Can You Really Make Money as a Book Coach?

Photo credit: Kevin McIntrye

Jennie Nash is the founder and CEO of Author Accelerator, a company on a mission to help writers write books worth reading by training book coaches to guide them through the creative process. She is also the author of Read Books All Day and Get Paid For It: The Business of Book Coaching. Join her free online book coaching summit the week of January 20, 2020. Jennie will be interviewing 15 top experts as she takes followers inside the world of book coaching.

I founded Author Accelerator in 2013 because I was seeing the enormous impact that working with a book coach could have on writers and I wanted to help other people learn the systems and strategies to do this work. Once people understand what book coaching is — being an editor, a project manager, a shepherd, a cheerleader, and a guide for writers while they are writing — the next thing they want to know is if you can really make money doing this work. This question stems from the “starving artist myth” that says that writers don’t have any money and therefore writers won’t spend any money.

But the myth is a myth. Writers have money, and they are willing to invest money to become better at what they do and to achieve specific goals around their work. After all, they buy books on writing, attend workshops on writing, travel to far-flung cities to go to conferences on writing, and spend a great deal of time on writing.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, says that marketing is doing work that matters for people who care. Writers definitely care about getting their work into the world, learning the skills they need to express themselves with clarity and power, finishing the books they set out to write, reaching readers, and myriad other things. By helping them achieve these goals, I make multiple six figures a year as a book coach and have for the past five years. 

In my Book Coach Training and Certification Program, I never promise any of my students they can make that kind of money. So much depends on your experience, your entrepreneurial skill, and your motivation. What I like to do, instead of making promises, is explain how I got to where I am, money-wise. It shows that building a business is a process that unfolds over time and making money is a practice you can develop. This progression is adapted from my new book, Read Books All Day and Get Paid For It: The Business of Book Coaching.

  • Hourly. In the beginning of my book coaching business, I charged by the hour. I set my price around $50.00 an hour and thought that was pretty great! $50/hour seemed like a lot. I neglected to factor in the time I took to market my work, talk to potential clients, onboard them, bill them, deal with regular business issues like software upgrades and buying office supplies, and handle problematic clients. It turned out that $50/hour was not sustainable and didn’t feel good. 
  • Going from hourly to higher hourly. I quickly upped my hourly rate, eventually getting to $120/hour. I thought this was the solution and was quite pleased with myself. But the same thing kept happening where other expenses weren’t being factored in, and, on top of that, I was WAY over-delivering, even at this higher price. The way I work with people is to go all in. I want my clients to achieve their goals and I want to do whatever I can to help them do that. I began to understand I needed to change my fee structure so that I could work the way I wanted to work.
  • Going from hourly to project rates. I began to set prices by the package. This allowed me to work the way I liked to work, to deliver the kind of value I wanted to deliver, and to really help my clients meet their goals.
  • Going to higher project rates. As my clients began to do well, I got more and more work—far more work than I would possibly be able to do. My solution for managing this problem was once again to raise my rates, thinking this would solve the problem of supply and demand. It didn’t. I also learned that just because people can pay doesn’t mean I want to work with them.
  • Going to an application-based in-taking process combined with higher project rates. I added an application to my client in-taking process so that I could take some time to evaluate a project before I worked with the writer. If I chose not to work with them, or if they couldn’t pay my fee, I would recommend them to other book coaches. 

Another change I made during this time is that if someone is desperate to work with me and needs something done on a very fast deadline, I charge a rush rate. I got to the point where I was charging double my normal rate if someone wanted something done very fast and refused to wait. I would only do this for clients I knew, or new clients whose projects were appropriate to what I was trying to do in my business. In one notable scenario, someone asked me to help them develop a book proposal in less than three weeks. She was heading off to a conference where she had signed up to pitch and had nothing to show. I asked if she was willing to work day and night, and to do whatever I told her to do, and to pay double my normal rate. She agreed. We did two months of work in less than three weeks, and she ended up getting a two-book deal.

It was around this time that I started earning six figures a year as a book coach. Here’s how I continued to grow my income:

  • Starting Author Accelerator. I started Author Accelerator in part because I saw the opportunity to serve more clients by referring them to coaches whom I had hired and trained. When the company got off the ground, I began to refer writers to Author Accelerator book coaches. We set our prices very low at first because I thought the market wanted lower-priced work.
  • Establishing longer required terms. I began to require clients to work with me for a minimum of six months at even higher rates. Again, this allowed me to do my best work for the clients who were the best fit for what I was offering. This was also a big inflection point for my business; I earned multiple six figures as a book coach when I made this move.
  • Raising rates and terms at Author Accelerator. Using the lessons I learned in my own work, we changed the way we work with writers at Author Accelerator, adding higher prices and longer terms of engagement.
  • In-person premium events. In response to client requests, Author Accelerator added in-person workshops, so people can work directly with me, live. These are premium-priced events. The first one sold out, and we are planning more.
  • What’s next? My business has grown to a point where I work only by referral, and I have a waiting list. Clients must pay a deposit to hold a spot in my schedule, and I only take on a new client when one leaves, either because they are finished with their project or no longer need my services. As a result of this reality, I changed to a retainer model. I take very few clients and they pay a premium to work with me. 

You can see that my book coaching career has been a work-in-progress the entire time. I constantly change how I work with clients, what I charge, what I offer, how I decide who to work with, and a hundred other variables. But I set up my business so that I was able to earn money from Day 1, and now I’m equally invested in helping new coaches do the same. Whether you jump into book coaching as a side gig or a career pivot, being paid well for your time and talent should be part of it. Finding a way to read books all day is only the first step in designing an engaging and rewarding path. Figuring out how to be paid well is the step that will ensure you can keep doing it.

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