3 Red Flags to Look Out for When Hiring a Book or Writing Coach

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Writing and publishing a book to increase your visibility, credibility and market reach is all the rage. But if you don\’t know anything about the publishing industry, where do you start? Many people look to hire a book coach. The problem is many are legitimate folks, but some are not. 

Many of my clients have publicly said they would have never written their books without my help. Writing a book is hard, and those who get the right information, accountability and support are the ones who tend to succeed.

That said, there are plenty of people out there who will take your money, not know how to guide you through achieving your dream, and then blame the failure on you. (That’s called gaslighting, by the way.)

So, before plunking down money to work with a book coach, consider these four things.

Related: What Makes a Good Book Coach?

1. Does the book coach have a writing background?

I’m continually shocked by the number of people claiming to be book coaches who have never been paid to write and don’t even write a blog. (And let’s not even touch the lack of proofreading that often goes into their social media content.)

I was a speaker at a networking event recently and one woman, who kept interrupting my Q&A session to pitch her programs/services, also said she was a book coach. She attempted to argue with me about why someone should contribute to her anthology, at a “nominal” fee, rather than write a book. (I was told I kept it classy, by the way.)

Friends of mine who were there questioned her further, and they discovered she had a wellness coaching business and felt it was a failure. She outright admitted that she figured coaching people through contributing to anthologies, charging them fees to publish those anthologies and helping them become (so-called) Amazon best-selling authors, would be more profitable to her because it was “the trend.”

It’s certainly not my intention to make anyone feel bad, but this experience is all too common. As someone who first got paid for my writing at the age of 14, was an award-winning newspaper journalist for 17 years, and have written books under my own name and pen names, it really scares me to hear of so many non-writers claiming to be book coaches.

First, many of these “Amazon best-selling author” coaches use unethical techniques to get their clients that title.

These coaches encourage their clients to create coloring books, gratitude journals and the like. (Likely because the coach does not know how to guide their client through writing an actual book.)

Then, the coach picks an obscure category, such as Colorado maps, sets the book price extremely low and does everything they can to get a bunch of people to buy the book so the author becomes an Amazon best-seller even for 30 seconds. It seems that three times a week, I get a social media message begging me to buy someone’s book for “just 99 cents” TODAY!

Honestly, it might feel good for someone’s ego to go around saying they’re an Amazon best-selling author.

But really, what does it mean at the end of the day? Not to be a media snob, but it’s not accolades from The New York Times or Oprah. Those are meaningful.

Besides a day of a bunch of 99-cent sales, will the ability to say you’re an Amazon best-selling author change your life beyond being an interesting dinner table conversation for people who aren’t in the know?

What will you say if you happen to land a podcast, newspaper or other media interview and are pressed for more details? Will it bring you more clients or customers?

When you take a few months out of your life to write a proper book instead of trying to shortcut the process, it will.

I’m not saying anthologies or journals have no place in the world; they’re valuable in their own right when done properly by people who already have some level of visibility. But being one of many writers in an anthology, creating a coloring book or slapping together a journal with one question on each page is not creating authorship or thought leadership. With rare exceptions, it won\’t be anything more than a vanity project. 

Does the ability to say you’re an Amazon best-selling author really validate you as an expert in your field, when you know deep down how this so-called honor really happened?

We can fool others, but not ourselves. 

Amazon aside, will you really feel proud of your “Author of…” title when you know you took shortcuts? 

Will your project stand up against those of your colleagues, who took the time to go through the process properly?

And that\’s why it’s so important to trudge your way through all the hype to find a book coach who can actually help you increase your visibility, credibility and market reach for the long-term and find someone who isn’t better versed in marketing speak than actually writing and publishing high-quality content.

Related: 5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Writing Your First Business Book

2. Does the book coach have a process to carry you from book idea to final chapter?

Winging it does not work for writing, especially for writing and publishing a book.

Although coaching of course should be customized depending on a client’s needs, goals, experiences and personality, any credible coach should have a blueprint to take folks through the process of writing and publishing a book.

For example, I have a nine-step signature process (which I sometimes call 9 Essential Book Writing Steps) that has taken hundreds of folks from concept to published book.

Some people struggle more with one step than others, so we spend more time on that step.

The point is not for the book coach to deliver a cookie-cutter program, but to have the experience to create a process that works for even beginning writers.

Related: 3 Tips to Help You Finish That Book You\’ve Had in You for Years

3. What do you find when you look up this book coach online?

Although I’m really not trying to knock legitimate folks who made a transition from one career to another, carefully investigate anyone who seems better at sales and marketing than writing.

Does this person have testimonials from past clients? If so, do those testimonials give specifics, not just “Jane Doe is a great person”?

Are other experts interviewing this coach on their podcasts, going live with them, endorsing them publicly, including them in their giveaway events or having them speak at their virtual or live summits? If this book coach is not seen as enough of an expert by their peers to be shared with their audiences, do they really have the expertise to guide you through writing and publishing your book?

Has that person ever worked in media, publishing, or a related field? Again, there’s no crime in changing careers. But do you want to be the guinea pig for someone who hasn’t worked in a field related to helping you write and publish your book?

How much written content has that person published? Keep in mind that some book coaches do hire ghostwriters, so finding bylines online or even in print media isn’t always a guarantee. Dig a little deeper. Did they work as a writer for a publication or a company? Did they go to college for writing? If so, then chances are they do not use ghostwriters, or if they do they use them infrequently.

Have they published books or at least been listed as an editor? Keep in mind that some folks have pen names or work as ghostwriters (I’ve done both), but there should be something under their own name. 

Summing it up

Working with the right book coach can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make, but like anything else in entrepreneurship, you can get burned.

Most coaches in all niches are great people, but there are always a few bad apples in every bunch. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

A book will do a lot for you, but only if written in a systematic way under the guidance of someone who has experience. Most of my clients make their best profits on the back end through selling their services, products and courses. They do sell books (one client made $5,000 in one night at an event from book sales), but they achieve other goals as well.

If anyone promises you’ll make six figures on just book sales, become an Amazon best-selling author overnight or anything else of that nature, you’re probably talking to a marketer and not a true writing expert. Dig deep within yourself and ask yourself if you’re okay with that.

If you truly want to be an author — and need help getting there — then work with a qualified book coach who has all the tools you need to help you make your dream come true.

Related: How to Begin Writing Your Lead-Generating Non-Fiction Book