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Mentoring versus Coaching: Similar but Not the Same by Cassiel Knight

Soon I’ll be on a three-month journey with some writers who are investing time and resources in their publishing career. Recently, I’ve considered the time I spend with authors is really a blend of mentoring and coaching.

What’s the difference?

Well, the terms are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same at heart.

Mentoring is often a long-term relationship where the focus is supporting the growth and development of the mentee (you). The mentor (me) is a source of wisdom, teaching and support but generally not someone who advises on specific actions. A mentor generally:

  • Offers encouragement and cheerleading.
  • Offers advice.
  • Does not act as an advocate for you in the industry.
  • Does not tell you how to do things.
  • Does not act as a counselor.
  • Acts as a role model.

So mentoring is more relationship-oriented. But where did the idea of mentor come from? Well, from The Odyssey, written by the Greek poet Homer. When Odysseus (or you might know him as Ulysses) goes off to fight the Trojan war, he has a family friend named Mentor to tutor his sons on how to be a king since Odysseus figured he wouldn’t be back for a long time. Interesting, eh?

How about coaching? Coaching is more task-oriented and often a shorter relationship, or at least one with a pre-determined ending. With coaching, the focus is on strengthening or eliminating specific behaviors. Or, in the case of publishing, assisting authors with guiding and helping correct various aspects such as craft, writing query letters and synopsis, and how to keep yourself sane while trying to get published. Coaches:

  • Provide encouragement and urge continuous improvement.
  • Hold the coachee (you) accountable.
  • Offer perspective and support coachee’s efforts.
  • Do not give advice.

Now that I shared with you the differences, let’s talk about what you might want to consider when looking for a mentor or a coach.

In a mentor, you want:

  • Someone who knows the industry—all of the industry—not just one aspect.
  • Someone with connections in the industry.
  • Someone with experience to advise and guide you through your challenges and point you in the right direction.
  • Someone with a passion for the craft. Passion for the industry. Passion for writers. Passion for books. In short, passion for everything in this crazy industry—the good, bad and ugly. If you don’t feel their passion, how can they point you where you need to go?

For a coach, consider:

  • Personal writing experience. What type of experience does your potential coach have? Has he/she written books? Articles? Blog posts? If your potential coach hasn’t written, how can he/she understand the ups and downs of writing to coach you through them?
  • Publishing industry experience. Someone who has published books is a good start. It used to be that someone who was published via New York was really the only “good” coach but that’s no longer the case. There are plenty of good coaches who have self-published. Part of this choice is where they’ve published and where you want to be published. If you are looking at self-publishing, then someone who has been there done that is ideal. If you want to look at “traditional” publishing, then someone who has published with New York or a small press might be who you want. Not sure, pick someone who has done both.
  • What kinds of services will the coach provide? Some coaches will give your story feedback, some will only give you feedback on queries and synopses. Some might focus on helping you with marketing and promotion. It’s important to know and understand what level of support your potential coach is willing to provide. And make sure you are honest about what you are looking for.

Now let’s tie all this together—why has this been on my mind? Well, the service through Savvy Authors (an excellent bunch of fabulous ladies!) is called mentoring but like self-publishing mixed with traditional publishing, I think these programs, or at least what I offer, is a hybrid—a nice blend of mentoring and coaching.

While I fall on the mentoring side of the program, it’s the coaching that gives me passion. I love this wacky industry and have been in it since 1997 and all through the digital revolution. There has been nothing in my professional life outside publishing that has brought me greater joy.

Given all the ups and downs in this industry, I should have given up by now. But I persevered and finally found where I belong. Not as a writer as I suspected (although, I’m still pretty passionate about writing) but as a publisher working with authors to bring their dreams to life and provide readers with great books that are well crafted.

I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. When I assist authors with figuring out how show don’t tell works or how to craft query letters and tweak synopses to attract an agent or publisher’s attention. Even when we discuss this industry—what’s going on? What’s changed? What might happen?—and so on, I’m sharing my passion.

I was new once. Had no idea how anything worked and was lucky to have found some great mentors and coaches of my own to guide me through the changes. The industry is hard. Writers need good mentors and coaches (or a combination of both) to help them navigate the rough waters. It is my wish for all of you that you find that person. I’ll be honored if it’s me, but find someone you believe in and trust. Not sure? Ask questions before you sign up. I know I’m open for them, and I’m betting my fellow mentors/coaches feel the same.

Whatever you choose to do, good luck, and I’m rooting for you!

Cassiel will be offering her fall mentoring session starting August 7.

[box] BIO

Cassiel KnightCassiel Knight has worked in the publishing industry as an author and editor for over twenty years. She has taken her love of the industry far and is now the proud owner of Champagne Book Group, an independent small press that has been around since 2004. Champagne Book Group has continued to grow and now boasts authors in all corners of the globe.

In addition to running a successful digital-first publishing company, her passion about the industry, craft and the business of writing, especially within the romance genre, has led to her actively mentoring writers and teaching numerous workshops, both in-person and online for Savvy Authors and several writing groups.

As an author, she writes (when she has time) paranormal romances with “kick-assitude” that blend archeology and mythology. Cassie’s books are available from Kensington/Lyrical Press and Champagne Book Group. Her professional credits also include freelance editing and non-fiction writing.


RJ Garside is the wearer of many hats. She's the proud momma of three devilishly adorable little boys. Mature student extraordinaire. By day, she can ...
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  • June 22, 2018
A great article to make aware about the difference between these seemingly synonymous words.
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