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.