Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Should You Use a Book Doctor?
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