Should You Use a Book Doctor?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020
As writers, we talk endlessly about revision. Probably because we’re always working, one way or another, on a revision. I mean, even when we’re not working on the manuscript, we have other people working on it…beta readers, critique partners, editors, book doctors.

Wait. Book doctors? Are you thinking—as I did once upon a time—that a book doctor is just a cute name for an independent editor? Yep, I thought a book doctor was a clever marketing title but one day, a writer friend and I were discussing the latest release of another writer friend, and she mentioned that said author had used a book doctor. I learned about book doctors that day, mostly that it had been a wise use of time and money for that author. And maybe a book doctor would be a wise choice for you, too, but first, know what you’re getting into.

Independently contracted editors can give a writer all kinds of services. He or she can give in-depth notes on the first fifty pages or an entire novel. A writer then takes those notes and revises, and sometimes, an editor will work back and forth on the revisions. It’s lots of re-writing for the would-be author, and it can be a time-consuming as well as costly process.

An editor can also do line-editing, which is basically proofreading your fully-revised novel, making sure that your grammar is spit-spot and names don’t change in the middle of the book. Publishing houses do a line edit before sending off the manuscript to be printed; writers planning to self-publish should get a line edit, too, but it’s probably a lot cheaper to ask that friend of yours in the critique group who’s a grammar nerd (and then treat him or her to a nice lunch).

And then there’s the book doctor. Remember when I said that writers had that secret dream of sending off a manuscript for a professional critique and really, we just want somebody to fix it? There’s a way to make that dream come true: hire a book doctor.

A book doctor is not playing around with all that revising back and forth. A book doctor will take your novel and fix those plot holes, clean up the character mix-ups, shore up the settings, tighten the tension and perfect the pace. And a book doctor might do all that and have a relatively quick turn-around. So why doesn’t everyone use a book doctor?

For one thing, a book doctor can be very expensive; doctoring a manuscript is a serious workload, even for a professional. And though a reputable book doctor will get permission from the writer before making massive changes, a manuscript can turn out quite differently. That sort of revision is not for everyone.

Still, there are times when a writer has revised a manuscript so much—either through critique partners, beta readers or paid professional critiques—that the idea of one more rewrite can cause dry heaves, not to mention hair-pulling. It’s that point of hitting a brick wall and maybe a book doctor can punch a way through to make a manuscript sellable. Not that anyone can make a guarantee that a manuscript will sell, but an expert book doctor can certainly push it closer to publication.

And then there’s the writer who’s self-publishing a book to enhance a business; it might be a more cost-effective use of time and money to use a book doctor. But like all writing services, do your homework first. Ask writer friends, check for any “write beware” notices, before committing to a pricey contract. It’s all well and good to invest in yourself but don’t break the bank in the process!

(How about you, dear writers, have you used a book doctor? Inquiring would-be published authors want to know!)

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--The closest I've gotten to a book doctor is Margo Dill. She makes the diagnosis. It's up to me to get the proper treatment. ;)

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Cathy, I sent the first fifty pages of my novel to get professionally edited years ago, yes years sorry to say, due to an agent's encouraging suggestion. She made great suggestions and gave me alot of insight that I followed through with, but it is the rest of the novel I struggle with now. A book doctor sounds worth looking into and seems worth the investment. Thanks for this post.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Margo's great, Sioux, and I know you're working hard.

And Jeanine, before you try a book doctor, have you sent the manuscript out into the world again yet? See what kind of feedback you may be able to make your own revisions (and save your money!)

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