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How to Choose and Evaluate a Non-Fiction Writing Coach: Strategy and Tactics For Finding the Right Fit

Writing your first nonfiction book isn’t easy, especially when you’re doing it on your own. I know because I’ve been there (about 10 times).

You’re constantly dealing with fear that you or your book aren’t enough. 

  • “It’s not original enough.” 
  • “I’m not smart enough.” 
  • “It’s going to make me look stupid.”

It’s the constant doubt of whether you actually have a good book in you that makes the act of completing it so hard.

That, coupled with confusion over the actual process of writing a book, a lack of accountability, and procrastination, leads many aspiring Authors to seek out a writing coach for support.

Hiring a writing coach can be a great idea. The problem is that many Authors hire a coach who isn’t a good fit for them, and subsequently give up on book coaching altogether.

This doesn’t need to happen to you. 

The reason Authors end up with the wrong coaches is because they lack a good process to choose the right one. 

In this article, I’m going to explain how to evaluate nonfiction writing coaches. I’ll cover:

I’ll also tell the story of how we chose our nonfiction writing coaches at Scribe, and explain how our coaching program Scribe Guided Author works.

Thinking about hiring a nonfiction writing coach to help you finish your book? Consider joining the Scribe Guided Author Program. We’ve designed a proven process that provides everything you need to write, self-publish, and market your book. Click here for more details.

3 Qualities of Effective Nonfiction Writing Coaches

When looking for a coach, your goal should be to ensure the coach you choose is a good fit for you specifically. 

In order to do that, you must understand the qualities that make a good coach (so you know what to look for).

What are they? Keep an eye out for these 3 qualities:

Quality #1: They foster an emotional connection with you

A good writing coach can guide you through the emotional roadblocks that come with writing a book. They can help you see and deal with your inner critic.

You can hire a world-renowned coach who has an MFA and won a Nobel Prize in literature, but if their personality and coaching style don’t align with you, their credentials won’t matter. You won’t have the support you need.

You want to hire a coach who connects with you on an emotional and intellectual level. 

Whether or not they have esteemed accolades is beside the point. A coach whom you really connect with will be far more effective than one you don’t.

Without someone who can empathize and give you guidance, a writing coach isn’t likely to help you much at all because that’s where the true value of a coach lies.

Quality #2: They know more information isn’t the answer

A lack of information isn’t the problem for most Authors. Any nonfiction writing coach who assumes that isn’t worth your time.

Good coaches know that there are plenty of resources available for those who need them. But they also know that the biggest hurdle standing between you and a completed manuscript is how to apply that information in your specific circumstances—that means it’s ultimately a psychological issue.

We see it at Scribe all the time. We offer the best online course on writing and publishing available—and we give it away for free.

Yet time and time again, nonfiction Authors hire us to coach them through writing their book.

Why would they do that, when all the information is free?

Because both understanding how the information applies to you specifically, and navigating the psychological obstacles of fear and doubt are just as daunting, if not moreso, than the act of writing itself.

Quality #3: They’re systems oriented

When writing your first book, you need structure. That means having a plan and a clear process to go from idea to finished book. Good coaches know the value of a simple system that’s tested and that’s proven to work.

The problem is that good coaches are few and far between. Because most new writers don’t know any better, they end up hiring coaches who make up the rules as they go.

Don’t make this mistake. Instead, hire a coach who is a systems thinker. Any prospective coach should be able to walk you through their process so you can understand:

  • Where you are in the creative writing process
  • What’s coming next
  • How to confront the common roadblocks that most Authors face along the way

How to Assess a Nonfiction Writing Coach’s Website

Once you know what qualities to look for in a writing coach, the next step is to start your search. Often this begins with viewing the websites of various coaches. In this section, I’ll cover what to look for when you do.

Note: Even if they don’t have a website, you can always ask prospective coaches to share these things with you directly.

There are 4 factors you need to pay attention to:

  1. Do they have testimonials?
  2. What books have their Authors published?
  3. What do the Authors they’ve coached have to say about their experience?
  4. Do they have examples of their coaching in action?

1. Do they have testimonials?

The first thing you should look at on a coach’s website is whether or not they have testimonials. If they can’t get the people who’ve paid them for coaching to say great things about them, then they’re probably not a good coach.

The specific content of the actual testimonials tends to be less important than the fact that they have them. The point is you can eliminate a huge number of coaches right off the bat using this as a filtering process.

It’s a simple first step: Do they have testimonials? If no, exclude them. If yes, move onto the next step.

2. What books have their Authors published?

Next, you want to take a look at books they’ve helped Authors work on in the past.

As you scan the list of books they have worked on, ask yourself:

  • Do these books represent the kind of book I want to write?
  • Are the voices in these books similar enough to mine that this could be a good fit?

If the answers are yes, add those coaches to your short-list. If not, scrap them.

Don’t overlook the importance of subject-matter expertise. For example, you don’t want to hire a coach who’s only worked on memoirs if your goal is to write a business book.

3. What do the Authors they’ve coached have to say about their experience?

After you’ve determined that the coach’s previous work aligns with the type of book you want to write, you should turn your attention to the Authors they’ve worked with.

Reach out to 2 or 3 of those Authors who published their books but haven’t written a testimonial. Then, ask them what their coaching experiences were like.

Ask them specific questions about their experience, like “What was the coach strongest at? What were they weakest at?” or “What was the thing you like the least/most about your coach?”

Their feedback should give you an idea of what to really expect if you choose to hire that coach. The point is not to find out if they are good or bad (though obviously that’s important), but to look for clues about how they coach, to see if they are a good fit.

4. Do they have examples of their coaching in action?

A final thing to look out for is whether or not a coach has examples of their coaching in action.

This is particularly useful because out of all the factors you can evaluate them on, it gives you the most insight into whether or not they’d be a good fit for you—before you ever have to hire and pay them to find out.

For example, you can watch videos of Scribe coaches—which includes the most elite members of our editorial staff—working with our Authors. We share this to give potential Authors insight into whether Scribe’s coaching style would work for them.

If coaches don’t have this, it doesn’t necessarily make them a bad coach. But I would focus on the ones who do.

A Process to Test Book Writing Coaches to Find the Right Coach for You

Once you’ve done your initial research, narrow your prospects down to 3 to 5 reputable coaches who you think might be a good fit for you.

Then, instead of simply interviewing them the way most Authors do, hire each of them for a test session.

A one-time session should be enough to test out a coach. The cost per session can vary, but rates typically range between $100 to $300 an hour. And this is well worth the investment if you’re serious about finding the right person.

Prior to your coaching sessions, give each coach the same chapter (or part of a chapter) from your book. Then, when you meet on Skype or Zoom for your session, ask them to give you feedback.

Good nonfiction writing coaches will:

  • Identify the sections of your writing sample that need help
  • Help you see what you’re not seeing
  • Explain what you have to do to fix any issues

Use these test sessions as opportunities to gauge how they interact with you on an emotional level, too. The personal connection you feel to a coach is by far the most important thing to pay attention to.

And finally, remember to be really selective. If something about a coach doesn’t feel right, keep moving on until you find the right fit. This will help you avoid the bad experiences that lead writers to give up on coaching.

How We Chose Our Nonfiction Writing Coaches at Scribe

We’re in a unique position at Scribe because we work with hundreds of veteran writers, many of whom already have their own coaching clients. So when we started Scribe Guided Author (our coaching program), we had a solid pool of experienced writing coaches to choose from right off the bat.

Out of about 200 writers we worked with consistently, there were 15 who really excelled at interpersonal interactions with our clients and were interested in our coaching positions. These are people who not only have decades of experience and have published a minimum of 3 books on their own, but they’ve gotten rave reviews from our clients as well.

About 5 or 6 of these writers were above and beyond the pack when it came to the qualities we were looking for. Ultimately, I interviewed and chose 3 of them to begin working with and testing myself.

These coaches then shadowed me for several years learning the ins and outs of the program and process that I’d built. And now our top two coaches, Emily and Chas, run our Guided Author Program.

They’re changing our clients’ lives every day and we’re very proud of them and the program we’ve built.

How Scribe Guided Author Works: Guidance, Accountability, and Expertise

In Scribe Guided Author, we spend only a third of our coaching on writing technique and know-how. We focus the other two-thirds on the emotional and psychological toll of writing a book, because as I said above, that’s what coaching is really for.

What makes our coaching program so effective is our process. We’ve perfected a series of steps to guide first-time Authors through facing their fears, completing their manuscript, and actually self-publishing their book.

Most coaches focus solely on helping you write. We take that to the next level and help you get your writing out into the world—in published form—so that it can impact the lives of others. Because for many nonfiction writers, that’s the real goal of writing their book.

Here’s a short rundown of what the Scribe Guided Author program includes:

  • Full access to Scribe Book School, our in-depth online course for writing and publishing
  • A 3-day online coaching workshop led by myself and our senior editors
  • Weekly group coaching calls with our senior editors
  • Access to a private Facebook group with writers seeking to become published Authors
  • A full edit of your completed manuscript (done by professional editors)
  • Full publishing services, including a beautifully designed cover, hardcover, paperback, and eBook formats
  • Full distribution services, including print and eBook distribution
  • Marketing consult and guidance
  • First week promotions to help you become an Amazon Best Seller (including an interview on our podcast Author Hour)

Ready to Break Through Your Blocks and Become a Published Author?

There are plenty of great writing coaches out there. If you follow the process I’ve laid out in this post, you can find one that’s a good fit for you. And hopefully they can help you accomplish your goals.

But as you can tell, finding a writing coach is a lot of work, and it can be a long process to connect with someone you can trust. That’s one of the reasons we created Scribe—to make this process easier for people who want to get straight to the writing, the improvement, and the progress.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a busy professional, our coaching program provides you with the defined process, accountability, and professional guidance you need to finish and publish your nonfiction book.

If you’re ready to take the leap, then click here to learn more about Scribe Guided Author. Or, schedule a consult with our team.

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