk next week. I may going to Seattle in a couple weeks time to-
James Blatch: Who's in Seattle? Are you going to see Boeing?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, going to see Boeing, exactly, yeah. Could be a world's largest river. Might have a presence there.
James Blatch: I'll come with you, and I'll just go to the Museum of Flight at Boeing.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, exactly.
James Blatch: And see the first ever 747. One day, I'll do that. Yes, anyway, okay, look, thanks very much indeed to our team in the background, who make this show happen each week. And thank you very much indeed for listening, and particularly our Patreon supporters. That's it for this week. All that remains for me to say is it's goodbye from him-
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
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