How to Get a Book Coach Experience on a Budget
The prospect of writing and publishing a book can be overwhelming for some new authors. It’s easy to understand why. There’s so much to learn, and knowing what questions to ask to fill gaps in your knowledge is impossible without having that knowledge in the first place. There are the intricacies of writing within a chosen genre to consider, of course, but also publishing processes to organise and marketing skills to hone. Without prior experience, it’s difficult to know where to start. That’s why many new authors turn to book coaches for help.
Book coaches are typically experienced publishing professionals or successful independent authors in their own right. Having learned the business the hard way, they mentor less experienced writers on an hourly rate or per job. Their mentorship can be invaluable but it’s an expensive way to learn. A good book coach, for instance, can charge $100 per hour session or several thousand per project. For that fee, you get:
- Someone who understands author struggles
- Knowledge and experience
- Help with motivation and mindset
- Editorial guidance
- Strategic business advice that aligns with your career goals
- Accountability for hitting deadlines
- An honest second opinion for testing ideas
Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced writer who’s hit a plateau and needs guidance to reach the next level, a book coach can help. Having said that, you may be unable to afford a service of this kind, especially if cashflow is the issue driving you to consider getting a coach in the first place. So, are there ways to bootstrap a similar experience without paying a fortune? In short, yes. Read on to find out how to gain the main benefits a book coach affords you at a fraction of the price.
Knowledge and Experience
Limited by our own experiences, we often view those who are achieving our dream as a special breed. The truth, though, is that everyone is human. Most professional authors are more approachable and generous with their time than many people expect. As a result, gleaning their knowledge and experience doesn’t necessarily require payment. In many cases, if you reach out to authors who are already achieving similar results to the ones you want, most will offer guidance and answer specific questions, as long as you aren’t too demanding.
Those you approach don’t have to be megastars. In fact, writers who are just a few steps ahead of you sometimes give better advice, because they can still relate to your lack of experience and therefore won’t overload you with advanced information when you are still learning the basics. You can start by finding a few authors who have good track records writing in your genre. Then watch what they do and ask questions. Some will offer more advice than others, but the information they share collectively will help you to glean just as much industry knowledge as you would get from a book coach.
Many authors hire a coach to help them improve their writing chops. Book coaches excel in this area, offering one-to-one editorial feedback over several weeks or months to help authors polish a work in progress. They see several iterations of the work and provide a sequence of rapid feedback loops to fast-track the writer’s technical ability. What’s more, their advice is consistent and tailored to their client whom they offer plenty of opportunities to ask follow-up questions. The knowledge and experience a good coach has enables them to offer solid, objective advice.
What you’ll find, though, is that you can progress just as quickly by hiring a high-quality editor. You’ll probably get less facetime but the feedback will be similar, only at a cheaper price. If, for example, you’re in the early stages of a book and want help with story structure, you could send a detailed outline to a professional editor for an editorial assessment. These can cost as little as $7 per 1,000 words on Reedsy or on Fiverr. Alternatively, you could get a line edit for as low as $10 per 1,000 words to help weed out your bad grammar habits. These costs can stack up, but they’re cheaper than the potential $20-50 per 1,000 words you might pay a book coach when you factor in discussion sessions.
If you’ve completed a creative writing course or have an English Literature degree, as many authors have, you probably understand grammar, punctuation and story structure. In your case, you might want a book coach for help with the business side of publishing. If that’s true, then a good coach could help you to identify your ideal audience and tailor your work to optimise its chances of resonating with them. Plus, they could introduce you to self-publishing practices or show you how to gain the attention of a traditional publisher.
It’s possible, however, to learn all of this without spending anything. For instance, you could ask a more successful author or a small publisher if you could lighten their workload, initially for free but later for payment once you’ve been trained. Many are extremely busy and will gladly teach you how to handle their regular admin and marketing tasks in exchange for assistance.
Operating behind the scenes will give you access to their organisational systems and workflows, as well as insights into why they make certain business decisions. You can transfer much of this learning to your own business and eventually even get paid for the assistance. You won’t necessarily earn a lot, but this sort of work is flexible and will give you real-world experience on the business aspects of publishing.
Publishing is a diverse industry. Some genres like urban fantasy and thrillers are commercial, whereas others like memoir and literary fiction are more likely to garner high-brow awards. Similarly, some have readers who respond well to Facebook ads while others require a different approach. And some reader groups insist you write to a formula of tropes to gain traction, whereas others are more flexible. It’s difficult to know what genre expectations and strategies will benefit you before you’ve gained first-hand experience, so speaking to a specialised expert can help you to avoid predictable pitfalls and make informed strides that align with your goals.
A book coach can guide your strategy regarding these issues, but you can gain similar insights from data providers like K-Lytics. Such companies offer relatively inexpensive sales reports that you can use to assess different genres and identify trends among the bestsellers that can inform your own writing decisions. Once you’ve found a niche you like, joining a Facebook group like SPF Community or 20BooksTo50K can help you with the next step. Both contain genre-specific experts who give craft and marketing guidance based on what has worked for them. Joining these communities is free and their members routinely provide lots of tips that even a brilliant book coach might not consider.
Writing and publishing books is an emotional process that even strains the mental health of confident authors at times. In general, we writers have a high enough opinion of our own work to charge for it but still suffer from crippling insecurities. Hence, part of a book coach’s job is to reassure clients who struggle and encourage them to keep going when the process gets tough. This can mean celebrating successes or simply offering wisdom as a fellow author when a strategy doesn’t work as expected. Non-writing friends and family aren’t always great at this because they don’t understand the author lifestyle and mentality, so having someone who does is valuable. But it doesn’t have to cost you.
You can replicate this experience by creating or joining a writers’ circle. Thanks to the internet, finding one is easy. Whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, it’s possible to reach out and organise a meeting with fellow authors from all over the world, whether it be once a week or once a month. Many either already belong to one or would love to get involved, so finding your tribe shouldn’t be too difficult. Groups develop a sense of camaraderie, talk through each other’s ideas and even grow to become friends. They can celebrate your wins and advise you on how to overcome losses just as a book coach would do it.
A good book coach can help any author to learn the ropes of publishing or improve their skills and execution. That said, getting one isn’t essential. Filling your social circle with fantastic authors from the community will help you to cover much of the same ground. So if you can’t afford a coach, don’t worry. You can always get one later in your career once you’ve seen some early success. As long as you find some way to learn and gather experience, you’ll get to where you want to be in the end.
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