What is book coaching?

I recently submitted my practicums for the Advanced Book Coaching Certification Course at Author Accelerator, the business established by world-class book coach, Jennie Nash. This was an in-depth course that took me four months to complete, and the practicums will be evaluated by Jennie’s team to see if I qualify. I sincerely hope I do!

Why, you ask, would I spend the time, effort, and money to gain such a qualification—when I’m already a published author and an experienced editor? There are several reasons for this. Below are three of the most important ones.

A book coach is different from an editor.

In a nutshell, you hire an editor when you have a completed manuscript. The editor gives it a close read, and depending on whether it’s a developmental edit or a line edit, provides an editorial letter detailing all the areas for improvement she sees or marks up the entire manuscript with detailed suggestions. Then it’s up to you, the writer, to assess the comments and suggestions and decide whether you want to accept them.

When you hire an editor, it’s generally a one-time relationship. It’s over when the editor has provided the services you contracted her for. The editor generally never gets to see or necessarily discuss the changes the author chose to make.

A book coach, on the other hand, establishes an ongoing relationship that can last through your entire project—or any part of it during which you decide to work with a book coach. A book coach has all the abilities of a good editor, but adds some important skills and services to that relationship with the author.

You can hire a book coach at any point during your project and get valuable help.

Yes, that’s right. You can hire a book coach:

  • At the very beginning of your project—you have an idea for a book but you don’t know where to start, or whether it’s an idea that will work.
  • When you’re partway through your manuscript, and you’re stuck, and you need help figuring out what’s wrong and getting back on track.
  • When you’ve got a finished manuscript, maybe it’s even been edited and been through beta readers, but it’s getting rejections from agents and editors and you need help figuring out why.

A book coach can help you think through the fundamentals of your story using tools that go beyond editing.

Part of the book coach training is learning how to assess a manuscript from a high level, focusing on the big picture and making recommendations. Book coaches help you answer questions like:

  • Does the novel or memoir start in the right place?
  • Are the characters believable and do they make the reader care?
  • Is the style and length appropriate for the genre?
  • Are there red flags concerning the marketability of your book?

And much more.

What exactly does a book coach do that’s different from editing?

In addition to having to be an accomplished editor, a book coach has to have an array of skills that aren’t necessary for an editor, including:

  • Project management

Your book coach will set deadlines and outline deliverables for you, based on your initial consultation with the coach. This often helps writers establish much-needed writing practice discipline, and it can spur you on when you see that there’s an end goal in sight.

  • Knowledge of the marketplace

A book coach keeps tabs on the requirements of the marketplace for the different genres she coaches, is aware of trends and important news, and can help keep writers on track for meeting the demands of whatever genre they’re working in. Is your manuscript too long? Is the voice appropriate for your age group? What comparable titles show that your book has a chance of being picked up by an agent or editor? 

  • Regular communications and check-ins

You and your book coach will have many interactions—through email, online, face-to-face depending on your location—and the quality of those interactions are a vital piece of a successful book coaching relationship. They’re built into your coaching program, usually every two weeks depending on the package you choose.

  • Trust and integrity

Your relationship with your book coach is based on trust: trust that the coach will be honest with you; trust that she will celebrate your successes and commiserate with rejections; trust that everything between you will remain confidential, unless you give your coach permission to share your work as examples for other coaching clients.

Manuscript Formatting for Submission

I’ve seen it over and over again. I get a manuscript to edit, and it’s nearly impossible to work with before doing some major changes just to make it readable on the page. This is especially true when I’m doing interior book layout. It’s sometimes hard to catch all the odd things writers do (manual line breaks, manual hyphenation of words, spacing in to make paragraph indents, etc.). You’ll save your editors and readers lots of time and trouble if you learn how to set it up right in the first place.

And if you’re asked for 10 pages of a manuscript by an agent, that means 10 pages double spaced, Times New Roman 12pt!

So I’ve created a little cheat sheet here that you can download that tells you all the standard formatting expected by people who may review your manuscript. Feel free to download it for your own use!

A few recommended resources

Writing is a solitary occupation. Fortunately, the Internet has become a ready source of information and connection, whether you’re researching a story or looking for guidance on craft—or just want to read about what other writers are doing. Below are a few of my go-to resources when I need a little writing inspiration.

Lithub.com

This site really is a hub, gathering content from all around the Web as well as content they generate themselves. It’s a good place to explore as a Web site, and I also recommend getting their daily emails, which give a good taste of the news and information on their site.

Women Writers, Women’s Books

This online magazine, dedicated to putting women writers in the foreground, often has wonderful essays and insight into writers’ creative processes, as well as their routes to publication. (You can read my recent article on this site!)

SheWrites

Even if you’re not going to use their publishing services (which offer a very professional hybrid publishing option—but are quite expensive), there’s a ton of great content about writing, editing, and publishing on their site. And they don’t bombard you with emails if you get on their list.

Daily Writing Tips

This is particularly good for nuts-and-bolts, basic information about grammar and usage. They send writing tips with considerable substance to your inbox.

There are many more great sites out there. Tell me about the ones you like in the comments!