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Should You Hire a Writing Coach, a Book Coach, or an Editor?

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

Editors, book coaches, and writing coaches all do slightly different things. Learn about what they do before deciding who to hire.

Editors, book coaches, and writing coaches all do slightly different things. Learn about what they do before deciding who to hire.

I am constantly amused at self-published authors who want to have a phone conversation with me about editing their book manuscripts. My rates and services are pretty clearly explained on the site where I sell them. And if they still have questions, they can easily message me. A phone call is completely unnecessary.

I decline these requests simply because they can easily turn into brain-picking sessions. Without the manuscript in front of me, I can’t really discuss anything, and I don’t look at manuscripts for free. Plus, if they need to “explain” their manuscript to me, it’s already doomed to fail since it isn’t ready to stand the scrutiny of strangers.

So my guess is that their need for some one-to-one contact stems from one of the following issues:

  • They don’t know exactly what an editor does.
  • They really haven’t finished writing their book and need some motivation or justification to keep going.
  • They want to know if their book will be successful.
  • They’re unsure of their skills.
  • They want me to buy into their mission or vision.

At the root of their requests is that they don’t understand what they need. And it’s likely they don’t truly need me for book editing . . . at least right now. Some really need a book or writing coach. So, how can you decide what you need? Let me break it down for you.

What Is a Writing Coach?

A writing coach will assist you in the actual writing of your book. These folks may have you write a certain number of words, chapters, etc., and then they will review what you’ve written. Depending on what you’ve accomplished, they may tell you to move on or do a rewrite to make it right.

Writing coaches can be hired by authors for their entire book-development project from initial idea to final manuscript draft. Or, if authors are having difficulty with various passages or some writing technique, they can hire a writing coach to help get clarity, build skill, and get encouragement.

After the manuscript's first draft is complete, it would likely go to beta readers first and later to editors for pre-production review.

What Is a Book Coach?

Book coaching is a much more fuzzy service. Some book coaches are actually writing coaches. Others strictly help authors with non-writing book-publishing tasks such as production, design, and marketing. Some handle both the writing and non-writing sides of the equation. It’s important for you to determine what expertise you need and confirm that the book coach you’re considering can deliver.

Non-writing book coaches function more like business coaches, treating your work as a marketable commodity. Your book manuscript must be complete by the time you start working with them. Their input can be especially helpful as you go through the editing process. Expect to get some “tough love” from them if they think your work could struggle with sales. Informing your editors of your book coach’s concerns can help them suggest appropriate edits to make it market-ready.

What Is a Book Editor?

When you start working with editors, your book manuscript must be in a complete state. While editors may suggest substantial edits to improve the work, they will not help you with the actual writing. Their mission is to provide you with an objective analysis of your entire book and evaluate whether it meets language standards for your intended audience. It’s important to clarify what type of editing you want done.

4 Types of Editing

  1. Critique. This is not a book review! A book critique is an overall evaluation of a manuscript for a number of aspects that could include organization, structure, mechanics, writing style, etc. It is merely a professional opinion of the manuscript's readiness for publishing.
  2. Beta reading. Similar to a critique, a beta reading provides an overall impression of a manuscript. However, the perspective is from the viewpoint of a potential reader.
  3. Editing. Sometimes referred to a line editing, a full-scale edit will evaluate a manuscript in detail and make page-by-page recommendations and changes. This is the most detailed evaluation of the content and message of the work.
  4. Proofreading. Sometimes referred to as copy editing, proofreading is the final stage of review prior to publishing and production. It evaluates the mechanics of the manuscript to include spelling, word use, grammar, punctuation, etc.

How Much Do Writing Coaches, Book Coaches, and Editors Charge?

Prices vary widely among all three professions, ranging from the low hundreds to the thousands in terms of total investment. Writing and book coaches will often offer packages, although some offer hourly rates as a consultant. Editors will usually charge by the number of words in your manuscript or, more rarely these days, by the hour.

Do You Need All Three . . . or None of Them?

No. In fact, if you’re self-publishing, none of these services are technically required. But seeking outside help and perspective can help improve the quality of your work.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 02, 2018:

Thanks, Doug! I agree that getting another's opinion is very helpful. Really appreciate you stopping by. Have a great week ahead!

Doug West from Missouri on April 02, 2018:

As the author of numerous indie books, I have always hired an editor and proofreader for my books. It is very helpful to get another persons opinion on the book, it is amazing how much you can miss as an author. IMHO - hiring a proofreader is a must. Keep up the good articles.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 17, 2018:

Happy New Year, Larry! Thanks for stopping by. Hope your new year is starting our great. Cheers!

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on January 17, 2018:

Great insight.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 13, 2018:

Well, Suhail, now you do! :) Writing coaches can be helpful, especially for newer writers or those who feel the need for encouragement and guidance.

Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely weekend!

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on January 13, 2018:

Hi Heidi,

I didn't even know that these services existed ha-ha, except for Beta reader through your earlier article.

The concept of writing coach clicks with me though.



Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 11, 2018:

Hi Linda! I think a lot of people are confused about writing and book coaches (the coaches might be, too). So I thought it might be good to clarify. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 10, 2018:

Once again, you've shared some useful information, Heidi. I especially appreciated the facts about writing coaches and book coaches.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 10, 2018:

Bill, I can definitely envision you as a writing coach! But please don't do it for free. And I'm glad you know that editing isn't for you. I've had to do follow up edits for writers that had "Sure, I can edit" friends look at their work. Ugh.

The deep freeze is over for a couple of days and will return on Friday with a high of 18. Today we just have a skating rink with rain falling on top of ice and snow.

Thanks, as always, for joining the conversation! Have a great day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 10, 2018:

Flourish, I hope I've clarified it for some! I think the confusion is that a lot of writing and book coaches don't market themselves correctly and then writers end up not getting what they need. And, yes, I'm quite amused by writers who think they should explain their writing. Kind of like being an artist who wants to stand in front of his painting so he can explain it to everyone. :) Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful day!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 10, 2018:

I have served as a writing coach and love doing that kind of work. If I were wealthy I would do it for for being an editor, just shoot me. It would be kinder.

Hope the deep freeze is over for you folks. Have a great week, Heidi!

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 09, 2018:

This was a great clarification. I am sure you set straight any confused writer who just wants hand holding or is unsure about what they’re after. If you have to explain your work it’s doomed. It should speak for itself.