Thinking about writing a book? Author and book coach Jennie Nash is our guest for the 139th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Although we’ve talked about writing a book on the podcast before, Rob and Kira wanted to go even deeper on the topic, as well as learn what it means to be a book coach. We learned a lot from the discussion. Here’s what we covered:
• how she became a book coach and landed book deals for her first 3 clients
• the embarrassingly easy process of writing her own first book
• where creativity and book ideas come from
• when someone should consider working with a book coach
• where writers go wrong in the book writing process
• the three critical motivations that drive people to write books
• the she turned book coaching into a thriving business
• whether copywriters should have a book to support their businesses
• the place ego plays in writing a book
• how she prices her coaching packages and what they include
• the importance of structure and where you can find them
If you’ve even considered writing a book, you should listen to what Jennie has to share. Click the play button below, download the episode to your favorite podcast app, or scroll down to read a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:The Creative Habit by Twila Tharp
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Intro: Content (for now)
Rob: This podcast is sponsored by The Copywriter Underground.
Kira: It’s our new membership designed for you, to help you attract more clients and hit 10K a month, consistently.
Rob: For more information or to sign up, go to thecopywriterunderground.com.
What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two, to inspire your own work. That’s what Kira and I do, every week, at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Kira: You’re invited to join the club for episode 139, as we chat with book coach, Jennie Nash, about writing and publishing a book, working in the publishing industry, what her writing process looks like, and how we can avoid the mistakes authors usually make when sitting down to write a book. Welcome Jennie.
Rob: Hey, Jennie.
Jennie: Hey, thanks for having me.
Kira: Yeah, great to have you here. So, let’s kick this off with your story, how did you end up as a book coach?
Jennie: Well, I guess we should start out by saying what a book coach is, because a lot of people have never heard that term.
Rob: That’s the question, what is a book coach?
Jennie: And I may have made it up, I don’t know. I mean, I’m not claiming to have started the internet kind of thing. But, lots of people have been using this term, but the way I distinguish it, is that, an editor usually works on a piece of writing after that piece of writing is finished, in order to move it forward and make it better. And a book coach helps a writer while they’re writing. So, the way I describe it is, it’s like a personal trainer for your writing life. And a book coach is focused on book writing. So, that’s what a book coach is. And I stumbled into this career after a career as an author. I had published seven books in two genres, mostly with big five publishers. And I was teaching at the UCLA writers program, which is actually the largest adult focused writing program in the country. And what I realized when I began teaching, I taught there for 12 years, and I realized that I was teaching systems. And that, nobody else around me was teaching systems.
And it began to be quite obvious that I was doing something different. And I didn’t know I was doing that, it just was a thing that I naturally did. And as a result of that practice, I guess, I would call it, I was approached by another instructor, who is Lisa Cron, who’s the author of Wired for Story and Story Genius. And Lisa is a brilliant story analyst and she was teaching in the program as well and wanted to write a book about her thoughts and philosophies and ideas about story. But, she didn’t know how, she had never written a book. And so, she recognized that I had the system’s way of thinking and asked if I would coach her. And I didn’t, at the time, know how to do that, or what that would look like or anything, but I said yes. And together, we found our way, and the result was the sale of that two book deal for her. And my next client in a different genre, sold his book to Simon and Schuster, his memoir to Simon and Schuster.
So, the first three projects I worked on, ended up in big five book deals. So, I realized I was on to something, and began to do it full time.
Rob: That is awesome. So, I’m really curious about the systems that you use. But before we talk about that, tell us about the first book that you wrote. And was it easy? What was the struggle like? How did you pitch it to a publisher and actually get published?
Jennie: Yeah, I always hesitate to tell the story because it was easy, and that’s not the experience for most people, and I recognize that I’m acutely aware of that. But, in my case, I was working for a New York City magazine, a slick city magazine called New York Woman. This was in the 80s. And it was owned by American Express Publishing, which at the time, owned Food and Wine and Architectural Digest. So, very high end, beautifully produced magazines. And I was the lowest rung on the editorial ladder. And the people that I was working with on staff there were just fantastically talented writers. Wendy Wasserstein wrote for us, Susannah Grant, who went on to write the movie. Erin Brockovich wrote for us, our editor in chief, Betsy Carter, had been the first and highest women editor at Newsweek. Just this embarrassment of riches of talent and I was the very bottom rung on the editorial ladder. And I ended up getting the opportunity to write an essay, a one-page essay in the magazine about… I was getting married, and I wrote this piece about my engagement.
And as a result of this 800-word, one-page piece, one of the agents for one of our writers approached me and said, ‘Do you want to write a book about that?’ And I was 24, and I said yes. And I wrote that book and she sold it to Crown, and it was excerpted in Cosmo and Brides and that was that. So, it was embarrassingly easy.
Kira: So, we have to know, what did you say in that 800-word essay about your engagement?
Jennie: Well, what’s so funny about it is, for your audience, I think, will really appreciate this. I’m 55 years old, so I wrote that essay when I was maybe 23, I don’t know, a long time ago. And I can still remember the first line of that essay, it’s etched into my head. And I think it just goes to show the power of a great sentence, great couple of words strung together. So, the sentence was this, ‘I’m about to be married and all I can think about is death.’
Kira: That is awesome. I love that.
Jennie: It was this piece about how really loving makes you totally vulnerable, and how horrible it is. And how making a commitment to somebody, just comes baked in with this terror. So, it was this funny piece about getting married, that was not a normal thing you might see. And I’m sure that, that’s… It was just that sentiment and that voice and that difference that caught the agent’s eye. But yes, I think it might be the best sentence I ever wrote.
Kira: That’s a powerful sentence. So, let’s go down this rabbit hole for a little bit and talk about love. Because, I feel the same way about love. So, how have you resolved that feeling and that sentence about love, over the past few decades? How do you feel today about love?
Jennie: Well, it’s interesting you should ask this, I just celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary last week, and that feeling has absolutely not diminished. I think, it’s in fact, gotten worse. And my husband and I were reflecting on that day, it was kind of sick, but, we were reflecting like, the only way out of this at this point is somebody dies. I mean, that’s true with all of us with life. But, with this relationship and this love and it’s just been a pillar of our lives and a great accomplishment, we both came from families that were very broken. And so, yeah, it has not diminished. And I think that, juxtaposition of love and death and joy and despair, it’s hard to ignore, at least for me. And so, it’s shocking when I think about the number of times that my husband has died in my head. I’ve contemplated his not being here.
Kira: Yeah. Okay, so, I want to hijack this whole conversation and just talk about love with you, but I know Rob would probably not like that. I feel like that they just say-
Rob: I mean, my game. I don’t have feelings.
Kira: Yeah. So, we should definitely talk about this over a glass of wine sometime, Jennie. But, let’s go back to systems and what you said about teaching systems that you didn’t realize at the time, that, that’s what you were doing. Can you talk a little bit more about what you mean by that? I couldn’t completely picture the systems that you were talking about.
Jennie: Yeah, it’s been very exciting to me the past however many years of getting more conscious and aware of the systems that govern the creative process. So, I think in our culture, we tend to think of creativity often as this thing that bubbles up from within you, or, is imposed from outside this idea of the genius, right? The genius in the attic that just comes up with a great idea and unleashes it upon the world. So, that’s coming up from inside you. Or, the idea that it’s imposed upon you in the way of a muse, or somehow looking for inspiration from outside. And I have found that, every creative project I have worked on for my own self or for a client, has followed certain pathways and processes, maybe not in the same way or the same order or the same speed, but there’re these universal elements to the creative process, that you… So, if you can recognize those patterns, you can produce a system to walk somebody through them, and steps to get them from A to B.
And if you think about it, which I do a lot, creativity is not some just free form, wild, and I mean, wild in the sense of like wild animal or a wilderness. It’s not a wild thing, it’s a contained thing. And it’s much the same as, I often think of sports. That, a soccer game, or basketball game, doesn’t work unless everybody follows the systems and the rules and the structures and the guidelines and the boundaries. That’s how it works. And I think the same is true of creative work. And I think, too often, people think that, in order to make something, so, in order to write a book and produce this product, or this thing. That they have to depend on or ride this inspiration wave or this… that, just back to those ideas of genius or a muse, and I don’t think any of that is true. And I was enormously influenced in my thinking by Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit.
I mean, it’s just profound. And when I read that book, it solidified in my mind all of that thinking that I had been circling around. And I read that and I thought, yes, yes, that creativity can be nurtured, it can be taught, it can be tamed. And that’s really the basis of the work that I do for people, is helping them harness all of that energy in a process or a system that’s going to result in their goal, which is a book.
Rob: So, let’s dive into the system then. And obviously, we don’t necessarily want you to give away all of your secrets. But, if I was coming to you to work on a book, where would we start? And what are the steps of the system look like?
Jennie: Oh, I’ll give away all my secrets, I’m happy to. So, I have, over the years, developed something that I call the blueprint for a book, and it’s what I use when somebody comes to me, whether it would be as you just described. You’re coming with an idea and you have nothing, you’re at zero. I would use this process and this system. But I also would use it if somebody was coming to me with a book that needed rescuing. So, it was getting rejected by agents, it was not getting traction in the marketplace, something’s wrong with the book and the author wants to fix it. I would also use this process if someone was coming with a rough draft and wanted to revise it. So, this is a system that I have found works in literally every situation related to a book. And the way that I would start is to zoom way out from the project, and to ask the questions that most likely, I would say almost 100% of the time, the author has not actually asked themselves.
Which is, first of all, ‘Why are you writing this book? Why does it matter to you? What is the meaning of it to you? What is your motivation for doing it?’ And pushing the writer to dig far beyond the first answer, which is usually, ‘It’d be cool to publish a book, or, ‘I want to be on Oprah,’ or, ‘I want to sell it to the movies,’ or, ‘I want to quit my day job,’ those are all valid reasons. But usually, there’s reasons underneath those that are really driving someone. And if I can get down to the answer, the real deep level, I call it the deep level why, why are you doing this? Then, odds are really good, we can see clearly what this thing is supposed to be. So, if I could only ask one question, that would be the question I would ask.
The next questions that I ask have to do with audience. ‘Who are you writing for? Why do they care? What are they going to get out of it?’ We come to books for so many reasons. We come for solace, we come for escape, we come for entertainment, we come for education, and that, you have to know what you’re giving to your reader. Why they would care, out of all the things that one could do in a day, why would they pick up your book and read it? What are you giving to them? Who are they? What’s their pain? Those questions, and really drilling down into those. And again, most writers come with very surface level answers, which is fine. It’s where we all start. But, to really make progress, we’ve got to dig down under them. And then, the last set of first questions would be about structure. The way I think and the way I teach and the way coach has… I’m just a huge proponent of that form is function.
So, books are structured, they have architecture just like a building. And trying to figure out, what is the best structure for containing this idea? For presenting this material? For connecting to the reader? So, it’s zooming way out and looking at the really big picture aspects of the project.
Kira: Where do most writers go wrong in this process? So, it seems like maybe not asking those deeper questions, but, where else do they mess up in this process?
Jennie: Well, yeah, that’s it. The thing about writers, is that, writers love to write. And we love to sit down and play with words or get lost in the ideas or get lost in the story. There’s joy in that, there’s satisfaction in that. It’s a fun process, it’s generative, it’s positive. And so, it’s really, where we go wrong, is that, it’s hard to pull out of that by yourself, I found, it’s hard. Most of the times, writers have this idea, they get this motivation, they sit down and they crank out their 300 pages. And maybe they’re doing that with a support of a writers group, or maybe they’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo in November to crank it out in a month. Or, maybe they’ve made a commitment that, ‘This is the year I’m going to write a book.’ And they’ve just put their head down and they do it. And they put the words on the page. And yeah, not having stopped to ask those big questions, odds are excellent, that what they write is going to not hold together.
And so, it’s going too fast, that’s really it. It’s going too fast. And believing that the creative process will be harmed or damaged in some way, by stopping to think or stopping to plan or stopping to be intentional. That goes back to that myth of the creative genius. I think, too many writers are afraid that, stopping to think, asking for help, bringing in any other expert voice or feedback is going to wreck their mojo. So, it’s trusting this idea of creativity that is not… that has other elements besides just the doing of it.
Rob: So, going back to the first step of the system then, finding out the why, I’m sure that lots of people… Well, we know, lots of people want to write a book, or at least, they want to have written a book. But what are the typical answers that you get to that question, what’s your why? When you’re going really deep, what are the motivations that really push people through the entire process?
Jennie: I love that question, it’s my favorite. So, there’s three things that have emerged as critical. And I actually ask people this, and at Author Accelerator, which is my book coaching company, I have 25 book coaches working for me. And at any given time, we’re serving several hundred writers, and we ask everybody this question, ‘Why are you doing it?’ So, we have a lot of data. And the top three answers that we get are these. The first is, people want to raise their voice. So, by that, I mean, it turns out, a lot of people in this world have been silenced. And they’ve been silenced by a million different things. But, oftentimes, it’s people close to them, telling them that they’re not good enough, that they don’t have anything to say, that they’re not worthy, that they should be quiet, that they shouldn’t be bossy, all the ways that were silenced. And I’m not even touching yet on the ways that our culture might silence diverse voices, or, so many ways that we just silence people.
And this is huge for writers, the idea that they’re finally ready to claim their power and to raise their voice, and to take up that space and speak. So, it’s really just about speaking and raising your voice. The second thing that we see people say, is that, they want to make an impact. They want to influence people. They want to make matter in the world in some way. Book writers don’t generally write for their own pleasure, you’re writing in order to connect with a reader, you’re writing in order to make an impact on somebody. And a book can be successful, even if it only impacts one person. It’s the reader closes the loop for the writer. And so, the desire to influence in some way or impact in some way or, there’s the raising of the voice as an act of reclamation. But then, the impact piece is actually having to something to say. I have something to say, and I want people to hear it and I want it to matter. That’s the second piece.
And even people who are writing middle grade fiction, about dragons. Or, why contemporary romance, which may not on the surface seem like it’s designed to have a big influence or impact, absolutely does. And those writers feel that, and they know that, and they want that. So, that’s the second one. And the third one is actually the biggest and the most profound, and it is the one that we hear the most. And it is funny, goes back to death. People literally say, ‘I don’t want to die before I finish this book.’ They literally say that. ‘I do not want to die before I do this.’ It’s a thing that they typically have wanted to do their entire lives. It’s a thing that they probably dreamed of doing when they were younger, and then, they went off and got a degree and a job and a stable, normal respectable thing that would pay the bills. And, I mean, we get lawyers and doctors and PR professionals and communication professionals and copywriters.
I mean, really, people who have, what I would call, writing adjacent careers, but they have this thing burning in them, that they’ve had their whole lives. And they don’t want to die before they finish. And I can tell you a story that just incredibly, incredibly just happened last week. One of our Author Accelerator writers, was, for the last year, working with one of our coaches. And the writer was terribly ill. I mean, gravely ill. And this is what she wanted to do with her last time here on earth. And she was literally submitting pages from ICU. And she died last week. Our coach got an email from this woman’s husband that she had passed and he thanked the coach for seeing, she didn’t finish, but for giving her, holding that space for her, and giving her the opportunity to do that. And I mean, this is an extreme example that doesn’t happen very often. But that sentiment, underlies a lot of what drives people.
Kira: Hey, we’re just jumping into the show today, to tell you a little bit more about The Copywriter Underground. Rob, what do you like best about this membership?
Rob: So, this membership community is full of copywriters that are investing in their businesses, and it’s taking what they do seriously. Everything is focused around three ideas, copywriting and getting better at the craft that we all do. Marketing and getting in front of the right customers, so that you can charge more and earn more. And also, mindset, so that you can get out of your head and focus on the things that will help you be successful at what we do. There’s a private Facebook group for the members of the community. And we also send out a monthly newsletter, that’s full of advice, again, on those three areas, copywriting, marketing and mindset. Things that you can mark up and tear out, put them in your file, save them for whatever, and it’s not going to get lost in your email inbox.
Rob: Kira, what do you like about The Copywriter Underground.
Kira: So, I love the monthly hot seat calls, where, our members have a chance to sit in the hot seat and ask a big question or get ideas. Or, talk through a challenge in their business, because we all learn from those situations. And then, I also feel like the templates we include in the membership are valuable, because, who wants to reinvent the wheel? And Robin and I end up sharing a lot of the templates and resources we use in our own businesses. So, I would definitely want to grab those.
Rob: So, if you are interested in joining a community of copywriters that are investing in their business and in themselves and trying to do more, get more clients, earn more money consistently, go to thecopywriterunderground.com, to learn more. Now, back to the program.
Kira: So, I want to find out more about your business, because you mentioned that you are running the Author Accelerator with, at least, 20 coaches, I think you said. Is that right?
Jennie: Yeah, 25.
Kira: Okay. So, this is quite a business, can you just talk through the structure and your team, and what your business looks like? And then, the second part is just talking through where you spend most of your time. Because, you’re publishing your own books, and you’re also running this team and coaching, and probably doing so many other things. So, where are you spending most of your time these days?
Jennie: Yeah, definitely. So, the Author Accelerator is this business that emerged from the fact that I have these systems and structures in place. And I wish I could say that it was my idea, but it was not my idea. I gave us a talk at… UCLA has a center for entrepreneurial studies in their business school. And I gave a talk to entrepreneurs about how writing a book can turn you into a thought leader, and how it’s just an amazing and powerful thing for an entrepreneur to do. And how entrepreneurs actually have more of the skills and mindset needed to succeed than people who come from the writer side. And so, I gave this talk and afterwards, someone approached me who teaches in the entrepreneur center. And he said, ‘It’s very unusual to have a creative person think systematically the way that you’re thinking.’ And he said, ‘That is a perfect opportunity to scale.’
So, he presented this idea to me, and I said, ‘That’s ridiculous. I’m not a business person, I’m a writer. Thanks, goodbye.’ But, he was quite relentless in his pursuit of me. And he was like a dog with a bone, and he finally convinced me to try it. And we became business partners and started this business together. And he had the vision for how to model it, and how we could make a sustainable business out of the systems that I had. So, we pivoted about a million times in how we were going to do it. But, where we ended up was having coaches working within the systems and the structures that I had designed and was using in my own coaching practice. Because, it was a perfect business model, and I had proven that it worked for myself. So, the idea was to just replicate it, and then, to teach people how to work within the system. So, a huge part of what we do, is, we hire people who we believe will have the capacity to do the work that I do. And we have a test that measures that.
So, we have a really good hiring process. And then, we have a training and oversight process, where we train the coach, and then, they work under a senior coach for three months, where everything they do is overseen. And then, they are eligible to get writers of their own. And a big part of what we do in our businesses is we match the writers and the coaches by hand. So, it’s not, the writer does not choose the coach, it’s not a marketplace. The writer comes to us and we make the match based on an extensive in taking survey about what the writer is looking for, in terms of their publishing goals. What kind of a coaching style they’re looking for where they are in the process? So, we make that match, and it’s the thing we’re most proud of. We’re really good at making matches that typically end up being extremely successful. And so, our writers stay with us, we have, our basic package is a minimum of 12 deadlines, which typically means six months.
And that’s something we landed on over time, because we used to have a package where you can come in and out of coaching. You could do it for a month or two months, and we prided ourselves on the fact that there was no commitment. And we quickly realized that it didn’t work. And that, what writers really need is to have somebody hold their feet to the fire. And that, that’s really what I was doing in my coaching practice. So, we made this 12 deadline minimum, which is a significant investment for the writer, that ends up being a $3,000 commitment. And we did that on purpose, so that, people can’t wiggle out of it, so that, they’ve got skin in the game, and we’re finding it to be extremely successful. And that’s the basic model.
Rob: So, you mentioned these deadlines, what are the deadlines? What is the process that they’re going through as they’re writing the book?
Jennie: Yeah. So, a deadline involves a day on which the writer turns in up to 20 pages of copy. So, that standard manuscript formatting. So, they’re turning in 20 pages, the coach is going to give them online feedback within 72 hours. And by online, they’re in it. It’s not copy editing, it’s developmental editing. But, they’re in every line, they’re looking at every element there. They’re thinking about the priority feedback for this chunk of text. Then, they’re guiding that writer, and the guidance might be, ‘You need to revise this chapter again.’ It might be, ‘This chapter is making us think, we got to go back to chapter one and redo something there.’ Or, ‘This is looking great, let’s move to the next chapter.’ So, they’re giving editorial feedback and project management. So that, when our writers say that, ‘Guys, deadline is a beautiful thing.’ Right?
Kira: What is the deadline?
Jennie: Yeah. So, people really respond to that idea that the coaches they’re waiting, they’re going to get that feedback fast. And then, usually, the deadline comes every two weeks. So, that’s the typical frequency. And then, each deadline, we have a regular level of coaching, and then, a VIP level of coaching. And the VIP level has a phone call following each deadline, to talk over what they’re seeing and to hash things out and to brainstorm. The lower level has a call every other deadline. So, you’re getting on the page feedback, you’re getting a phone call with support. And then, email support as needed in between. So, it’s extremely hands on, it’s very personal. The testimonials we get from people are all about what a relief it is to have this actual support during the process. Because, I mean, I mentioned earlier that I taught at UCLA for 12 years, and it was so frustrating teaching writing workshops, even 10 week writing workshops. Because, I’m one instructor, maybe I have 12 students, maybe I have 20 students. There’s no way I can give their writing the attention that it needs and deserves.
And that’s what they crave, and that’s what they want. And it was very frustrating for me as an instructor and for the students that I taught. And so, this model and this system, solves for that. And it gives that sustained one on one attention on your writing. I was actually just writing a blog post this morning that, one of the most powerful things about that process, is that, it is teaching the writer, it’s building their writer muscle. By getting that one on one sustained feedback, you learn what you keep doing wrong, how to do that thing better. You hear the coach’s voice in your head, you build that muscle, so that, you don’t need that piece of feedback anymore. And then, you move on to the next level, and the next skill, and the next idea. So, it’s an incredibly powerful process.
Rob: So, you mentioned that when you were developing the process, that it came from this discussion that you had about how entrepreneurs needed to write a book. And I tend to see, most copywriters as entrepreneurs as well. So, do you think that copywriters all ought to have a book? Or, are there things about having a book that will help copywriters stand out or build their business in some way?
Jennie: Oh yeah, I totally agree. I mean, I think that copywriters absolutely have more of what you need to write a book than people coming just from a straight love of story. And some of what I mean by that is, yeah, an entrepreneur knows how to define an audience. They know how to serve a customer, they know how to manage a project, they know how to launch something into the world. Those skills are, in this modern publishing landscape, more critical in many, many ways, than just straight up writing a pretty sentence. I mean, by far. And there are a lot of writers doing extremely well, who come at it from that more entrepreneurial mindset. And I think, with copywriters, I’ve worked with a number of them over the years. And my favorite story is this guy, who was in one of my classes at UCLA, it was a memoir class. And he’s this older gentleman, and he’d come into my class and he had this baseball cap. And he just launched down in his chair, and pulled the baseball cap down over his face. And he just would sit there with his arms crossed.
And in this very defiant manner. And this went on… It was a 10 week class, and this went on for like three weeks. And he never did any of the homework I assigned, he never spoke in class. So, after the third week, I pulled him aside and I was like, ‘Why are you here?’ And he waited till everybody left the room, and he said that he had worked his entire career at Grey Advertising. He had been chief of copy at Grey Advertising. And he said, ‘I don’t know that I know how to write more than one sentence.’ And that was his fear, that he was really good, he had been involved in the writing of some very iconic tag lines and things. And he said, ‘I just don’t know that I can do it.’ So, I said to him, ‘Okay, come back next week with 10 pages, and if you don’t have them, don’t come to class.’
And he laughed and he said, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not kidding.’ So, he came back the next time and he had those pages, and they were spectacular. He was writing this memoir about a road trip he took when he was 16, across the country. And it was this iconic America that’s gone and it was just him to this golden age and this golden time, and to this friend that he traveled with. And the friend, it was just super tragic story, killed himself when they got home. And he had been living with this story, his entire life and his entire career. And once I gave him permission to do it, it just flowed out of him. I mean, he could not stop him. And I think that story is emblematic of the way that copywriters often think of themselves, is that they don’t think of themselves as being able to write a sustained long narrative. But, they’ve got everything that they need, and if they can get past that fear and overwhelm, and think in terms of structure and breaking it down, they will be in such good shape.
And whether they’re called to write fiction, or whether they are called to write nonfiction about their particular area of expertise or industry, they can just kill the game. And having a book sets them apart from everybody. For better for or worse, our culture values people who have a book. It’s a thing that we all believe, and we confer this power upon people who have a book. So, one thing I can do is share with your audience, I’d be happy to put up those first blueprint questions to get started on a book. And I would say, we can put those on a special page for your audience. And I would say that, take that challenge, see if you can answer those questions, see if you can do it. And if you can, you probably have what it takes to go all the way.
Kira: What if you want to write a book because it’s ego driven, and you just want to have the book? Can you work backwards from there and just figure out your why from there? ‘That’s what I want, I just want to have a book.’
Jennie: Oh, I think it’s all ego driven. Yeah. No, I mean, I’m the same way, I’m writing a book right now as well, that is totally 100% motivated by jealousy of my fellow entrepreneurs who are working in similar spaces, and they have books to drive their businesses. And I’m like, ‘I want that.’ So, yeah, 100%. So, that’s what I was talking about before you start with that, that’s like the bumper sticker version of your motivation. And then, you try to figure out, what’s underneath that ego? Like, underneath that, is, ‘I want to raise my voice.’ It’s those things we talked about before. ‘I want to raise my voice, I want to take up space, I want to be the one,’ that’s all about ego. And then, it’s, ‘I want to have an impact, I want to influence people, I want to be known for something, I have something to say.’ And then, it’s that thing about, ‘I don’t want to die before I do this.’
Kira: Rob, how many books do you have right now?
Rob: That I’ve written or that I own?
Kira: That you’ve published, yeah.
Rob: I’ve only written one. But I have, at least, two or three others in my head that are bouncing around, that I really want to get done.
Kira: So, I just want to have one more book than Rob, that’s just my goal. If I can stay ahead of Rob, my life is good.
Jennie: Well, and what Rob just said, I think is so true. There’s no writer, there’s no writer who doesn’t have three or four books in their head. There’s just no way, writers think… We think in words, we think in story, we think in narrative, even if you’re writing a copy in small chunks of text, you’re still thinking like that. It’s how your brain is wired. And I just, yeah, it’s giving yourself permission to do it, and it’s all those fears about, ‘What if I do it and it stinks?’ Or, ‘What if I do it and it succeeds.’ And just all the things and all the fears. But you can’t, I always say that a book is like… a book idea is like a ghost in the attic rattling the chain, and it’s not going to shut up until you write the book.
Kira: Right. I just want to ask you, what is the VIP price you mentioned? I know you said 3K for six months with the regular package.
Jennie: I don’t know, you guys are going to have to help me do the math. So, the 3K ends up being $250 a deadline, and the VIP… Oh gosh, I’m so embarrassed, is double that. So, it’s 6000.
Rob: I can do that math.
Kira: I got it, okay.
Jennie: I’m only going to have to multiply.
Kira: Okay, cool. I mean, the pricing seems really such a great value, especially for someone who does want to write their first book and need some support. It’s definitely selling me on working with a coach on a book. So, thanks for sharing the pricing. And just to flip this around a little bit for any copywriters who are listening, and maybe are already doing some book coaching or want to get into book coaching, now that they’re hearing about it from you, what advice would you give them to help them create a career as a book coach?
Jennie: Yeah. I mean, I’m a huge proponent of this gig, because, it has been incredibly successful for me personally. And I like to talk about money, not to put a spotlight on myself, but just because I think, it’s important to always talk about that, especially around writing and the publishing industry, because we’re not an industry where people typically make a lot of money. We’re not making the millions and billions of dollars that our colleagues working at Google and Chase Bank are making. I don’t know why those two things came to me. So, for me, but coaching is a great way for writers to add to their income, and it’s a huge market. Writers looking for education, I’m trying to get some research done on the actual size of this market. But, I do know that individual writers spend a great deal of money on their own education every year. Whether it’s buying classes or going to conferences or taking workshops or whatever they’re doing, they’re spending money. So, there’s money to be made.
So, I like to encourage people to think about coaching other writers, because it can be really lucrative. So, this past year, we are talking right now in April, I just did my taxes. This past year, I made multiple six figures as a book coach. And in the last four years before that, I made six figures as a book coach. So, it’s going very well for me. And so, I’d urge people feel like it’s a really doable thing to, not to earn that money right out of the gate. But, I have a book coach certification program that I developed based on the training program that we use at Author Accelerator. And this book coach certification program teaches you everything you need to help a writer write a book, and to walk through the entire narrative design and structural design and get their idea onto the page. And it talks about the emotions of doing that work, it talks about the practicalities of doing that work, and teaches you everything that you need to know, the basics that you need to know.
We’re just finished running a beta cohort through that curriculum. It’s a six month curriculum, it’s very meaty, and the price point is around $2,000. And we are seeing, most of the students, there’s 12 students in that cohort right now, and many of them are coming out of the end of it, they’re about a month away from finishing, and many of them already have paying clients. They’re already going to pay back that fee, before they’re even finished with the class. And I don’t have the exact numbers on it yet, but I feel certain that, within several months of finishing, most of them will be in a position to pay that back. And part of what we’re teaching in the classes, how to find clients and how to approach people. And how to deal with your friends and family members, who want you to work for free, and a lot of those questions.
And then, we’re following that curriculum with a course called, The Business of Book Coaching, which is how I actually run my business and how I actually market and find my clients and make my money, and that will be a masterclass that we’re offering following that. So, I can also, I’ll put up, like I said, I’ll put up a page on Author Accelerator just for Copywriter Club members, and I can put all this info on there, so it’s easy to track down.
Rob: That’s cool, thank you for that. So, I want to jump back to something that you mentioned when we first started talking, when we’re talking about the questions that you asked to get started. You mentioned that there are several examples of structure, or several kinds of book structure that you’ll walk through with a potential writer. Can you give us just an idea of what those different structures might look like? So that, for instance, obviously, there’s a difference between, say, writing fiction or nonfiction. So, I’m just curious as to what that looks like.
Jennie: Yeah. So, structure is one of those things that you can steal. So, one of the things I like to do is study other books and how they’re made and how they’re put together. So, for nonfiction, I’m just like a huge nerd for studying table of contents. And when I come across a book that has a beautiful table of contents, you can see the structure, it’s visible, it’s beautiful, it’s usually intuitive. And I’ll just swoon over a great table of contents. So, one of the things I’ve done is break down, for nonfiction, what those typical structures might look like. So, there’s just straight up narrative, and then, there’s what I would call a collective narrative, which might be bringing voices together, or different voices together, in service of an idea. Within a how to context, there’s some basic, different structures for how to teach somebody how to do something and how to work through it. So, when I’m working with someone on nonfiction, we first build the table of contents, and we build a chapter template.
Well, a perfect example, I have a happy story. I had a client yesterday who got a two book deal from Penguin. It’s a good day. And the structure that she hit on, was, every chapter would be the same shape. And we worked through it. Like, there would be a story to illustrate this idea, that there would be a tale from her own life to illustrate this idea. There would be sample scripts. Her book is, it’s a parenting book. So, there’s sample scripts that the parent would use with the child in every chapter. Then, there are do’s and don’ts to avoid when having these conversations. So, every chapter follows this template. And we worked out… Before she even started to write, we worked out, ‘Okay, that’s the chapter template, what’s the Table of Contents? What’s the flow going to be? How much ground are you going to cover?’ And then, the process would be that we would work on one chapter and really get that chapter right, and like how it feels and make sure it matches the vision in the writer’s head, and get that really locked down.
And once we would do that, writing the rest of the book is actually quite easy. So that, very difficult work of hammering out the structure, comes first. And on the fiction side, it’s really exactly the same thing. It’s, who’s telling the tale? Is this one point of view narrator? Is it first person narrator or there’re multiple point of view narrators? What period of time is this story covering? Where’s the narrator standing in time while they tell it? Have the events already happened? Are they telling it while it’s unfolding? So, there’re these basic questions about structure, that really shockingly, people tend not to ask themselves. And when I say that you can steal structure, there’re not that many structures. So, if you read a book and you just love the way it works and unfolds, you can break down how they organize that material and how they structured it and adopt that as your own. I actually just recently did this in my own work, I’m going to make a book out of the book coaching material, and I found a book that is beautiful, that addresses sustainable career growth for yoga teachers.
I really liked the way that this writer structured the material and how she moved them through it and even the philosophy and stance, yoga is not dissimilar from writing and that people don’t typically go into it to make a lot of money. So, just understanding how to think about that and organize that, it was very inspiring to me. So, I started with that book as a starting place. And of course, have completely made it my own and the material that I’m writing is my own, and the way that it’s evolved is my own. But, starting with structure is always powerful.
Kira: Jennie, there has been so much in here and we have more questions to ask you, but we are out of time. So, I think whenever you want to come back, we still have a lot to talk about whenever you want to visit us again.
Jennie: I would love to come back. And if there’s anything specific that your audience wants as a result of hearing this, if you want to do a really specific something on topic, and maybe Rob wants to do a whole thing on love, I don’t know.
Kira: Next time, we’re talking about love and relationships and so, we need to book that. And then, we’ll also book something else for the copywriter….
Rob: I’m going to be out of town for the love discussion, but I’m totally for more on structure and writing my next book, so that I can stay ahead of Kira’s.
Kira: Yeah. Rob and I are going to race, I’m going to work on my first book, he’s going to work on a second book. But this has been really inspiring, as far as just it makes me feel like this is achievable, it feels overwhelming. But, I don’t feel overwhelmed just thinking about writing a book. And probably for other copywriters who are interested in becoming a book coach, they have so many resources in here too. So, if someone is listening and they want to find you or learn more about one of your programs, where should they go?
Jennie: They should come to authoraccelerator.com\copywriterclub, and I’ll put up there the information we talked about on the blueprint and on book coach certification if you’re interested in that, we have a free email series that walks you through some of the basics about what a book coaches and does and where it came from and who might be good at it. And I will also put up there some information on getting coached if people are interested in that.
Kira: Sounds great. Thank you so much, Jennie. This has been really enjoyable conversation.
Rob: Thanks, Jennie.
You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive, available on iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes, and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.
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