The most expensive part of book publishing and marketing is a costly mistake. You can avoid some errors through experience, which in itself can be costly. Or, you can hire a coach (consultant, advisor, mentor) to steer you through the marketing maze and minimize slip-ups that can have significant impact on your budget.
Those who seek advice and those of us who give it can work together to solve your marketing problems. However, a coaching relationship is not a one-and-done transaction, a singular event with the dispensing and accepting of wisdom. It is best utilized as a collaborative process, a mutual striving to better understand your unique challenges and craft the best path forward. This process has five stages.
- Understand the desired outcome and form the relationship. Once you know what you want to accomplish, find the coach best qualified to help. If each side understands the vantage point, qualifications and positions of the other, the outcome is usually more successful. As the advice seeker you may want someone to…
- serve as a sounding board to get a better grasp on an existing situation. The advisor’s task is to ask questions that guide you to your own conclusions.
- be a “Devil’s Advocate,” to test the validity of an existing decision, such as selling only through bookstores and/or Amazon.com. The advisor should offer alternative solutions or hypothetical situations against which to test your hypotheses.
- look at the bigger picture, expanding the frame of reference. Your advisor could share experiences and similar situations of those who ventured into non-bookstore markets successfully with content similar to yours.
- provide guidance on how to address a high-stakes situation, such as printing a large initial quantity of books. The consultant should help you examine the pros and cons of the potential decision and offer the same for alternative actions.
- increase the list of options under consideration. Your coach should be adept at conducting a creative brainstorming session to stimulate thinking and generate additional possibilities.
- Meet with your chosen coach and open the lines of communication. In my consulting experience, many authors and publishers come to me seeking validation for their pre-existing opinions. They begin by framing the situation in a way that supports their position. Instead, the seeker should convey enough information for the coach to grasp the basics. Provide pertinent information objectively so your mentor can act in an appropriate, unbiased way to meet your objective.
As the advisor, listen attentively and keep the seeker on the right informational path. Allow the facts to come out, asking questions that will help you both better understand the background. The stated problem may only be a symptom of an underlying issue. Do not be too quick to provide what you think is a solution, because most likely you do not have sufficient information upon which to base a conclusion. Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.
- Make a decision. The consulting process is not open ended. The objective is to create a viable solution regardless of how much the best alternative challenges your preconceived opinions. Ask incisive questions to expose the rationale behind the preferred alternative until you are satisfied that it is the best way to proceed.
Although the ultimate decision belongs to the advice seeker, the coach should understand the extent to which the client is comfortable with the outcome. Inquire into any hesitancy or lingering doubts. Help your client understand the sequence of steps and all that is required to implement the resolution.
- Take action. Once you have all the information you need, act on the advice you have been given. Make adjustments as you proceed. You are not on a fixed course, and your consultant has not abandoned you. Your future is conditional and transitory, viewed as an evolving cycle of action, evaluation, reassessment and new action. Arrange follow-up meetings to keep the implementation on track.
Clients want to quickly know how to proceed, but that path is determined first by an understanding of why the action should be performed. Uncovering the thought behind the action is the function of the advisor. When advice seekers and purveyors comprehend this process, they can create a mutually satisfying, long-term, professional and productive relationship.
Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant. He is the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org– formerly SPAN). Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.bookmarketingworks.com and follow him on twitter @bookmarketing