Have you ever felt the desire to write a book but had no idea where to start? In this interview Bev Ryan shares with us her path to being a Book Coach, guiding non-fiction authors from vague ideas to published book.
Mid-life career crisis
Like many of us, Bev Ryan had a mid-life career crisis. She’d started life as an English teacher but by her mid-40s she had four children and was actively involved in her family business. She’d studied kitchen design and enjoyed designing, but wasn’t enjoying other aspects of the business.
Her search for answers lead her to Barbara Sher’s books. She especially enjoyed “I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was”. This book had a profound impact on Bev. Barbara Sher uses the word ‘Scanner’ to describe a person who loves to learn about a lot of things but not necessarily in depth. Bev recognized herself in that description and sought answers to what she could do with the skills she had. It needed to be something that would keep her interested and engaged.
‘Work From Home’ magazine
Blending her English teaching, design skills and business experience lead Bev into the world of magazine publishing. In the late 90s working from home was a fairly novel concept. Yet for three years she successfully published ‘Work From Home’ magazine aimed at a small niche market. Combining the visual component of magazines with writing and editing was perfect for Bev. However around that time her personal circumstances changed and this lead Bev towards a different career path.
Bev had the opportunity to work for an organisation which encouraged her to undertake a career coaching course. Helping people through career transition was a very natural next step for Bev, especially following on from her own career crisis and her interest in Barbara Sher’s books.
‘Honestly Woman’ magazine
In 2007 Bev launched another magazine, this time aimed at mature aged women who felt they still had a lot more to achieve in their lives. I remember this magazine well as it spoke directly to the stage of life I was experiencing at that time. But the GFC crushed lots of people’s dreams, including Bev’s plans for Honestly Woman. The magazine relied on advertising revenue which became very tight as companies tightened their spending.
A supportive relationship with other women had developed through this magazine venture so, despite the magazine no longer being published, Bev continued her Honestly Woman lunches and wondered how she could continue to serve these women.
By 2009 technology was changing our world and many more people were self-employed. Writing a book was being advised as a way to raise your personal and business profile. Bev was the obvious person for business women to ask about this, and so her career as a book coach was born. Now SmartWomenPublish works with budding authors as they organize their thoughts, plan their content, write and have their book published.
The women who Bev has coached have a message to share or a story to tell, usually related to their business. The books are all non-fiction, so stories are factual and are as diverse as the authors themselves. A former refugee who is now a successful businesswoman, a group of cattlewomen telling about life on the land, a hand-knit fashion entrepreneur, are behind just three of the books.
Using many skills to help someone write a book
As a ‘Scanner’ this work is perfect for Bev. She starts a project eager to learn all about the person’s story and with many different roles to fulfill. As a Career Coach she is trained to listen closely and help someone organise their thoughts. This is an important part of the process of writing book. Then the English teacher in her enjoys helping to create a plan and refine both the story and the use of language. Her design training is vital when it comes to the visual aspects of the book, the book design and layout. Then when the author sees what their hard work has achieved Bev has the joy of witnessing their delight and pride.
Attitude and ageism
Ageism has not been an issue for Bev in her business, in fact age is an advantage. People expect someone who is guiding them through such a complicated process as writing a book to have deep experience in writing and publishing. Her attitude to life and work is positive, non-judgmental and respectful. She believes that people of all ages can work well together when that attitude is conveyed.
Is self-employment over-promoted as an ideal?
When most baby boomers were growing up it was not common for girls to be taught the importance of becoming a financially independent woman. There was still a presumption of lifelong marriage and financial partnership within that marriage. Bev wishes that she had embraced the need for financial independence as a much younger woman. She emphasized the importance of managing your money well, covering your tax and expenses first then looking after your financial future.
She feels that the concept of self-employment has been portrayed as an ideal for everyone, without considering the breadth of skills and motivation that self-employment requires. In reality it suits some people very well but is disastrous financially for others. For some it is a great retirement option, but it is certainly not for all.
The power of a book
It was a book that started Bev on her journey of self-discovery so she recognizes the immense power that reading a book can have on an individual. Similarly she has seen first hand the incredible power it has on someone when they have crystallized their ideas, written a book and had it published. Their purpose and message can have a huge impact on individuals in the niche they are targeting. This empowers the author to move forward to achieve their goals.
Although she is already a very experienced book coach Bev has recently embarked on another study course. This will extend her publishing and coaching skills further, giving her new tools to assist her clients and perhaps even extend into other forms of non-fiction.
Her advice to aspiring authors is to
- be quite clear about your purpose
- plan very carefully so you know what you will include and what to leave out
- keep learning to improve your craft
- get professional support if you are serious about writing your book
- stop thinking about it and get started!
Go to Silver Sages for more inspiring stories of Baby Boomers who have actively created the life that they want and are doing amazing things.