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What Is A Book Coach? A Guide To Seeking And Becoming One

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Enobong Essien

Staff Writer

Enobong is a former professional dancer turned publicity and marketing assistant and life-long lover of books. Fully Nigerian and fully British, Enobong now lives in Chicago with her nonfiction enthusiast husband and peculiar yet adorable cat roommate.

Are you still scratching your head trying to work out just what exactly a book coach is?

Here’s the scenario:

You’ve got a great idea for a book, you read copiously, and you’re a pretty talented writer (if you say so yourself). You’ve read On Writing by Stephen King and The Writing Life by Annie Dillard and you’re acquainted with copious theories on plot and pacing and characterisation, but you just can’t seem to get that New York Times bestselling book from your head to paper.

Or, you’ve got a great idea for a nonfiction book but don’t quite know how to flesh it out into a full-length, award-winning book.

Or, you have a completed manuscript and you think it’s fantastic but no agents or publishers are interested.

Maybe you need a book coach.

What is a book coach?

Book coaches are known by many names:

  • Book consultant
  • Publishing consultant
  • Publishing guide
  • Book shepherd
  • Book sherpa

These titles should give you an idea of the kind of relationship a writer can have with a good book coach.

Simply put, a book coach helps you move your novel along from the quicksand in which it is stuck or sinking to a literary agent’s or acquisitions editor’s acceptance pile—if you’re going the traditional route. If you’re pursuing the self-publishing route, then a book coach could be the difference between a book that never makes it off the shelves to a breakaway Amazon bestseller.

A good book coach will give you the tools you need to turn your manuscript around from 300 pages of frustration to a salable story, and this will mean different things for different people.

In my own writing, characterisation has never been a problem for me. My characters essential become the imaginary friends I never had growing up. They have their own dreams, outlooks, world views, and manners of speech that seem to take on so much independence it’s hard to remember that I wrote this person into being. Outlining a novel and creating a clear but interesting plot line, however, is where I fail.

When it comes to book coaches, it is not a case of one size fits all. Like writers and editors, different book coaches have different strengths and it is important to find the right one for you. Some people have a great idea but don’t know where to start putting pen to paper and making that idea a reality. In this case, you need a book coach that will work with you through the initial concept, plotting, planning and writing. A coach that will take you from conception to fruition.

For others, you may have started your book, you may be halfway through and just cannot figure how to continue, or you might have completed your first draft and don’t know where to go from there. Book coaches ask the difficult answers that help move your manuscript along.

A book coach is not an editor. Before you send your book to a professional editor you want to have polished it as much as you possibly can beforehand. However, a book coach might offer additional editing services. For many book coaches, they want to be in it with you from the ground up, before you’ve added too many unnecessary edits and tweaks and before you’re so deep in the project you cannot see the light.

First of all, identify what you struggle with in your own writing or what is lacking in your manuscript, whether partial or complete. If you don’t know or can’t figure it out, carefully look through the the rejection letters from publishers and agents, if you’ve reached that stage, or ask trusted and honest readers for their input. Then comes the research. Regardless of what many may say, no one can do it all, or at least not all at the same level. Finding a book coach that is particularly well-equipped for your needs will be an invaluable investment to your writing.

Do I need a book coach?

The short answer is yes, probably. The world is moving at record speed and unfortunately it took the publishing industry a little while to catch up (and it’s still lagging behind). The truth is that whether you choose to publish traditionally or self-publish, you probably need a book coach and here’s why.

Self-publishing sounds like a great idea. You have full control over your vision, you don’t have to face piles of rejection letters (or more likely emails) and you can get your book out there in a matter of hours if you so wish but more likely months instead of the minimum year and a half of traditional publishing. But it can also be a very lonely road and at the end of it you’re going to want some sales to back up all your efforts, right?

A book coach is a shepherd that will guide you through the ins and outs of the whole process, highlighting both the strengths and weaknesses of your writing and keeping you on track. A good book coach will have some industry experience, even if it’s not necessarily in book coaching, and will therefore have the contacts to refer you to for book cover design, Kindle formatting, and marketing strategies. But, most importantly, they will ensure that what you put out there is a well thought out, well-written, quality book.


If you choose to go the traditional route and are banking on having an intimate relationship with an in-house editor, think again. The publishing industry is more competitive than ever, and as many of the big house will publish over 50 books a year, the in-house editors just do not have the time to give each book the love and care it needs.

Publishers and sometimes even agents no longer have the freedom to acquire an author or a book based on its potential but are looking more and more for well-polished complete books they can send to the printers ASAP.

If you’re looking for someone to wade through pages of material that probably won’t make it into the finished product, to identify the plot holes and help you figure out a way to fill them, to better flesh your characters giving them hopes, aims and fears and to pull you out of the mire of despair when you cannot bear to write another word, then you’re looking for a book coach. The key is finding the right book coach to work for you.

How can I become a book coach?

In many ways becoming a book coach is very similar to becoming a book editor. It can seem very elusive but, like many things, it requires some drive, courage, and perseverance. What will work the most in your favour is gaining experience in a field related to book coaching. Being able to show success either in your own writing or editing, be it articles, or shorter pieces of writing, is a great asset. Also experience as a creative writing or English literature instructor will be very instrumental.

There are a number of book coaching networks you can join and sites offering book coach training but, for the most part, becoming a book coach is a freelance, entrepreneurial position. This is why experience really matters. Any time someone gives something they have created to another person for assessment and criticism, it is as if they are laying themselves out for dissection, and so they need to be able to trust the person they are sharing their work with. Establishing trust is essential to finding and keeping a good client base.

Just like writers need to establish what they need from a book coach before they hire them, a good book coach will have identified what they can specifically offer. Find your niche. Identify what it is you particularly excel at and offer that. Remember, we can’t all please everyone and we can’t all do everything. Discovering where you excel will ultimately lead to more success.

I have always been a firm believer of where there’s a will there’s a way. Whether your will is to write a book or be the person shepherding someone through writing a book, I’m fully confident you can find a way to make that happen.