Beta reading as training for DE

Many self-publishing authors look for beta readers to give them perspective on their novels before they go to a professional editor for further help. An author doesn’t need a developmental editor to say the whole storyline is implausible and they yawned from beginning to end. Any reader of fiction can probably relay that information.

Doing a few beta reads is a great way to get a sense of the kinds of problems you’ll encounter as a dev editor, and it will give you some insight into author-editor relationships. It’s a low-risk way to dip your toes in the water.

If you’re interested in doing fiction development for a career, try volunteering as a beta on a few projects. You’ll soon learn if it’s for you!

What’s the Difference?

A beta reader is generally just reporting their experience as a reader – “I thought too many events were implausible” – whereas in development, we try to give more guidance than that based on an informed opinion. That is, we understand how fiction works, how to solve problems that arise, and otherwise have professional expertise that sets us apart from readers who simply enjoy reading.

Often, beta readers are discouraged from trying to offer such guidance as without experience and training it’s easy to send an author down the wrong road or to simply not understand what an author is trying to accomplish. So, instead of trying to solve the problems in the manuscript, your goal is to find them and (for your purposes, not the author’s) try to figure out what’s causing them.

Doing beta reads can be a good way to sharpen your skills and even to start building a clientele. People who trust your beta reads will be more likely to be willing to pay you to do a dev edit.

To become a beta reader, hang out on Twitter and look for #amwriting hashtags. Many of these authors will be interested in finding beta readers. There are also beta reader groups like Writers Helping Writers on Facebook.

Getting Clients as a New(er) Editor

One of the most common questions I’m asked is how to get clients, so what follows is my basic theory of how not to starve to death as a freelancer.

If you have little or no actual developmental editing experience, then doing a few projects in exchange for something like a testimonial or whatever might be of value to you (website design, social media training) can be a good way to grow your confidence and give you some projects to mention in your marketing. (I once traded writing a business plan for a free gym membership when I first started out).

The key is in not giving away your work. From the very beginning, you need to think of making transactions – this is a business that you’re trying to establish, after all, not a charitable endeavor.

But I would limit this to only a few projects before moving on to finding better-paying work. If you focus on easy-to-get, low-paying work, such as picking up project from Fiverr, you can end up on a treadmill to nowhere that is very difficult to get off. So I would advise being very strategic from the start. By that I don’t mean having every step of the next twenty years plotted out in advance. I mean having a long-term outlook – that you’ll plant seeds today that won’t come to fruition until three years from now, and that’s fine.

I think it’s important to have goals (“I want to edit X type of fiction for Y type of clients”) but I also think you can’t be so wedded to specifics that you overlook opportunities. I never actually meant to become a romance editor, but it worked out that my background and opportunities pushed me in that direction. And I’ve loved the whole experience.

When I first started out as a writer, I didn’t really have any intention of writing twenty books on the martial arts, but that was what people were willing to pay me for at the time. I had a specific body of knowledge and set of skills that led to these opportunities.

If you look at what established professionals do – the ones making an actual living it at – you’ll see that they rarely troll job-bidding sites or answer Craigslist ads or participate in any kind of marketing that is based on being cheap and fast or whatever newer freelancers may think is a way to attract clients.

Instead, they focus on ways to draw clients to them: building up their credentials and expertise, connecting with colleagues, joining and participating in professional organizations, making referrals to other editors for projects that aren’t right for them. Being generous with referrals yourself makes it more likely that people will be generous with referrals to you.

Almost every established freelancer I know gets a significant amount of their work via word-of-mouth and referrals. This is another reason I think it’s so important to avoid the low-paying treadmill. It is terribly difficult to do good work for months and even years when you are earning paltry sums of money for it. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it is very difficult. The temptation is to do the work faster so you can do more work. And there is simply a limit to how fast you can do a developmental edit and still have it be a good one. Your reputation as an editor is going to be what brings clients to you.

Then you also have to consider who has the money. Professional nonfiction writers who are trying their hand at fiction are my biggest source of income from indie clients. This is because I did a lot of nonfiction writing when I first started out and got to know hundreds of nonfiction writers. The ones who have had long-term careers have the income to pay for professional advice and the understanding that it is worth paying for.

Now many of them are at the life stage where they want to do that one thing they haven’t done yet, and that is to write the novel they’ve always been meaning to write. I happen to be the one person they know and trust who can guide them in translating their nonfiction skills to fiction.

So I’m not saying you can or should follow in my footsteps. That’s a particularly specific set of circumstances that led to the development of this group of clients. But that’s what I mean by opportunities: what are your skills and knowledge, who do you already hang out with who might be willing to pay for your services, etc. ?

Early in my editing career, I figured the people with the money were publishing companies, so I targeted them by sending out a bunch of LOIs to every medium-sized publishing company I could identify (I figured big publishers wouldn’t hire outside editors and small publishers wouldn’t have the budget). I didn’t have a ton of editing experience at this time, just enough to make the letter look respectable. That letter produced results. Since that time I have never had to do another major marketing campaign – those clients led to other clients and so on.

Newer editors tell me that this approach still works, and that they have had success getting work from publishers by just reaching out to them.

Most of my dev work now is with book publishers and book packagers. As with indie clients, some have realistic budgets and some don’t, but it’s fairly easy to find this information out early in the process so you don’t waste a lot of time. But in general I have found that traditional publishers understand that they have to pay professional rates for professional editing, and don’t generally have a lot of trouble establishing reasonable fees for my work.

Seeing Coaching Opportunities with Potential Clients

I think of coaching as anything that helps a writer write their book, improve their book, sell their book, or otherwise advance their writing career but which isn’t a straightforward edit on a complete manuscript.

In other words, if I help an author write a query letter, or brainstorm solutions to plot problems, or review a revision one chapter at a time, I call that “coaching” since I’m helping the author but not editing a full manuscript at one time. In other words, “coaching” can encompass a lot of possibility.

Developmental editors often have many opportunities for coaching, but don’t always recognize them as such. For example, authors will often have manuscripts that are not quite ready for a developmental edit, such as manuscripts that are still at an early draft stage, or have significant storytelling problems, like no clear central conflict or a disjointed plot. Editors often send such authors away with a few words about how to address these problems before they come back.

But this is an opportunity to offer more specific guidance for the author to go forward, even if you don’t do a full developmental edit. For example, instead of sending the author away with a few resources, you could provide a revision letter describing what the main issues are and how the author can move forward to get the ms to the point where it will be ready for a developmental edit.

Or you could offer a coaching call to discuss steps the author can take to move forward. You can show them how to tweak their concept or to entirely reconceptualize their work to avoid the major problems they’re experiencing. You can offer accountability check-ins so that the author has deadlines to meet as they revise. You can invite the author to brainstorming sessions with you when they get stuck or need encouragement.

When a potential client reaches out to you, this means they need help and think you can offer it. Instead of telling them that they aren’t ready for you, figure out ways you can be ready for them! Not only can you make a little money this way, you’ll learn more about the writing process and about solving writing problems, which will be of benefit as you continue your editing career.

Fire bad clients

I often encourage freelance editors to work with corporate clients, such as book publishers and packagers, in order to provide a more stable workflow and better-paying work. Indie authors may be great fun to work with, but one author typically won’t come to you ten or fifteen times a year with more work, the way one company may.

But I’ve noticed that freelancers are often reluctant to let go of corporate clients when they become (or prove to be) toxic. This is a problem because nothing leads to burnout faster than having unreasonable, mean, or petty clients.

If your work isn’t valued – the pay isn’t commensurate with your experience, payments are routinely made late (more than thirty days after invoicing) – or you’re treated unkindly (including being treated as if your work is subpar, but they somehow keep hiring you anyway), you should part ways. The best situations are when you and the client both feel happy to have found each other.

Sometimes a longstanding client becomes bad news when a new contact person comes aboard. I’ve experienced new hires who treat freelancers as if they’re automatically a problem: setting punitive policies that have nothing to do with any action I did, not appreciating the work I do, delaying payments, expecting me to work for less than I did before, and so on. These are not acceptable actions, and I always dump clients who take this approach.

You need to dump such clients, too. Like a bad boyfriend, a bad client is damaging to your mental health.

Many freelancers think they have to put up with toxic clients (“What about my bills?”) but you should always push back against unfair or punitive actions. If you don’t get resolution, it’s time to leave. Having an adversarial client is not the norm and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Freelancers often feel trapped when they rely too heavily on one client to feed them work. This is like being an employee but with none of the benefits. Keeping a wide range of clients on your schedule helps you weather problems like having to fire a client.

When I have to fire clients, I usually state the reason why: “The new policy regarding payment is unacceptable. I’m sorry we couldn’t reach an agreement. Best of luck with your projects.” This gives the editor/contact person ammunition to use against new policies (“We’re losing our best freelancers over this policy”) if they want it (which they sometimes do). Speaking out about these situations is the best way to create change.

Sometimes if I’m just glad to get the bad client out of my hair, or if for some reason I don’t want to rock the boat (maybe one department is fine to work with but another isn’t) my schedule suddenly becomes fully booked months in advance. All I say is something like, “Sorry, I can’t take on any new projects right now. Best of luck with your project.”

It’s easier to deal with problem indie authors, as one author typically doesn’t make up a significant portion of your earnings and you can always refuse to work with an indie client again. But it’s equally important to expect basic courtesies from indie authors: timely payments, reasonable expectations, respect for your time.

Bad clients can sap your energy, push you toward burnout, and make you wish you’d never left your staff job. Fire them before that happens!

6 Tips for Working with Book Publisher or Packager Clients

I’ve worked with a number of book publisher and book packager clients over the years and I’ve found a few basic rules help ensure that I complete each project satisfactorily. You may find them helpful, too.

#1. Understand your role. If an author has asked whether the plot entertains you and you tell them they have a lot of misspelled words, you may be right but you’ve failed at the job. By the same token, if a publishing company has hired you to copyedit a manuscript, they are not asking you to weigh in on the cover design or suggest that a change of setting would be a good idea.

#2. Ask questions. Early in my career I felt certain that professional editors knew all the answers ahead of time and to ask the client questions would reveal that I was inexperienced. Now, it is true that some questions will reveal your inexperience (“What do you mean by ‘editorial query’?”) but experience has taught me that questions about tools and processes are often necessary: what is the house style, do I send the ms directly to the author once I’ve edited it, do you have a standard style sheet, what other supplemental documentation do you need, etc. If these questions aren’t answered during the on-boarding process, I will collect them and set up a phone conversation with the person who hired me (or send an email, if that is their preference) before I begin the edit.

#3. Set expectations. You’re a freelancer, not a staffer, so you have to make sure that your expectations and the client’s expectations are in line. If they expect umpteen status conferences, the time that will require has to be included in your project quote. If they want you to shepherd the project from author’s final draft to production, you need to know that so you can schedule the time (and charge accordingly).

#4. No is a full sentence. This is related to #3. If you agreed to do one round of copyediting on a manuscript, and you have delivered your copyedit, you do not also have to review the author’s revision, proof the galleys, or any other task someone decides to heap on your plate. That said, some ways of saying no are more fruitful than others:

  • “This was not what we agreed to but I can do it for an additional fee of $x.”
  • “You told me that I could use any style sheet I preferred (see your email below) so that’s what I did, but in future I would be happy to use the house style sheet.”

#5. Respect your client. Setting boundaries, which is what both #3 and #4 are about, can help ensure that both you and the client are happy. But to set boundaries most effectively, it helps if you start from a place of respect: you want to work with this client and you are willing to be flexible. You are merely saying that once the edit has begun, the rules can’t change. Respect also means that the company publishes work you can be proud of. When I ran a romance imprint, I had a lot of people who wanted to get editorial work from me despite that fact that they didn’t read romance or (and they would literally tell me this) respect the genre. I had zero interest in hiring anyone with this perspective and found it annoying that they would waste my time.

#6. Work with people who value your work versus trying to convince them of your value. Most publishers understand that value of the editorial process, but I do encounter publishers and packagers from time to time who are merely paying lip service to the process. They just want to grind the work out and typically they don’t want to pay very much for it. I don’t waste my time trying to talk them out of paying $20 an hour for development. I move on. (And so should you.)

Working with publishers versus indie clients

Editors often want to freelance for book publishers and packagers as a way to have reliable clients who provide ongoing work. But there are some differences in working directly for the client (as with an indie author) and working for a publisher.

When I’m doing a developmental edit for a book publisher, I usually have a much more extensive familiarity with the acquisitions editor than with the author, so while I’m careful to keep my queries and comments neutral and polite, as far as I’m concerned, authors come and go. It’s the acquisitions editor I have to keep happy. I make sure I understand what the AE wants, how this book fits in with a series (if it does), what it’s supposed to accomplish, who its audience is intended to be, and so on.

I rarely have any opportunity to have a conversation with the author about how the project came about or what they are trying to achieve with it, though I will usually be part of an introductory phone call where we hash out logistics. There’s little personal connection and I generally have almost no sense of what the author is like in “real” life. I don’t have to have that to do the editing job. It helps, but it’s not imperative.

However, over the years a fair amount of my editing work has come from individual clients—people who are working on book proposals, novel manuscripts, memoirs, you name it. They’re trying to make their work commercially salable, but they’re also (usually) trying to achieve a vision for the project. They have a dream of what the book is going to be, and they want me to help them achieve it. They don’t want an uncredited coauthor, they want a mentor. My job is equal parts offering information from my experience, providing feedback on their project, and holding their hand.

In every case, you have to edit the project you have according to the expectations of the audience and the client. You can’t make it the project you wish you had or the story you would have written. Editing is not about being right, or proving that you’re right, but about helping your client create a ms that matches their vision and appeals to its audience.

When you work for a publisher, you’re usually freer to make changes to a manuscript and to suggest revisions to ensure the ms adheres to the publisher’s expectations, whereas if you’re working directly with the author, your goal is to help the author create the most polished work they are capable of creating, which is another thing altogether.

For example, if you’re editing a romance for a publisher, you can insist that the development of the love relationship must take center stage (that’s what a romance is, after all!) and show the author various ways this might be accomplished. If the author doesn’t find a way to meet these requirements, the publisher can cancel the book. Everyone involved in the process understands this, so everyone (ideally) works together to accomplish the goals.

That’s not the case when the author is your direct client. You can suggest, as a consultant, that romance readers will expect the love relationship to take center stage, and you can offer ideas for how such a revision can be accomplished, but you’re in no position to insist on anything. That’s not your role.

In general (this is not always the case), an indie author will need more hand-holding and less criticism. If they wanted to deal with gate-keepers, they’d be pursuing traditional publication. So you can’t act like a gate-keeper. You have to be their cheerleader and their teammate.

One question I’m often asked is, “If you’re editing for a publisher, can you phrase queries to say something like, ‘The publisher has asked that you overhaul x and y’? Or would the publisher have already communicated that to the author?”

This question is more complex than it may first appear. It will sound strange but you can’t actually assume the AE has read the full ms very closely. So, you can’t assume that the AE knows more about the project than you do. (The reason this happens is authors can be contracted for several books and the AE just passed the second one in the series off to you; or they can be contracted based on a proposal, but not the full ms and the full ms is just passed along to you; or the AE can have a crunch of deadlines, etc., so that a particular ms may not get much attention.)

In general, though, you and the AE will decide before you start your edit what the main issues you’ll need to address are. Sometimes the AE will have a list of things for you to attend to but most often you’ll work this out together.

What that means is that what you (the DE) say in your revision letter is what the AE/publisher will enforce as the standard for manuscript acceptance. That doesn’t mean the author can’t decide to reject an edit or can’t solve a problem in a different way or anything like that. It does mean that if the author hasn’t delivered a satisfactory revision, and it can be shown that they did not follow the revision letter, then the contract can be vacated. This is made clear to the author during the contracting process (and is almost always a clause in the contract—a “satisfactory revision” being one that basically meets the guidance you give in the revision letter.)

This doesn’t mean that you have to dump everything into the revision letter. On the contrary, you need to focus on those most crucial items that, if addressed, would greatly improve the ms. It does mean that you have to be sure that you’re clearly addressing each of the main dev issues in the revision letter.

The author is going to know that publication is contingent on a successful revision so you don’t need to state that. At the same time, the author also knows they have some leeway in how they do the revision. Occasionally the AE will decide (or you and the AE will decide together) that some items are deal-breakers. Those are items that allow no wiggle room. The author must address them or the book is doomed. You do need to call these out in the revision letter.

Generally, but not always, these are items the AE and the author already have agreed about, so you just remind the AU of that: “As you and AE agreed, the ms needs to be rewritten in the third person . . . .”

Sometimes you may discover things that were not discussed with the author ahead of time but which are important enough to be deal-breakers. You should discuss those with the AE before you deliver the edit and work out, with the AE, the language you’ll use in the revision letter: “Author, during my edit, I reached the conclusion that the part where you kill off the main character and let his dog tell the rest of the story does not work as well as you had hoped. I talked to AE and we agreed that this does need to change before publication. . . .”

If the nonnegotiables have been discussed ahead of time then you just remind the author that they “need to” make a certain change (as opposed to “consider making”). If the author returns a revision without the necessary changes, you will want to make sure the AE’s got your back before you say anything, then get the right language from the AE. For example, you would ask, “AE, you mentioned that the dog’s perspective has to go. The author is pushing back. Is this something I need to insist on?”

If it’s not a deal-breaker but the AE would really like to see the change, you would say something like that: “AE would really like to see Brenda take actions that would distinguish her from a mushroom so I’ve indicated places throughout where she could be shown doing something other than hiding under a log . . . .” (Perhaps more diplomatically stated than that.)

We would rarely just say “the publisher requires/insists” although sometimes the AE may ask us to do so. (That’s actually more common in NF than in fiction.)

One caveat: in the interests of not insulting people if you don’t have to, never ask the AE if they actually read the ms or how closely they read it or express surprise that they didn’t notice a glaring problem that you’ve spotted. You don’t want to put the AE on the spot or make the AE feel criticized (that’s not your role; you’re not their supervisor). I’m merely suggesting that you shouldn’t assume the AE has carefully read the ms. If you spot a big problem but the AE hasn’t mentioned it, don’t assume, “Well, if the AE wanted me to fix it they would have said so.” Maybe, maybe not.

When I’m working directly for the author and I’ve established a friendly rapport with them, I’ll be a little more relaxed in my approach, but I’m always mindful that a manuscript is a precious child to the author and just as you wouldn’t make fun of the bug eyes on someone’s kid, you don’t use their manuscript as a source of levity, even if you’re sure the author will find your remarks as hilarious as you do.

With an indie author, I usually have a conversation before I begin the edit where I find out the author’s purpose. This helps guide my edit. What is the ms intended to do? If it’s an inspirational novel, it should have an uplifting message. If it’s a romance, it must have a happily-ever-after.

I always ask for any supporting material the author has, such as a query letter (sent to an agent if the author is seeking traditional publication), book blurb (the brief description found on the back cover of a book or in the online catalog for it), and/or chapter summary/synopsis. These supplemental materials can alert me to a disconnect between what the author thinks they have and what they actually do have.

Building Your Editing Business

Finding clients as a newer editor is a challenge. Where do you start? I suggest you begin by asking yourself a few questions.

Decide Who You Are as an Editor

  1. What is your purpose? Mine is to help women find a way to tell their stories.
  2. What kinds of clients does your purpose suggest you should target? I target women who are transitioning from nonfiction to fiction or creative nonfiction.
  3. What do you want from your business? I want to work on interesting manuscripts written by professionals who can pay professional fees.
  4. What kinds of clients does your “what I want from my business” answer suggest you should target? For me, people who are already professionals and who see the value of editorial help.
  5. What is your area of specialization and why? Me: teaching women nonfiction writers to write romance because this is where my skills and experience lie and it is what people ask me to do.

Inventory What You Already Know

  1. What is your overall business goal?
  2. What are some overall marketing strategies you could use to get clients?
  3. What are some skills and experiences you have that might help potential clients solve a problem?
  4. What are five or ten things you can do in the next two months to give yourself some additional editing experience?
  5. Who are some people you could get to know who could help you build your business?
  6. What types of services are you offering/planning to offer potential clients?

Put It Together

  1. Who are your target clients and where are they likely to be found?
  2. What is one thing you can do this week to network with colleagues and/or potential clients?
  3. Identify an indirect way of finding clients (such as teaching a class) that appeals to you. What are some steps you need to take to get the ball rolling?

 

 

 

 

2021 Course Catalog Has Arrived!

Club Ed readers have overwhelmingly asked for more instructor-led classes, so 2021 will include a whole bunch of offerings. The catalog through May 2021 has been added here and you can also see it below.

Instructor-led classes for new and aspiring developmental editors

Instructor-led classes are held within a specified time period. They feature weekly assignments to practice your skills and individual instructor feedback on your work. All course materials are accessed from the online classroom.

Online discussions allow you and your fellow students to ask the instructor questions and to toss around ideas. These discussions are held asynchronously (read and post as you have availability); you do not need to be anywhere at any particular time in order to participate, although assignments will need to be submitted by the deadlines provided in the course materials.

If you have any questions about any of the classes, please email the Resort Director: ResortDirector@ClubEdFreelancers.com

Using the Pareto Principle as a freelancer

The Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 rule, is a ratio used to describe certain economic and business situations, such as 20 percent of the people have 80 percent of the wealth, or 80 percent of your revenue comes from 20 percent of your customers. If you just knew which 20 percent of your customers to focus on, you could forget the rest, do well, and have fewer demands on your resources.

What the 80/20 Rule Means for Marketing

If you’re trying to make a living as a freelance editor—or even just make some side income—then you know that you’re supposed to do a ton of things to market yourself. You’re supposed to have a website and a blog, but not just any old website and blog, a GREAT website and a blog with 5.3 million unique views each month (and each day would be better!). AND you also need to be on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and five other social media sites of your choice. You need to be able to write sales copy and sales pitches and know exactly who to send them to and when. And that’s before you even start your first edit.

Trying to do it all can quickly lead to burn out, to the feeling that you’re doing nothing well, or to completely abandoning the attempt. You end up wondering why freelancing is not working out like you hoped it would.

Instead, focus your efforts on those areas that bring the greatest rewards. If you enjoy Pinterest and follow lots of boards and have lots of followers, and these followers turn into clients from time to time, that is a place where your effort is rewarded. So there is no need to overextend yourself by also trying to be on Twitter and Facebook, too.

If you have a website that clearly says what you do and how people can get in touch with you, then do you really need to spend five thousand bucks and a hundred hours making it a little splashier? If you’re not interested in blogging on daily or at least regular basis, then try putting that idea aside and focusing your attention on other matters.

Do a few things well, see what happens, adjust your strategy as needed, and don’t beat yourself up for not having a clone. Look for what brings results and do more of that and less of everything else.

Adding Coaching to Your Menu of Services

Coaching writers is distinct from developmental editing, but because of the nature of DE work, it’s common for it to shade into coaching (and, indeed, into mentoring). Many DEs fall into coaching because their clients ask for it while others want to move into the field more intentionally. Here are my thoughts about offering coaching services as an adjunct to your developmental editing work.

Coaching Versus DE

In general, a developmental edit is a finite act that is concentrated on evaluating a finished ms, making ms edits and queries, and recommending revisions for the author to make. While you might answer questions about the edit or look at the author’s revision, the main bulk of work is in the actual editing of the ms.

Coaching, then, is whatever else you might do to help a writer grow in craft that isn’t that finite act of editing. It may be offering critiques on chapters as the author writes them (rather than after the whole is complete). Maybe it’s providing writing prompts and feedback to help the author grow in skill. Maybe it’s hopping on the phone for a brainstorming session when the author is stuck with her current ms.

I do a mix of both in my work. My work with indie authors tends to veer more towards coaching while my work with publishers is strictly dev. While I can quote a project fee for a dev edit, coaching is more likely to be something I bill by the hour.

Start with Your Current Expertise

Whether you’re qualified to offer coaching depends on the types of service you’re planning to offer.

I have a lot of experience in traditional publishing, so authors will often ask me to critique a query/synopsis. Or they’ll ask if they can have a phone call with me to go over their pitch for a pitch session at a conference. These things I feel confident in doing. Someone who didn’t have much experience in traditional publishing would not understand what makes a good pitch so this would not be a good service for them to offer.

I used to work with writers for whom English is a second language but I haven’t done that in years. I don’t know what the good current resources in this area are or what the latest research shows regarding effective intervention. So I don’t offer that type of service anymore.

The best way to break into coaching is to figure out what you already know and do well and connect the dots to how you can use it to help writers.

Pick out one aspect of something you already do and have a lot of experience in and use that as a springboard to coaching. We sometimes think of coaching as one big pie where we have to know everything there is to know about writing and publishing to offer it but really coaching is a bunch of slices crammed together. You can probably coach one of those slices right now.

If you don’t have a lot of experience, the way to do anything like this is to start small and scaffold up. Your local writing group would probably be glad to have you lead a session on how to use the five senses in their writing. Once you have this experience, you can offer a class or workshop for the local arts center/parks and rec program/senior center. Now you’re a local expert on the five senses in writing and it took you a month.

Next, pitch a workshop for a national conference. Now you’re someone who teaches writers about using the five senses. Your coaching fee for offering this help one-on-one is $X per hour.

Finding Coaching Clients

In general, I find that indie authors don’t hire us for coaching out of the blue. No matter how great your website is, an indie author isn’t going to stumble over it and say, “Coaching is exactly what I need! How much will it cost?” Even if someone you know makes a referral, it’s rare for an author who doesn’t know you and hasn’t worked with you before to hire you for coaching.

Usually what happens is the author works with you in some capacity before and you both feel you work well together. This leads to the coaching relationship. Typically the best way to add coaching to your business is to build up your business enough so that some portion of the people you’re working with opt to pay you for coaching.

What are some ways you can build up your current clientele? What are some other things you can do to market/promote? For example, can you teach (virtual) writing or editing classes for the library, senior center, art center? Can you join writers’ groups and editors’ groups? Could you team-teach with someone who is more established? Subcontract?

Next, you have to think about how to stand out from others who offer editing/coaching services. What in your background, past experience, and/or personality is different/unique/useful to the writers you want to work with? When you’ve worked with writers in the past, what particular problems did you help them unknot? What kind of mentoring did you do and at what point in the writing process did you do it?

Your special skills don’t even have to be writing/publishing-related, exactly. I recently had a talk with an editor who markets to a law of attraction crowd because she’s very into that. So, explore why indie authors might want to work with you versus someone else.

Then consider what specific solutions you can offer to potential coaching clients. For a long time I would say, “Yes, I do coaching! I can coach writers and editors on craft and business concerns!” And no one would ever sign up. Then I started creating lists of things I could specifically do: For writers, I can review and give feedback on your query. I can educate you on how publishing works and help you come up with a plan for getting an agent. For editors, I can review a ms you’ve edited and give feedback on your work.

Once people saw the specifics, they could imagine themselves wanting that. Then, even if they had a request that wasn’t on the list, they would ask me (“Can you help me figure out what these rejections mean?” came up recently). These steps will help you drum up coaching clients.