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This blog was featured on 11/16/2019
Do You Have to Be a Published Writer to Be a Great Book Coach?
Written by
She Writes
November 2019
Written by
She Writes
November 2019

This is the question I get most frequently when writers inquire about becoming a book coach. They feel drawn to the idea of helping writers reach their dreams and are excited about the prospect of doing satisfying work that allows them to be immersed in words and ideas all day. But they worry that they are not yet far enough along in their own writing career to guide others.

There are so many myths and misunderstandings tied up in this idea, and I am going to untangle the top four:

Myth 1: Published authors have superior skills to unpublished writers. Remember that publishers are the ones who bestow the title of “published author” onto a writer, and publishers are not looking only at a writer’s skillset. Publishers are in the business of selecting books they believe will sell, and they are generally quite good at this. They are curators, gatekeepers. They are looking at a book’s execution, yes, but in the context of its topic, what’s currently selling in the market, how well other books that are similar to this book have sold, and where they predict the market will move in the coming months or years. So in many cases, the reason Writer A lands an agent and a publishing deal and Writer B does not is due entirely to luck and timing. Their work may be equally strong – it’s just that all the pieces fell into place for one and not for the other. Unpublished writers may also simply be on the long road to becoming published – a road that can be long and winding. Automatically ascribing value to the published author and a lack of value to the unpublished writer is a simplistic way of looking at how a writer earns the “published” title.

Myth 2: Book coaching requires the same skills as writing. The most fundamental truth about writing a book is that you do it alone. You sit alone in a room and draw on your own intuition, intelligence, and imagination to build a tale (fiction) or an argument (nonfiction). The most fundamental truth about coaching someone is the exact opposite of this truth: You are engaged in a professional relationship with another person. You must work to earn their trust, determine their weaknesses and their strengths, and figure out how to inspire them to raise their voice and do their best work. The two activities – writing and coaching – are vastly different. You can be a great writer and a terrible book coach. You can be an average writer and a fantastic book coach. There is little connection between success at one and success at the other.

Myth 3: The only people who know how to coach someone through a book are those who have done it themselves. There is no reason why someone who knows how to write knows how to teach someone else how to do it. Some of the wackiest and most unhelpful advice I have ever heard given to writers has come from successful and famous writers who clearly know how to write, but who don’t know how to show someone else how to do what they do. In other industries, people have no expectation that a coach must achieve a certain benchmark in the discipline they are coaching. Serena Williams’ coach, for example, is a man who never played tennis beyond the junior level. He has not won a Grand Slam tournament, has not played in a high-stakes final, has not earned a $3-million paycheck for two weeks of work, and yet he knows how to guide his famous client to do all those things. You can absolutely be great a book coach even if you have not had success as a writer.

Myth 4: The only way to learn how to coach someone through writing a book is to first do it yourself. Publishing is an apprentice-based business. Literary agents learn how to be agents by starting as interns or assistants and working their way up to represent their own writers. They are not required to write a book before becoming an agent. Likewise, editors learn how to do their work by apprenticing under other editors. They, too, are not required to a write book before guiding other people to do it. In the same way, book coaches can learn the skills of the trade by studying the craft of coaching and apprenticing with people who are successfully doing the work. They do not have to have written a book themselves.

The most important requirements for becoming a great book coach have far more to do with compassion, patience, and the ability to guide a complex project to fruition than with being able to publish a book. If you feel called to become a book coach, don’t let your lack of being published – or your lack of landing an agent or your lack of having earned a certain amount of money from your work – be the thing that stops you from moving forward. Find a way to learn the skills you need to learn to do good work, and then go do it. 

This is a sponsored post from Author Accelerator.

Jennie Nash is the founder and CEO of Author Accelerator, a book coaching company on a mission to help writers write books worth reading. Join her on January 20, 2020, for a free online Book Coaching Summit – an entire week of programming about what book coaching is, how it works, and how to run a successful book coaching business. If you don’t want to wait that long, also check out her free course: Book Coach Basic Training.

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