Should Coaches Write a Book?

Do coaches need to author a book to compete in today’s marketplace? In this article we want to make the case for why coaches should consider authoring a book.

Do coaches need to author a book to compete in today’s marketplace? In this article we want to make the case for why coaches should consider authoring a book, but also give you some solid reasons why you should not author a book as well, because sometimes the best business decision a person can make is to not make an investment in a certain kind of marketing. With that said, let’s be clear about the primary purpose most coaches have for writing a book: for most coaches, a book is marketing collateral. 

When I say a book is marketing collateral, what I mean is that sales of the book itself may or may not make a return on investment. You may give away 10,000 copies and only sell 50. It doesn’t matter, because usually coaches are looking for a return on investment in the form of new coaching contracts, and perhaps secondarily for paid speaking gigs, while considering that any and all sales are gravy. This is in contrast to science fiction novels, for example, where the primary path to ROI is sales of the book itself, unless the story converts to a movie or Netflix series and results in merchandise licensing—usually long shots. There are long-form sales copywriters who can write you blogs (sort of like this one, although I am writing it myself) and yet, there’s nothing more “long-form” than a big old book. That’s what ghostwriters at VVP do. The book is there to sell your services for you, often even before you talk to a prospect. 

First, Best, or Different: Which Are You?

In the marketing world it’s often said that you have to either be first, best, or different. There’s a good chance you aren’t the first coach in your market, and if you’re honest, you’re not the best coach in the world. A book is a great way to show what’s unique about you. It’s your chance to say anything you want. You can show your gracious attitude toward failure or your tough-love approach to people who don’t follow through. You can highlight expertise in a certain area and give great information that can create a common lexicon for your work with your clients.  Speaking of expertise and lexicons, let’s divide the coaching world into two segments before we get to our reasons to write—and not write—a book.

ICF-Style Coaching

I come from an ICF-style (International Coach Federation) coaching background, wherein the client directs the agenda for the conversation and comes to the conversation as the expert. The coach listens, asks questions, and draws out the answer from within the client’s own experience and expertise, helping the client look at their problem from different angles until the solution becomes apparent. In ICF-style coaching, the coach’s expertise is in using the coaching methodology to help the client solve their own problem. ICF coaches can have expertise in other areas as well, and may offer to “switch hats” and do some mentoring or consulting from time to time. There are other organizations (like BBC, Board Certified Coach) that require coaches to get training, but if you’ve been coaching for a while and never got training specifically on how to coach, then there’s a good chance you fall into the next camp.

Expert-as-Coach-Style Coaching

I’ve been around the coaching profession too long now to get my shorts in a bunch about someone calling themselves a “coach” while using the consultative approach to offer expertise, rather than the now-standardized definition of the ICF. In general, though, I have found that these coaches are less likely to have taken what the ICF calls “coach-specific training;” meaning that their primary focus is to help their client by offering insights based on the coach’s expertise in the area the client needs and wants growth in. This could be expertise in how to conduct efficient meetings with your executive team, how to execute the responsibilities of a bursar on a multimillion dollar yacht, or how to find a love interest and potential life partner and build a healthy relationship with them. Call it being a consultant or a coach, either way, these experts often have books that share their own paths to success, or programs for others to follow.

Do You Have to Say Something New?

Not necessarily, because on one hand there is nothing new under the sun. On the other hand, you do need to find a unique way to say it. As we mentioned before, you may not be the first or the best, but Victory Vision Publishing wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t be writing this blog if we didn’t believe that everyone has a perspective to contribute. What’s important is that your audience hears the message from a person they can trust, who they can relate to, and who they can understand.

Seven good reasons to author a book:

  1. Ask yourself the $10,000 question: assuming I do a good job of coaching, will my ideal client spend $10,000 or more with me over the rest of my career? This may be a fitness coaching session every week for 52 weeks at $199, or it may be one half-day business goal planning session every year for $1000 over the next ten years, or a single weekend spiritual retreat for $10,000 that unlocks somebody’s chi—or, whatever you do. Doesn’t matter how you slice it, to get the ROI from authoring a book, you may need the book to help you land 4 to 10 clients who give you this kind of return. If the answer is yes, you will benefit from authoring a book. If you can send a copy to 1000 of your best prospects, and follow up to get a conversation with 200 of them, then you could be the worst salesperson in the world and you should still sign 4 clients. 
  2. Leverage your style: if you have expertise in a niche but prefer to do ICF-style coaching—where you come alongside the client to ask rather than tell—then a book is a great way to deliver beginner information and form common language, so that you don’t need to take up precious time instructing your client(s). 
  3. Write to your niche: Although I am well aware that you can truly coach anyone by using good, coach-specific training, a good niche is really helpful for marketing, and helps you select an audience for your book and write a book appropriate for that audience. As an ICF-style coach, it’s okay to be an expert in another area and to work with clients in that niche, and it’s ideal if you can deliver your take in a book form. Therefore, for any coach, ICF or not, speaking to a niche audience is a good reason to write a book.
  4. You are already well-known: with a large enough pre-existing audience, you can sell your books as an additional income stream. If you have a large enough audience you may also be able to land a book deal with a traditional publisher. This blog isn’t really geared for a coach with a huge pre-existing audience, but if you’re fortunate enough to be in that position, consider what having a book could do as icing on the cake.
  5. Consider a memoir: If you have a personal journey that relates to your client niche, a memoir may help clients realize that you are someone who can not only empathize with them but also sympathize with them. 
  6. It’s a bucket list item. Just to write and publish a book may be a lifelong dream. Coaches are definitely in the business of helping others achieve their goals and make their dreams a reality, and modeling that by doing it yourself is a great reason to proceed.
  7. Gain credibility: You feel that authoring a book—any book—will increase your credibility or your confidence. Coming up in an internet book search gives credibility, and there’s hardly anything more important than confidence, once those initial skills (or expertise) are under your belt. 

Seven good reasons NOT to author a book:

  1. Give it time: If you’re just beginning to coach and haven’t helped many people yet, you may be premature. 
  2. Get to know your niche: If you don’t know your niche, you may end up wasting a lot of time.
  3. Shaky marketing plan: If you’re not sure how you want to monetize your book (ROI via sales? OR via coaching contracts?) then you’d better figure that out first.
  4. Shaky message: If you don’t have any expertise in a certain area or aren’t sure what you want to say, get that clear first. A (nonfiction) book without a message isn’t really a book.
  5. Lack of confidence: If you can’t envision people buying the book or purchasing your services after reading the book, there’s other work you need to do first. 
  6. Count the cost: We don’t recommend writing a book if you have to go into significant debt to do it. We have other blogs on the topic of how much it costs to publish, but while writing a book may only cost you time, publishing will almost always cost some money. 
  7. You lack the time or resources to promote: If you are not interested in or willing to promote your book or your business, or hiring someone else to, and think that simply by publishing a book on Amazon the clients will come running . . . hello, wake up, my friend. More and more books are published every year, and Amazon has very little interest in helping you sell your book. Do they do a great job with publishing and delivering it? Yes. Selling it? Not so much. 

Additional questions?

We hope that this has helped you think through whether or not you are ready to begin writing and consider publishing a book to support the growth of your coaching practice. We are here to answer any questions you may have and to either coach you through the process of writing your own book or to ghostwrite it for you, and even to offer marketing solutions.

Please get in touch with us for a free consultation here.

Adam G. Fleming, PCC, has been working in leadership/executive coaching since 2007. He published his first novel in 2012 and his first book on coaching (The Art of Motivational Listening, Entrust Source Publishing) in 2015. He now has 16 titles available on Amazon. He is the CEO and lead ghostwriter for Victory Vision Publishing, Inc.

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