Image of a woman writing and shelve of books

Would a book coach help you?

Here's how to decide and pick the right coach for you.

Imagine if we gave potential pilots the following instructions, ‘just go away and chat to a few people who have flown a plane before, read a few blogs or books, do a bit of practice online in a simulator, then come back in 6 months’ time and we’ll see how many fatal crashes you’ve had.’

That’s a pretty scary proposition, right?

So, it makes sense that anyone who wants to ‘become something’ and become something great, not just OK – a pilot, athlete, leader or even author – needs a logical system to follow and, more importantly, guidance through that system to be successful (and minimise their chance of crashes).

This is the essential role a book coach plays for authors.

Yes, we give experienced and professional editorial feedback, but we also motivate and direct you, and give you the support you need to get the job done, and done well.

In my experience, most entrepreneurs and experts I meet actually want to write their own book (as opposed to hiring a ghostwriter to interview you and write it for you). They want to accomplish what may be a lifelong goal, or something they’ve always dreamed of.

But this doesn’t mean you have to be a “bad writer” to work with a coach; equally you don’t have to be a “good writer”.

Why hire a coach?

People turn to coaches for many reasons – for critical and objective feedback, publishing industry expertise and advice, emotional support during what can be an incredibly lonely and uncertain time, and of course, accountability to make sure deadlines are reached (and NOT repeatedly extended).

However, there are also many additional, but intangible benefits. The right writing coach is your link to the world outside your head, and a valued team mate or even partner. They can extract what you know and do in a way that adds value to not just your audience, but to your business overall. I’ve seen, experienced and been part of processes where the author has unlocked a strategic business problem that has been bugging them for years!

I’d also say, with the right coach, it can help improve how you communicate overall.

Remember, writing is a thinking process, even if you were doing a keynote speech you would start by writing your ideas down. So writing your book yourself will help you to distill your thoughts, and formulate ideas and clear messages that will affect how you speak, sell or write about yourself or what you do in the future.

Choose the right model

Coaching models vary from one-on-one to group, self-paced online courses and even hybrid options that meld a variety of engagement models.

So how do you know which one is right for you?

Many people will automatically gravitate towards “I need personal one-on-one help”, but don’t be too quick to judge.

What you “think” you need and will work, often tends to be different to what you actually need and what works.

There is nothing worse than starting a one-on-one coaching relationship and realising you need to do more strategic planning on your book idea first. That’s not productive or fun for the author or the coach.

Sometimes a group environment or online course can be good to get you going on the above. A lot of the initial stages of a book actually require a lot of thought on the author’s side, so working through worksheets, templates and steps online can be the most cost-effective and beneficial before providing written work to a coach or editor.

For example, in addition to intensive one-on-one, I also run a more affordable group coaching program that is primarily delivered online. However, there is also an option to include personal one-on-one guidance in addition to the group workshops. So, you work through a series of steps online first to assess the commercial viability of your book idea, develop your structure and writing plan, and prepare you for one-on-one coaching, which is important because many people feel like they are “not quite ready” to write their book.

I also find people like this option because in addition to me, they also get the benefit of being part of a community of likeminded peers they learn from. This helps build a wider community to help support the launch of your book. This is a really popular option for people who want an experienced pair of eyes, as well as affordable support.

However, your biggest consideration is likely to be budget. Remember, the more personal the service, the more involved the coach is, or experienced they are, then the more you will pay for that service. So be clear on what you are paying for and why.

Is it your first book for a fairly new business, or one you really want to push the benchmark on and really establish yourself?

Make budget choices that make you comfortable so that you’re not overstretching, but also make sure you have skin in the game! Too many people miss deadlines or keep putting off their book until they invest something, i.e. money, into it. Only then do you “find the time” to commit and prioritise the project.

Find the right coach

Not all coaches are editors; and not all editors are coaches. That is a very big distinction! There are amazing editors out there who may not have the skill that it takes to draw out concepts and ideas from the author. Equally, while some coaches make awesome champions, they may not have same eye for detail, understanding of audience or market relevance as an editor. I’d say the best coaches are macro, as well as micro focused – but delivery is important.

All author–coach–editor relationships are exactly that – working relationships. That does not necessarily mean you should work with someone just because you “like them”. It’s really important to understand how you will collaborate together, problem solve and address issues when results or milestones are not met, for example.

To make sure your expectations align to your reality, ask these questions when assessing a potential coach:
  1. What do you think you most need from this relationship?
  2. What does your potential coach feel you need help with, and how will they address that?
  3. What is the process you will use to collaborate?
  4. What kind of ‘feedback’ should you expect and how will they deliver that?
  5. What is their experience in this area/genre with people like you?
  6. Who are some of their clients and what have they achieved as a result?
  7. What other kind of publishing advice can they provide?
  8. What will happen if you do not deliver on deadlines?
  9. What will be your responsibility and what will be theirs?
  10. What will the final outcome be?

The answers to these questions will help you determine whether a particular coach will be a good fit for you.

Finally, remember what Steven Pressfield (who dedicates much of his work to his editor and coach Shawn Coyle) says in Turning Pro: “The sure sign of an amateur is he has a million plans and they all start tomorrow.”

Hence, if you want to be an author, you have to be an action-taker, so getting a good book coach might just be what you need.


Thanks for reading :-) I’m Kelly Irving and I helpchange makers author work that matters and makes an impact.

As a bestselling-book coach, editor, and creator of THE EXPERT AUTHOR COMMUNITY I nurture writers from idea to implementation, with camaraderie and (firm but friendly) butt-kicking built into every step. My work results in industry book awards and major publisher deals (I've never had a book pitch rejected), but most importantly, it empowers authors to produce work that enriches both their life and others. DM me for a no-obligation, honest chat.

This is an edited extract written by me for the book 'Entrepreneur to Author' by my colleague Scott MacMillan at Grammar Factory.

Book Coach and Editor Kelly Irving
Kelly Irving

I’m an editor and writing coach with a love for deep-diving into brains and businesses. Through my one-to-one work and online program, I provide an action-by-action process that speeds up the time it takes to produce your best book, and turns overwhelm and self-doubt into momentum and excitement for writing.


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