Take a careful look at the painting below. Would you hang that in your home? Neither would I—and I painted it. That’s my artwork I created at a Painting with a Twist party. Can you tell I copied a “masterpiece.” To get better at painting, I’d need an instructor. Obviously, I need to learn the basics, so I wouldn’t hire a reincarnated Leonardo da Vinci to help me. A kindergarten art teacher would do. I’d save a lot of money. After a decade of painting, I might be ready for Leo to help me. Does that make sense? Keep reading to see the parallels between my attempts at art and the writer’s life.
When should you hire a book coach?
Last month, I offered several extremely well-argued reasons that hiring a book coach would be a great thing to do NOW. (Not even I remember what I wrote, so here’s a link to that blog.) Today I’m going to discuss how much book coaching should cost and why book coaching is a great financial saver in the long run.
A book coach can come alongside you and help you select your work’s point of view (POV). Even if you’re writing a picture book, choosing the right POV is crucial. (If you don’t know what that is, you need a book coach. And, you can read more about it on this post from MasterClass.) One of my current clients is using the omniscient POV, but she doesn’t know how to use it well. Together, we’ve redone a couple of chapters, and I’ve taught her how to limit perspective to enhance suspense and articulate her theme. When needed, she changes scenes and broadens her POV. She’s now ready to complete part 1 of her novel—without me. This cost her $150. If she had hired me to copy edit her completed part 1, it would have more like $750, and she wouldn’t have learned as much. Book coaching is an investment in you and your work, not just your work. It’s the gift “that keeps on giving” and the equivalent of the “teach a person to fish” type philosophy.
You could read all these books (see below), and you might understand them. Why not save time and hire a writing coach to help identify places you need to work on? (I added this paragraph so I could add a picture, because a blog coach told me readers like photos, and that it increases SEO.)
How much should you pay a book coach?
I did a search online and talked to some of my editing friends about finances. Expect to pay $75 an hour on up for a good coach (GC). (BTW, copy editors charge less, but figure $30 to $50 for someone with ten years experience.) A GC will have a minimum of five years of editing for a traditional publisher. Or can prove that they do regular contract work for publishing houses. Why not hire your writer friend who just went to a conference and knows it all? Because an GC who has been an editor at a publishing house has learned to be ruthless at cutting unnecessary words, scenes, chapters, and even parts, and she isn’t interested in building your ego or maintaining you as a client or a friend. We politely offend writers ALL DAY LONG. He will tell you like it really is. You need that kind of honesty. Additionally, editors in publishing houses are expected to know the competition. So if your coach has worked in the YA fiction industry for five years, he knows about the market and understands what will sell and what agents are looking for. Your writer friend may or may not.
One more thing about hiring an editor who has worked for a publishing house, she has learned to be efficient. Editors are paid to coach clients to improve their manuscripts because it’s cheaper than rewriting. They know the best resources and how to get things done quickly, because if they don’t, they’re working weekends, and no one wants that. You really want to hire someone with a track-record of turning books around quickly.
When should I hire a top-of-the-line book coach?
Some coaches are paid up to $250 an hour. Ouch!
When should you pay that much? When you’re already an established author, have a fan base, and want to move your writing to the next level. Many of my clients are beginners can’t grasp all the nuances of what I can teach them. And I’m teaching the basics. Spending $250 would buy them the same thing: advice for beginners, only at considerably more an hour.
But if you want to hire someone who can get your pretty-darn-good work to the point where agents and publishers will sit up and take notice, then you need a GC who worked as a VP or senior acquisitions editor within the last three years. Maybe an agent who represents A-level authors. Or perhaps a seasoned ghost writer for best-selling books—has written at least three in your genre.Those people are difficult to find, are extremely busy, and you need to pay them more to make it worth their time. They can also help you polish a proposal and give marketing advice.
How many hours should you need for coaching? That depends on the scope of your project. I’d say pay someone their hourly fee to read no more than 2,000 words of your work. Then discuss that with them for another hour. Or send them your outline and ask for advice on avoiding pitfalls, such as opening your book with your main character waking up, or worse, waking up from a dream. It should be between two and five hours for that first evaluation.
I’ve heard sad stories of writers hiring editors or coaches on a package deal only to find out it wasn’t a good fit. That’s a few thousand dollars and several weeks wasted. A GC will, if you ask, give you an evaluation of one to two hours, and then, if you like their style and feedback, you can commit to more. Make sure your GC has read books in the same genre as your book. For example, I don’t read speculative fiction or romance, so I don’t edit those genres.
Where can I find a good writing coach?
- Writing conferences. You don’t even have to attend. Reach out online to editors, agents and coaches featured at top conferences. If they aren’t a good fit, they will know someone who does. The people who teach there are well connected. Try DiAnn Mills of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Or Marlene Bagnull’s conferences in Philadelphia or Colorado. Looking for the top-of-the-line coach? Try Edit Resource LLC.
- Word of mouth. Ask published author friends who did their editing in-house. Often editors who work at publishing houses will do coaching on the side, especially if it’s not a rush job.
- Read the copyright pages of books. Oftentimes the editor of the book is listed. Find a book that’s similar to yours and find that editor! You can also find agents listed, too. Contact the agent and offer to pay her for coaching. If she won’t do it, ask her for names of editors who will.
- Online services such as Reedsy or UpWork. I’d be careful with these. I’ve heard the best of stories and the worst of stories.
- Email me at HeLovesMeBooks@gmail.com and ask for suggestions. I know a few friends in the business whom I would hire or have hired.
Remember, without some sort of coach, your work won’t appear professional. I keep my flower painting in my office to remind that good instruction is priceless.
(P.S. I heard back from the publisher about the Fiery Furnace manuscript I sent in February 18, 2022. They said the marketing team is doing a survey to find out if mothers want to buy their kids scary stories from the Bible. I have no idea how long it will take the marketing team to do the survey. So I wait. One hundred seven days, and counting.)
Marianne Hering was a founding editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. Since then she’s been writing for children and editing Christian books for adults. Find out more about the Imagination Station book series that has sold more than 1 million copies at MarianneHering.com. (Unfortunately, her schedule is tied up until July 1, so she can’t offer any free consultations at this time. She can’t even accept clients now, so rest assured, this blog isn’t to solicit business.) Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.