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Why I Quit Coaching Authors

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

Author coaching isn't easy. I explain why.

Author coaching isn't easy. I explain why.

Even though writing is done privately, there really aren’t any “secret” techniques for writing a book. So authors often share their writing journey on social media. Other authors might be encouraged by these stories and tips. While I don’t share my writing process (I don’t know if I even have a set writing process), I also share what I’ve learned about self publishing. My hope is that authors who read my posts will avoid making embarrassing or expensive mistakes when they self publish what they write. This type of sharing is a generous act of giving back to the community of writers and authors everywhere.

But here’s where this can go terribly wrong. It’s easy to get sucked into a coaching scenario when one of your author friends or followers asks for some “help” with their books. I’m talking about more than what you might provide in a reply to a comment or an email. This can be the trigger that lures an author into “I could get paid for this” coaching mode. It is especially attractive to authors who may be looking to supplement low sales of their own self published books.

Don’t take the bait unless you’re ready for what’s ahead.

How Did I Get Into Author and Book Coaching?

I self published my first book in the middle of 2011. It was nonfiction and I did it as a way to promote my business. My first book wasn’t my only writing and publishing experience. I was a marketing and PR copywriter for a few years in my corporate career. I wrote some educational materials while I was teaching. I was a trade newspaper editor for 15 years, writing hundreds and hundreds of articles in addition to editing articles. Plus, I had developed some marketing tools which I self published and sold. So my book was really just another step in my writing career.

Even at that, I still didn’t begin sharing tips about self publishing until about two years after I published my first official book. And that was limited to just an occasional blog post about it. I didn’t really dig into working with authors until maybe four years after my first book launched.

In those early days, I just didn’t see myself as having enough experience and expertise to even promote myself in this arena. But during those years immediately after my first book published, I did a lot of self publishing experiments and research that gave me the confidence to consider working with authors.

Unless you feel confident in your abilities and knowledge in the publishing realm, don’t offer paid author coaching because author client expectations will be high.

How Author and Book Coaching Can Turn Into a Nightmare

When I launched into “book coaching,” my intent was to help guide self published authors in successfully launching their nonfiction books. Sadly, my author clients often had other visions of what our work together would be like. It was exasperating.

Some authors thought I would be their book’s editor and proofreader. Others needed book formatting. Or they wanted writing coaching. One tried to suck me into being a ghostwriter. Another wanted an accountability partner. Some wanted all of the above for one low price. This happened in spite of what I thought was a pretty detailed agreement wherein I described what I would do for them.

Looking back, I think I was speaking in terms they didn’t understand. For them, “coaching” meant anything and everything related to self publishing a book. In consulting parlance, this is called “scope creep.”

So the biggest hurdle was distilling what needed to be done for a particular author. This is why new and less experienced authors should not be attempting this coaching adventure. It was a huge challenge for me, even though I had years of writing, self publishing, and business experience.

Add to this the emotional attachment and intensity that many authors have about their writing. You have to have a fair amount of emotional intelligence to manage the turmoil that authors experience, especially new authors.

Frustrated, I quit calling what I did “coaching,” and then limited my services to editing manuscripts only. That’s really where my skillset is. I required that authors pay for a pre-editing critique so we could assess if their books were ready for editing, and if we would be a good fit. That helped tremendously. But something still wasn’t working for me.

What I learned about myself through all this was that I didn’t enjoy the burden of coaching or the one-to-one client experience. Though I love interacting with other authors, and do a lot of it on social media, I need and want space for my own creative endeavors, too.

I eventually discontinued all coaching and editing services to concentrate on my own self publishing. Now, instead of offering one-to-one help, I offer online courses on self publishing, and, of course, my blog, podcast, and videos. This allows me to provide insight without the huge brain drain and responsibility.

How You Can Help Fellow Authors Without Being a Coach

Sharing your successes, your struggles, your process, and what you’ve learned (or are learning) on your writing and publishing journey is helpful for other authors in the writing community. You can do that through social media, your blog, YouTube videos, and other content you create.

But if you want to raise that help to the level of paid coaching services, be very clear about what you actually want and are able to provide.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Heidi Thorne

Comments

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 19, 2021:

Adrienne, I love that term "compassion fatigue." It's so accurate. I'm sure you also could easily get caught up in that given the work you do. It's not just a matter of doing what you're cut out for, but knowing when to cut out unnecessary stress and overwhelm, too.

Thanks, as always, for adding your perspective to the conversation! Have a great weekend!

Adrienne Farricelli on March 16, 2021:

I can see how things can get easily out of hand when it comes to coaching potential authors especially nowadays where many want to have all the work cut out for them with little effort or offering very little in exchange. It's easy to fall victim into compassion fatigue. You need to do what you love best and it seems like you found a good compromise.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Hi Linda! I'm always glad to share. Appreciate you reading and commenting, as always! Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Mary, you're right. Because I have had positive experience as a coaching client, it was a path that I thought might work for me. But as you note, you find out what you don't know when you go on a path. I, too, am glad I found my focus. It's been much better since.

Thanks for adding your thoughtful comments, as always! Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Oh, John, I can't even imagine what you experienced doing all three (editing, proofreading, and ghostwriting). You had to be a saint! :) Glad to hear you're not adding "author coach" to that list.

Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective, as always! Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

You're welcome, Liz! I see so many authors slip into the coaching role, often not realizing what that will entail. Since I saw some of those tempted authors recently, I just had to talk about it. Thanks for sharing in comments, as always! Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Flourish, you've identified a key issue with this whole coaching thing. A lot of times it's not about the book! It's about the author's need for other things like attention. Indeed, I tried to be as patient as possible which tried my patience, and just wore me out. So, yes, focusing on my own work now. Thanks for your usual perspective! Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Oh, Laura, that is a tough situation! Like "coaching," people have all kinds of definitions for "reviewing." And your observation that authors think their work is "perfect" is spot on. Being brutally honest is challenging. Thank you so much for sharing that experience in the conversation! Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Peggy, the fuzzy nature of "coaching" is one of the main reasons I had to walk away. So I'm glad to share my experience and knowledge in forums like this, YouTube, etc. Thanks so much for joining the conversation and have a terrific week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Pamela, yeah, it's definitely not as enjoyable as some think it might be. While I love sharing with all my author friends (like here on HP), the full on coaching is a bit much if I want to still be a writer, too.

Thanks so much for your kind comments, as always! Have a lovely week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Chitrangada, I'm glad you find my articles and videos helpful. I like sharing my experience so that others don't make the same mistakes I did. Really appreciate you reading and commenting, as always! Have a lovely week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Bill, I know you can appreciate. When I was doing editing and coaching, I just couldn't do much of my own writing.

Thanks for sharing your experience, as always! Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 16, 2021:

Dora, you can ask for my help in comments anytime! I'm glad to hear your concerns. And it provide topics that I need to address in future articles. Keep your questions and comments coming!

Thanks for your participation and support, as always! Have a lovely day!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 15, 2021:

Thank you for sharing your experience and the great advice, Heidi. I always learn some useful things by reading your articles.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 15, 2021:

It is only when we go on a journey that we realize where the road leads for us. I am glad you found your focus.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 14, 2021:

Thank you for sharing your experience, Heidi. I know what authors can be like from my work as a ghostwriter and proofreading and editing other’s work. Sometimes they resent too many changes, other times they want to tell you how to write every sentence...and you think..why did you ask for advice or not just write the whole thing yourself. On top of that many try to get more than they pay for.

I can’t even imagine trying to be an author coach. Have a great week.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 14, 2021:

Thanks for sharing your experience, Heidi. It helps to raise the awareness of other writers to the pitfalls of going down the coaching route. I always find your articles helpful and informative.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 14, 2021:

Oh, brother are people needy, unmotivated, unaware, helpless, and unwilling to do what is needed to fulfill their end of the bargain! I’m sure you were more than patient. I can’t blame you for focusing on other things.

Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on March 14, 2021:

I can definitely understand why you quit. As a book reviewer, I've run into situations where authors thought I should have reviewed their book higher, and it compelled me to spend my time breaking down the weaknesses in their book in order to justify myself. New authors, especially, tend to think that their work is perfect, and it's hard to be gentle yet honest with them.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 14, 2021:

I can easily understand why you choose to share your expertise in the manner that you do. Doing one-on-one coaching, the parameters of any agreement could get a bit fuzzy.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 14, 2021:

This is n interesting article, Heidi. I could see several points where coaching would have too many problems to make it enjoyable. We have to do what we love.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 14, 2021:

Nice and useful information Heidi.

Your articles about writing and publishing are quite helpful. I have watched your videos too. You speak with personal experience and that’s important. Therefore, you are in a way helping the authors/ writers to a great extent, without being a coach.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful article.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 14, 2021:

It's a huge responsibility for sure. I won't do it again. Too little time to do the things I want to do, let alone take on major projects for someone else.

As always, you speak the brutal truth.

Happy Sunday, my friend!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 14, 2021:

Impressed by your honesty. Although I didn't ask for your help (Why didn't I?), I have learned plenty from your articles. Thank you for all you have shared.

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