How to Write and Launch a Book in 2023 (Without Feeling Afraid)

Writing a book seems scary. And this fear triggers 4 major mistakes. How to write and launch a book in 2023 (without feeling afraid)?

The 4 most common mistakes:

  1. Writing alone
  2. Forcing a structure
  3. Unique knowledge points
  4. Focusing on the Big Numbers
Let’s break them down:

1) Writing Alone

The first thing I’ll tell you: Most people think writing a book is an individual endeavor. It’s not. The reality? When you talk to the most successful authors, they all start by talking about other people.
  • How they worked with a group.
  • How they collaborated
  • How they had a ton of help
And this is what I always tell people: Writing is NOT something you do alone. You do the typing yourself, yes. But you DON’T write a book as an individual. No… It’s a collaborative effort.

2) Forcing a Structure.

This is a big one for most people. They think they need: • a table of contents • perfect structure • rigid outlines All this stuff, before they ever start. But I would flip that around. Analogy:
“You start this process with a compass, not a map”
And when I had the chance to interview Daniel Pink (who also happens to be my neighbor), he shared something interesting: He starts with 2 things: 1. A notepad 2. A list of questions And then he thinks about who he can talk to about those questions. As I said earlier… Books are not to be written alone!

3. Unique Knowledge Points

This is for my non-fiction writers. I studied 150+ best sellers and found this: Stories account for 80% of their written content. NOT unique knowledge points. So if you want to write an exceptional book: - Identify - Teach - Tell All through storytelling It’s the proven formula for success.

4. Focusing on Big # ’s

People often worry:
“Is my book going to sell 1,000,000 copies?”
And that’s not the best mindset. Here’s why: Books are sold via word of mouth. You want to find your first 200 fans and friends, and have them help spread the word. It happens in phases. And that’s a good thing ( I promise ).

The 4 major mistakes authors make:

1. Writing Alone 2. Forcing a structure 3. Unique Knowledge Points 4. Focusing on Big Numbers   So let's break this cycle and utilize a community-driven approach for your next book project.

How to Get Rid of Imposter Syndrome & Validate Your Voice

Imposter syndrome means extinction for most modern authors. And it's a shame.

Steal my 3 steps to validate your voice

I'll be honest: I hate the term "imposter syndrome." It’s almost as if you're afflicted with a disease—shunned by society—destined to live out your days in a dark forest. It plagues so many authors.

These 3 steps are the cure:

  • Step 1: Identify Your "Who"
  • Step 2: Create a Pact
  • Step 3: Gather Feedback
Let's regain your self-confidence. I know it's in there...

Step 1: Identify Your "Who."

Engrain this in your mind: You're NOT writing for everyone. When you accept the fact that you can't please every person on the planet, imposter syndrome fades. Normalize selective sharing. You'll also need some accountability. There are 2 types: 1. Professional accountability 2. Peer accountability Professional, you pay for: - Someone from a publisher - A writing consultant - Editors A peer can be a friend.

Step 2: Create a Pact.

The reality is, most writers think in word count. Bad idea. Try thinking in terms of time. But beware of overestimation. Research shows that we often overestimate the amount of work we'll need to do. This overestimation problem manifests as a disappointment problem. Here's an example of a time pact: “I’ve got two hours blocked off to write this week. Can I send you something to read from that?” Here's what you just accomplished:
  • You've limited your feedback loop.
  • You've scoped your deliverable.
  • You've set aside some time.
This loose commitment (pact) will increase your chances of completion. Give it a shot.

Step 3: Gather Feedback.

Here's what you don't want: Accidentally make your imposter syndrome worse. Make sure to ask for feedback in the way you'd like to receive it. Here's how... You probably don't want them to bloody up your book with a rampant red pen.
  • Tell them not to change the text
  • Ask for 1 or 2 things they liked
  • And what you can improve
Then you can go ahead and make changes you think make sense. Bye-bye imposter syndrome!

Depth Over Frequency for Growing Your Brand

If you're interested in growing your brand or amplifying your voice, here's what we found in the research.

Aim for depth over frequency.

For my latest book, I researched over 6,000 individuals named to the Forbes 30 under 30. I wanted to see what stood out about them. It wasn't the schools they attended, the graduate degrees they help, or the companies they worked at. It wasn't even the companies they started.
Over 85% of them had a "Creation Event" -- a substantial, public project that they used to demonstrate their expertise, credibility, curiosity, and competence.

Nearly all of them 'went deep' on something outside of their job or work.

We found 9 creation events among these individuals, including:
  • hosted an event series or conference
  • hosted a podcast
  • created a video series
  • organized a concert or exhibit
  • published original research
  • wrote a book
  If you're looking for a path to elevate your voice or enhance your personal or business brand, focus on depth over frequency. OR, start with depth, and then add frequency based on the depth. Invest in a Creation Event. The best investment is an investment in your own growth. What's the most impactful creation event in your career/life?

5 Tips to Find Your Writing Focus

Writing can be a painstaking process. And after launching 2,000+ authors and books of my own...

5 tips to find your writing focus:

With steadfast focus, you're unstoppable.

Steal my 5 tips:

1. The beautiful art of freewriting 2. Always write in small chunks 3. Find yourself a writing rival 4. Find stress-free activities 5. Discover a community Eggcellent, let's crack the shell. Shall we?

1) The Beautiful Art of Freewriting.

Set a timer for 10 minutes and write whatever comes to mind. Transfer all your: - Musings - Emotions - Negativity Onto the paper, or through the keyboard.

2) Always Write in Small Chunks.

This is a PSA for my modern authors... You don't have to: - Write 10,000 words at once - Put off your obligations - Pull all-nighters Try to write in smaller chunks, but do it more frequently.

3) Find Yourself a Writing Rival.

You guys have heard me say this before: "Writing is NOT something you do alone." Find a fellow author, then: - Challenge each other - Set some nice goals - Utilize rewards

4) Find Stress-Free Activities.

You have SO many options: - Walk - Do yoga - Lift weights - Listen to music Find something to relax your mind.

5) Discover a Community.

With a group of like-minded individuals, you increase the likelihood of (actually) sitting down to write. Not only that but: - Accomplishing your goals - Improving your craft - Fulfilling dreams That's what we're after, isn't it? Folks, this chapter has come to a close. What's your secret to find your writing focus?

How To Leverage Creativity in Writing: Insights From Austin Kleon

Pablo Picasso once said:
“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
So I sat down with Austin Kleon, author of “Steal Like An Artist” to talk about creativity and writing.

These are the 10 best takeaways:

1) Exploring and Collecting.

Having a system for exploring and collecting ideas is vital. The best creators: • Explore the world • Capture its essence • And share the result

2) Input to Output Ratio.

Inputs: • Reading • Learning • Inquiring Outputs: • Writing • Ideating • Creating The ratio should be at least 1:1 If not 2:1, input to output.

3) Thinking in Verbs, Not Nouns.

Don't become too attached to job titles or nouns. Instead, focus on the verbs. The actions you take. The stuff you really enjoy. The things others respond to.

4) Authenticity and Frequency.

Authenticity and consistency are KEY. Try to set: • Goals • Deadlines • Aspirations This will help maintain frequency which will turn into consistency.

5) The Role of the Reader.

A book comes alive when the reader picks it up. The reader's interpretation and engagement with the work is a crucial part of the creative process. So pour out your heart and soul.

6) Making Yourself Interesting.

To create interesting work, you need to be an interesting person. That doesn't mean: • Outlandish • Eccentric • Flashy Just be genuinely interested in the world. And make it interesting to others.

7) The Importance of Fun.

Writing should be fun. If it feels like work, not play, it's hard for the reader to enjoy it. They feel what you feel. (That's the beauty of writing).

8) Stealing Like an Artist.

This doesn't mean plagiarizing. Rather, you should draw inspiration from existing works and add your own spin. Everything's already been said. But maybe not by you...

9) The Power of Visuals.

Austin Kleon's creative process often involves visuals. When there are more pictures than words, creativity thrives. As they say: "A picture is worth 1,000 words."

10) The Value of Notebooks.

As a writer, you NEED a notebook. Not only will it help capture thoughts and ideas, but you can also revisit them. You'll see your evolution over time. How do you cultivate creativity in your writing?

How Compassionate Rigor Changes Our Work Ethic

"I'm not ready yet." These are two words you need to be ready for anything new. Compassionate Rigor. Our fears lie to us: "I don't have the time." "I don't have the right idea." "I don't have the money to do that." You don't need to be "ready." You need Compassionate Rigor: "I will set milestones, checkpoints, and reviews, not goals." "I will set aside money every week to invest in myself." "I will join others to share our journeys." "I will set aside make the time." Stop beating yourself up for what you don't have. Young author with compassionate rigor Compassionate rigor is a commitment to yourself, to milestones, to objectives, to learnings, and to time... -- Rigor in your commitment, your investment, and seeking accountability. -- Compassion in your timelines, deadlines, iterations, coaching, and support. You not going to be ready... you'll get ready by doing things with compassionate rigor. Demand this in yourself and with everyone you involve in your journey.

Here's the good part: We launch authors, not books.

If being 'not ready' has held you back from writing your book... let's schedule a call and talk through how to leverage the power of Compassionate Rigor this summer with our next author community. You'll learn:
  • How to develop the book into workshops, keynotes, coaching, and more
  • How to use category design to make your book unique and create word of mouth
  • Why we don't write books, but build books
  • How to leverage the power of fans to market your book



See how the power of weekly coaching and a community of peer authors can help you develop and announce your book in the next 6 months -- all through the power of Compassionate Rigor.

Making Time to Write: 4 Steps For Busy Professionals to Create Books that Elevate Their Voices

"When do you find time to write?" You don't find time... you *make* time.

4 steps I teach busy professionals to make time to create books that elevate their voices

The people who most need and want to write a book tend to be the people who have the busiest schedules -- executive coaches, business owners, consultants, and C-suite executives. They know a book will be powerful -- most have tried in the past -- but often it's time that gets in the way.
  1. Trying a book in the past and it not working isn't signal you're not motivated. Trust me, if that were the case I'd be the poster child. It's usually a signal that you don't have a system.
  2. Writing a book is *not* like what you see in the movies. You don't go off to a cabin and spend six months at a typewriter... eventually emerging as a shell of yourself but with a manuscript. You don't write a book, you build a book. And that's the key mindset.
  3. You don't find time to write a book. You make it. Funny enough, we ran a test in our community about people who were going to use a "summer off" to write... that group who had more downtime were *less* likely to finish their manuscript on schedule. It's not about having oodles of free time. It's about having dedicated time.
  4. Making time requires two things: (a) your calendar; and (b) accountability to others. For most authors, I recommend 4-6 hours a week of calendared time... but the key is to share that calendaring with others. Could be your spouse, your business partner, your editor, or a writing friend. Has to be on your calendar and shared.
It's simple, and that's why it works.
"I'm proof that your 4 steps work. After 15 months, a retired “bean counter” is a proud published author of a 5-star book, called Checkmate!? - Greg Davis, Author of "CHECKMATE"
  Most authors struggle not because they don't have a great book idea or the motivation... they struggle without a process and system to make time. Do that, and I've seen 2,000+ people succeed in their books. It's the only way I've been able to do it too... Modern Author Accelerator Testimonial I'm starting my next book this summer as a part of the Modern Author Accelerator powered by Manuscripts. Why now? My summers are some of my busiest times -- I teach two MBA courses, I have a new cohort of authors, and I have four workshops/mini-courses -- plus I've got three hilarious girls to run around with to camps and summer fun. But I'm going to finish a draft manuscript and announce this new book in November. How? I am making time: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8:15 to 10:00 am ET are my writing time. Some days I miss, but most days I hold myself accountable (plus, I have shared this plan with my editor, my wife, and my fellow authors). That's part of the #NeverWriteAlone philosophy. And that's how I'll write a mediocre first draft that becomes an amazing book. If you're looking for a little summer accountability, shoot me a note, and love to have you join our summer group -- we're all announcing our books this November and then the fun begins. Ready to make time for something important?

Apply for Summer Modern Author Accelerator Program

Modern Author Strategies to get Booked for More speaking Gigs

From a Book to the Stage: Four Strategies Authors Can Leverage to Get Booked for More Speaking Gigs

If you want to get paid to speak, you need social proof. I’ve tested four strategies. 

Why Does Public Speaking Matter (Especially Today)?

We consume a lot of content today.  Some content is for entertainment, but much of what people consume is to help us learn, improve, or grow.   If you want to cut through that noise, you need to capture attention. And one of the best ways to capture attention is to stand in front of an audience and speak directly to them You may have the greatest shot in those few moments to truly stand out. If you're a coach, consultant, business owner, or thought leader, you need attention for more clients, customers, and business opportunities.  Personally, speaking has created some of my warmest relationships and can be quite profitable.  I've spoken in some amazing places -- the White House, UN, Google, Microsoft, GE, baseball stadiums, etc. -- and some funky places like bars, basement offices, and high schools.  Quite a few have been on Zoom too... which can be great too.  At the end of the day, regardless of the venue, it's a business strategy, and I look at it as marketing.  It's led to clients, customers, and more paid speaking. It’s high-value attention.   But it's hard to break into the game... people often ask me about speaker bureaus or consultants.  Frankly, to break in... you'll have to do it yourself (then maybe those can help).  You need a social proof strategy.

It’s Not What You Say, But What the Audience Will Hear

One of the biggest fallacies about public speaking is you just need to have a great speech.  I spoke to one of the individuals responsible for booking talent for TED and TEDx talks, and what he told me surprised me:
“We want ideas that spread, not just inspiring stories.  We’re not in the business of promoting anecdotes.”
You need social proof:
  • Social proof of your idea isn’t just an inspiring anecdote
  • Social proof that your idea can move an audience
  • Social proof that your idea is new and forward-looking
  • And you can be strategic in creating it and leveraging it.
Modern Author Accelerator Program

Social Proof is Not One thing; It’s Multiple Things That Build on One Another

Social proof isn’t a single thing – it’s not your published book, it’s not your TEDx talk, it’s not your article, and it’s not one testimonial.  Social proof is the story you tell (or show) about why an audience would be moved by what you have to say, share, and teach. How you tell (and show) that story is the key to getting you booked for more speaking opportunities.   These four things- usually in combination- prove you're worth booking.

Here are the four strategies I've seen work:

  1. Thought Leadership. This is the most important -- do you have an 'unconventional' insight backed up by evidence (your research, interviews, data)?  Things that demonstrate thought leadership are a book or upcoming book, a research-driven article in a publication like HBR or Forbes, a TEDx talk, or a badass interview (usually on a stage). Without this nailed, it's an uphill battle.
  1. Testimonials and reviews.  This isn't about the 'fame' of the person but the relevancy to the audience. More variety you can customize the better.
  1. Social Media Engagement. Do you think your posts create conversations?  Will your talk spark similar conversations IRL?
  1. Past speaking engagements. I put this last because people overrate a 'speaker reel'... it helps (of course). Yes, it helps, but today having 1-3 with some podcast interviews, YouTube videos, etc., can be more powerful.

Design Your Strategy to Improve Each Dimension of Social Proof.

It’s a journey – not a destination I look at my own growth as a speaker over the past few years and realize some of today’s opportunities wouldn’t have been possible two or three years ago.   Could you design a strategy for your social proof?  Most of today's best thought leader speakers create social proof by being
  • (a) unconventional (but evidence-backed);
  • (b) relevant;
  • (c) engaging; and
  • (d) compelling. 
  Remember... you're not competing with established thought leaders for speaking slots... your goal is to position yourself as the next thought leader. How? One of my favorite ways to strategize on this is to figure out how to be a "poor man's" _____.    Sure, you're not Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, or David Goggins (yet)... but use 1-4 above to help showcase where you could offer something those more prominent names don't.  Consider creating a grid and scoring some of the names you aspire to be like – then score yourself (but be kind).  What are the areas you can improve in… as you get more evidence and proof points, update your score. Review yourself as a speaker on those four dimensions -- and update as you grow. 

Why Category-Defining Books Start With a Question (Hint: You Don’t Need to Be an Expert Before You Write a Book)

“Why would anyone listen to me?” “I don’t know enough about the topic.” “Do you think I need to get a Ph.D. first?”
Expertise. It’s a common misconception about writing a great book. So the thinking goes, you become an expert and then just tell people how. But the reality is quite the opposite.   I asked author Dan Pink about the origins of his recent book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, and his answer surprised me. “That book had its genesis in this office. In an attempt to answer how I should approach my work.” A question he wanted to answer for himself. I asked Arianna Huffington why she wrote Thrive: Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. “I collapsed from exhaustion and burnout in 2007, and started studying the whole phenomenon of burnout, covering a lot of it in the Huffington Post that I was running at the time. And then I started wanting to write about it. So, that's how Thrive came about it. It was really my new passion.” A question she wanted to answer for herself. Even my recent book Super Mentors began with a question: “Why wasn’t I a very effective mentor?” And the resulting work and book taught me something compelling that I shared with others through the book. This a question I wanted to answer for myself. None of us were experts, but we became experts by writing these books. Great books begin with a question.  But how do you find yours? * * * First, some wrong questions often clog the potential book writer’s mind:
  • Is it unique?
  • Will it sell?
  • Can I finish?
Those are different from the kinds of questions to fixate on. Sure, they are concerns, but truthfully they are much less relevant when you have a driving question.

Find Your Driving Question

Great books are based on a type of question I call your driving question  Driving questions are deeply personal, cross-cutting to numerous aspects of your life, and they nag at you often through an emotional thread.   It’s something that bugs you.  
  • Why can’t I . . . 
  • How come I . . . 
  • What’s stopping me from . . .
  • Why don’t we . . .
  • How come they won’t . . .
For Dan Pink, it was when he should be working to maximize his happiness, health, and success. For Arianna, it was how she should take care of herself to maximize her long-term well-being. For me, it was how to make a difference with others when I tried to help.   The way I summarize this is to ask yourself: What annoys you – and no matter what you’ve read, watched, heard, or done just doesn’t seem to fix it for you? That is a driving question.   What’s vital about driving questions is that conventional wisdom – what most people think or believe – is just unsatisfactory to you.   Sure, there may be answers from experts, research, and other places. But it’s unsatisfactory for you. You’re annoyed that you can’t find something that works or is satisfying for you.   Congratulations. You’ve got your driving question.

Is It Worth Finding Answers to Your Driving Question

Finding a question is relatively easy. Finding a driving question is more challenging. But the real trick is deciding something different: Is it worth finding answers to your driving question? Most likely, answers exist to this question. Books have been written. Podcast interviews are out there. Blog posts are plentiful.   Don’t expect to be the only one thinking about your driving question. Driving questions likely drive others too. That’s a good sign people are trying to answer it. But you’re on the right track if you find the answers unsatisfactory, incomplete, or too general. Remember, Dan wasn’t the first person or only person to write about the power of timing, luck, time management, or similar themes. There were dozens and dozens of books on wellness, sleep, purpose, etc., before Arianna wrote her book. And mentorship is one of the most covered subjects on the planet.   But none of them were satisfying, complete, or specific to us. Something was missing.   Remember, driving questions are deeply personal, and that’s part of what makes books special and unique:
  • Dan Pink was a modern, independent worker. As an author, he doesn’t punch a clock. Many books about time management or understanding timing were built when we didn’t control our schedules. He needed a unique and updated view for people like him. 
  • Arianna wasn’t a scientist, but she’d risen to fame and simply couldn’t go off in the wilderness and meditate to find her wellness. She needed to examine it for busy and ambitious professionals who wanted more. 
  • I was exploring modern mentorship in the digital era where the internet had changed access to advice and information. Nothing I’d read offered that modern look. 
But how will you know if it is worth finding answers to your driving question? I suggest you answer two questions:
  1. Is it something I’m willing to spend the next year going deeper into for myself?
  2. Is it something I’m willing to teach to others like me?
If your answer is yes to both questions, then you have checked a very important box in the book process:  This is a driving question worth finding answers to.

Where to Find Help Answering Your Driving Question

This is where many aspiring authors get stuck – answering your driving question isn’t easy or straightforward.   The answers will be nonlinear, more like a treasure hunt than a path.   And this is where the process is critical: You don’t look for an answer. You look for people who can contribute to your answer. This is critical – you should assume there is no answer. Dan Pink shared that he took a yellow notepad and began creating a list of people he wanted to learn from or talk to to answer his question.   Assume every expert will offer you something helpful, but it’ll be unsatisfactory, incomplete, or too general. There is no one magic TED Talk, book, or framework that answers your driving question. But they will have helpful contributions. What is a contribution? According to our good friend Webster (the dictionary), it’s when you give (something) to help achieve or provide something. For an aspiring author, the “something” here differs from what people usually expect from hunting for answers. Hunt for stories. I recently wrote a longer post about the hunt for stories called "Master Story Gathering: Four Steps to Research Story Ideas for Any Nonfiction Book". Especially early in your journey, you’re looking for contributions through the stories of others.  

Share Answers to Your Driving Question

Early in your writing journey, keep your writing short – usually, 50-250 word snippets that summarize the story from a podcast, an experience in your own life, a TED Talk, an interview you did, or just something random you thought of.  These smaller answers – contributions – are what will guide you toward answers that are:
  • More satisfactory
  • More complete
  • More specific
Remember, your book isn’t the only answer out there…  I can't guarantee that reading one book will change your life. But I can guarantee that writing one will. Through that process, you’ll answer your driving question,  and have something to share and teach others who also feel like you. * * * Most of the best books I’ve read didn’t start from a place of expertise; they started from a place of curiosity. Find your driving question and commit to answering it yourself and sharing it with others through a book. So, what’s your driving question?
Eric Koester is the founder Manuscripts, LLC, a b-corporation whose mission is to inspire, teach and support tomorrow’s creators — authors, podcasters, speakers, entrepreneurs, corporate innovators and course builders. Through his work he’s coached nearly 1,000 first-time creators. He is also a Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Georgetown University and the school’s only two-time entrepreneurship professor of the year, faculty at Growth University, and the executive director of the Intrapreneur Institute, which researches, trains and develops future innovation leaders.

Righting My Writing: What It’s Like to Work With a Developmental Editor

We believe writing a book is a solitary activity. But you can't make it solitary if you want to finish writing your book. I learned the hard way I had to Stop Writing Alone.
2022 was a very different year for me as an author. I published two books. Both books sold thousands of copies in their first year. Both books have won multiple awards. Why was 2022 such a great year for me as a writer? Two years prior, I began working with a developmental editor – a book writing coach. And if there’s a single thing that impacted my writing, it was that. I’m not unusual – I’ve interviewed and spoken to several hundred professional and successful published authors writing nonfiction, memoirs, novels, and essays. 70-80% of them shared they worked with a developmental editor or writing coach during their book development. And yet it surprises me that most first-time authors don’t. I thought I’d share my experience working with my developmental editor, Michael Bailey on my latest books: Pennymores 2 and 3 (I’m writing them both concurrently). I’ll share a bit about what held me back from working with a developmental editor on my first two books, then will talk about how Michael and I collaborate.

My Fear of Feedback as a Writer

I published my first book in 2009 and my second in early 2011. Honestly, I was terrified I’d written terrible first drafts when I shipped them to my acquiring editor. I was late on submitting them – five months late on each, actually – and was politely told if I didn’t submit them, I’d likely lose my opportunity to publish. I had what I’ve come to learn is a very ‘traditional’ view of book writing.
  • A writer writes until they finish a good draft.
  • An acquiring editor at a publisher gives you a ‘Roman-style’ thumbs up or thumbs down.
  • Revisions happen.
  • Publish.
This belief system holds lots of writers back from seeking or receiving feedback. And for many of us, we never actually produce something we think is ‘good enough’ to even submit to that terrifying acquiring editor.

You Want a Coach, Not Just Editing

Many first-time authors don’t work with a developmental editor because they believe editors simply edit what you’ve written. And unless you’ve written a lot or the entire thing, there’s nothing for them to do. It turns out that’s not what developmental editors do. Developmental editing is a different category, more focused on the structural components of the book rather than the prose. The analogy is building your dream home. The developmental editor is the architect who helps you design your house. Everything from the number of bedrooms to your kitchen layout to maximize the light. We think about other editors who help us with the prose, writing, copy editing, and proofing. They’ll help make the home feel right. Both are critical to having a home you’ll love, but you don’t do interior design until you’ve got the designs done, the foundation poured, and you are confident you don’t need to add a sun room. Great developmental editors coach. According to the ICF, 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence, and over 70% benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills. 86% of companies report that they recouped their investment on coaching and more. That’s why I tell people Michael is my writing coach, and our working relationship is built very differently than I imagined:
  • We do a weekly call. We talk strategy, we work through ideas together, we talk about my writing time, and he coaches me when I’m struggling.
  • I share first drafts, and I share them as I write them. Usually, I’m sharing chunks that are 500-1,500 – so it’s not something that needs to be ‘complete’ or ‘done’. Michael reads what I write each week, and offers feedback on it as it’s written. But he also tells me not to make the changes – just read them and use that feedback to improve.
  • He doesn’t fix my grammar. Michael reads everything I write, but his comments are on strategic questions from structure, pacing, flow, and consistency. He doesn’t worry about my grammar or writing since that will all be part of revisions.
ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Michael isn’t editing or fixing my writing; he’s helping me realize my potential as an author.

The Psychological Benefits of Working With a Developmental Editor

I realize now that my first two books were written from a near-paranoid state. I didn’t share drafts with anyone, I didn’t tell many people I was writing them, and I spent a lot of time worrying about my grammar. I realize now it was a pretty lonely process. Working with a developmental editor provides me with a wide range of psychological benefits, both during the editing process and after the book is published. One of the main benefits of working with my developmental editors is that I gained a deeper understanding of my writing and general writing craft. A good developmental editor can provide feedback on the structure, pacing, arguments, and character development of a manuscript, as well as help an author identify and overcome any weaknesses or inconsistencies in their writing. This process helped me develop my writing skills, but the added benefit was enhancing my confidence in the book. The second psychological benefit of working with my developmental editor is that it has helped me to overcome writer's block and to stay motivated during the writing process. I’m now working on books six and seven, and I still struggle with feelings of uncertainty, self-doubt, and frustration when working on a book. A developmental editor can help provide guidance, support, and a sense of accountability. Michael has worked with hundreds of authors to navigate this, but he’s an author himself, having had the same feelings. Maybe it’s obvious, but having someone counting on me and a call scheduled each week to talk strategy has been central to staying focused and productive, avoiding getting bogged down by self-doubt or procrastination. I’ve also found a massive difference in the amount of rewriting I’ve done. My developmental editor offers perspective on my work as it’s happening. Writing a book can be an intense and personal experience, and it can be challenging to be objective about my writing. I’d spent quite a bit of time wrestling through a complicated scene, and after sharing it with Michael, I could sense he enjoyed it. He wrote in his comments that he wanted to hear more detail about it. A developmental editor provides an outside perspective on the manuscript, which has helped me see my work with fresh eyes and to identify areas that need improvement.

Five Tips to Set up a Positive & Productive Relationship With Your Developmental Editor

The most important thing is to remember your developmental editor is your writing coach, not just revising or editing what you write. You’ll need to collaborate, communicate, and iterate to success.
  1. Communicate effectively: Clearly express your goals, concerns, and feedback to your developmental editor. Understand the objectives of your coaching relationship. I recommend a weekly conversation, whether a zoom chat, phone call, or messaging over text/DM. But you want to have a conversation, not just send written comments on your writing back and forth.
  2. Be open to feedback: Listen actively and be receptive to constructive criticism. Your developmental editor’s role is to help you improve, so be willing to take their advice. Michael offers written feedback on what I write, but we begin each call and conversation by discussing things that I didn’t understand or wanted to clarify.
  3. Be proactive: Take responsibility for your development and work on achieving your goals. This includes following through on any action items or tasks your developmental editor assigns. We set weekly goals and realistic outcomes.
  4. Be honest: Be honest with your developmental editor about your strengths and weaknesses. This will help them tailor their coaching to meet your specific needs.
  5. Be respectful: Show respect for your editor’s time, expertise, and experience. This includes being punctual for meetings and keeping agreements and commitments.
* * * As an author, my work is essential to me. It’s my legacy and a craft I’m committed to improving. And that means being real with myself that I can’t do that alone. I need Michael and others to help me to maximize my personal and professional potential. Coaching has helped me. But more than anything, working with a developmental editor has provided me with a professional opinion. I’m fortunate to have Michael bring years of experience to me. Besides being an author, he has coached hundreds of authors like me as the Senior Editor for Manuscripts, LLC and trained dozens and dozens of other developmental editors. He’s able to consult with peers when I had questions on my use of tropes and quickly get me perspectives outside my own. I’ve grown as a writer, author, and creative. I’ve improved more in the craft of writing than anything – and even if my recent books hadn’t done well both commercially and critically, I’d still know I’m a better writer today than before. A special thanks to Michael Bailey and ChandaElaine Spurlock who have been my writing coaches and developmental editors. You both have helped me Right My Writing.
Eric Koester is the founder Manuscripts, LLC, a b-corporation whose mission is to inspire, teach and support tomorrow’s creators — authors, podcasters, speakers, entrepreneurs, corporate innovators and course builders. Through his work he’s coached nearly 1,000 first-time creators. He is also a Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Georgetown University and the school’s only two-time entrepreneurship professor of the year, faculty at Growth University, and the executive director of the Intrapreneur Institute, which researches, trains and develops future innovation leaders.