BLOG & INTERVIEWS

Do you need a book doctor?

Here is some information about a BOOK DOCTOR? Here is what you need to know before you contact one.

1.  WHAT DOES A BOOK DOC DO? 

A book doctor is often synonymous with Freelance Editor—who provides a range of services.  The Book Doctor edits manuscripts, work with authors on revisions, provide editorial consultations.  Usually a book doctor is hired by the author whereas a freelance editor may also be hird by publishers or agents.

2.  WHY HIRE A BOOK DOCTOR?

A book doctor / freelance editor can save authors a lot of time – for [s]he is a professional with years of experience with publishing. 

3.  WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A REPUTABLE BOOK DOCTOR / FREELANCE EDITOR?

Be sure you are not hiring someone who is qualified, who knows the publishing business and who has the expertise to be of help.  It is not advisable to just consult such directories as LITERARY MARKET PLACE.  That is rather like going to the Yellow Pages in the telephone book.  Sometimes agents will refer writers to book doctors – but remember anyone can say [s]he’s an agent – and sometimes book doctors pay a percentage of their fee back to an agent as a commission.  This does not mean that there is anything wrong with this system; the agent has read your manuscript and may direct the writer to someone who is capable of guiding the writer through the revision process.   But sometimes this commission exchange can involve unnecessary expense.  So how do you know what is best to do?   Check the book doctor’s credentials. 

4.  WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FINDING THE RIGHT BOOK DOCTOR FOR YOU?

(a)  Credentials:  What credentials does the book doctor have?  What is her / his background?  Has [s]he ever worked with a publisher?  Has [s]he ever been published? Some docs might be English teachers. Some might be authors themselves. Others are experienced editors who have worked with many authors.  Remember anyone can call themselves agent or editor or doctor.

(b)  Can the book doctor tell you what books [s]he has edited?  Is [s]he mentioned on the acknowledgment page of the book?

c) Will the book doctor edit the book herself / himself?  Ask the doctor if you can call and speak with her / him about the critique?  This will tell you if the doctor is familiar with your manuscript – i.e. if [s]he is doing the actual work on the book. 

(d) How many books has the book doctor edited?  Depending on the manuscript at hand, it often takes a lot of time to edit a manuscript – especially if the book doc is providing a line-by-line edit.  This means that the book doc will be checking for commas, for grammar, for transitions between sentences and paragraphs, for noting and correcting typos.  It’s like – are you getting a thorough diagnosis?  If the doctor spends only ten minutes with you – maybe that’s just too fast. 

(e) Do you feel confident that the doctor is right for you?  Do you respect her / his abilities?  Will you be getting your money’s worth? 

(f)  What exactly will the book doctor do?  Will the book doctor write comments on the manuscript itself?  Why type of comments?  How many?  How long will the process take? Be sure and talk with the book doctor on the telephone.  Get recommendations.

(g)  And what will it cost?  Come book doctors charge by the hour?  Some book doctors charge by the page.  Here’s the skinny on that: 

One difficulty in this line of work is that if  the book doctor charges a set page rate [s]he could end up with a manuscript that requires a great deal of work, and may end up making only $15 an hour, while with another manuscript [s]he might be making $35 an hour. It would be nice to be able to practice a perfect price discrimination. Yet charging by the hour means uncertainty for the client, and many understandably want to know how much the entire project will cost before they contract for an editor's services.   Talk to the book doctor.  Ask if [s]he will – for a certain initial fee, edit a chapter – and then determine a feel

 (h)  Finally – a book doctor can improve your manuscript and get it ready for submission – but [s]he cannot guarantee that the book will be accepted by a publisher. 

 (Sue Walker, Ph.D.  / editor, publisher of Negative Capability Press)