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Guidance Through The Maze of Self-Publishing

Some people call it a book shepherd; others call it a publishing consultant, a book coach, or a publishing coach. I call it a Publisher-for-hire, and they’re all the same thing; their job is to guide the author through the maze of self-publishing.

Book coaches are best used in the case of a first-time author to keep the project on course. Their job is to assure the author gets involved with the right vendors, cover all the details, and ultimately streamline the system so they don’t waste their money on bad decisions. (Personally speaking, I would have saved thousands of dollars if I would have had a book coach to protect me from bad decisions.) Many first-time authors fall prey to the first editor they meet, or the $49 cover designer they found on the internet, or the “Kindle Expert” who will set them up to “sell 500 eBooks a week!” etc.

A book coach can also be very useful to the recurring author. Many recurring authors hire a book coach because they’ve got a fulltime job and want to delegate for the sake of time management. A task that might take them 5 hours can take a coach a half hour. A good book coach makes it a priority to stay on top of the surfacing trends in the industry and continue to vet a solid talent pool of editors, cover designers, and layout designers that best suit their varying authors. So in most cases it’s in the author’s best interest to continue to delegate to a professional.

While all projects and authors vary in their wants and needs, generally a book coach will start when the manuscript is ready for editing and finishes when their book is live on all book retail outlets, properly into distribution and running smoothly. Some authors simply come in with an idea as to what they want to write their book about but are stumped on how to start or overwhelmed at the writing process. At that point a well-rounded book coach would introduce them to a writing coach to help draw out and shape the manuscript.

What Does A Book Coach Do?

As with any job, your book coach is busy behind the scenes crossing your T’s, dotting your I’s, and assuring the details are covered for you to release a successful book. Here are a number of tasks your coach is busy with on the path to the book of your dreams:
 

  • Guide Author step-by-step through the publishing and printing and production process, providing information and feedback on graphic work and production quality
  • Create vendor team for Author: editor, cover designer, layout designer, and any other professional services needed for that project: marketing manager, writing coach, illustrator, ghost writer, graphic designer, publishing attorney, copyright attorney, tax professional for business setup, etc.
  • Draft estimate and timeline for entire project
  • Serve as liaison between vendors, using its best efforts to keep them on budget and timeline
  • Tutor through writing of back-of-book promo, author bio, dedication, acknowledgments, proper BISAC codes, and other pieces of the book
  • Get proposals from book printers and/or POD services, organize the accounts and shipping
  • Set up Amazon account, handle logistics of timing, upload, print approvals, ordering proofs, organize national distribution, release, create Look Inside the Book Amazon promo, and organize for author’s royalties to be direct deposited monthly
  • Acquire ISBNs from Bowker, and optimize Bowker account through extended metadata
  • Obtain Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)
  • Apply for Catalog-in-Publication data (CIP)
  • Draft copyright legal page
  • Optimize Amazon accounts by creating Author Central page, keywords assessment, genre competition evaluation, assess Amazon categories
  • Upload and set up eBook distribution on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, IBooks, Sony, Kobo, and Overdrive for library distribution

How To Choose Your Book Coach

Like any professional in your life – attorney, roofer, contractor, nanny – it would serve you best to interview a number of book coaches before you sign with them. This person will be the leader of your team as well as someone you will get very close to over the project. It’s an investment, and you want to work with someone you’re comfortable with and trust to help drive you to your goals.

Here is a list of things to look for:
 

  • Do they have the experience you need in order to reach your book goals?
  • Do you feel comfortable enough with them that you could ask them any question no matter how seemingly silly?
  • Are they prompt with communication?
  • Have they shepherded books of your genre before?
  • Find authors they’ve worked with (you can usually find them on their website), and contact those authors for first hand testimonials.
  • Do they offer (at least) a complimentary half-hour consultation? (It’s my opinion that they should. For a book coach to charge for an initial consultation, I think, is a red flag.)

What Should I Plan On Budgeting For A Book Coach?

The costs of a book coach vary widely depending on a whole slew of variants. But for the sake of ball parking, a good, experienced book coach should cost you from $75 to $125 an hour.

Depending on your wants and needs a project should take anywhere from 10 to 40 hours. Your coach will put together an estimate before you sign an agreement. Most book coaches offer a complimentary half-hour consultation. That session allows them to see your vision, ask questions and get their head around the services they could help you with in order to meet that vision. As an example, if you have a family memoir suited for only limited release, you wouldn’t need all the services that a business book would require. Or you might be a do-it-yourself kind of person and just want a guiding consultant to keep you on track with a one-hour session per month. That initial consultation puts you both on the right track for a successful relationship.

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If you’ve done your homework on self-publishing, you’ve no doubt heard that editing is generally your biggest expense. I disagree. If you ask a hundred authors who have painfully maneuvered their way through the system alone you’ll find that far and away their largest expense was in their mistakes. I put myself in that category, and is why I’m so passionate about saving authors from the same fate. I guarantee that securing the services of an experienced book coach will not only save you thousands of dollars, it will also streamline you to the book of your dreams.