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

Updated on January 9, 2018
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert, nonfiction book editor, author of 21+ books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.


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:

  • They don’t know exactly what an editor does.
  • They really haven’t finished writing their books 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 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 the 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 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! So it’s important for you to determine what expertise you need and confirm that a 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 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:

Critique. This is not a book review! A book critique is an overall evaluation of a manuscript for a number of aspects which could include organization, structure, mechanics, writing style, etc. It is merely a professional opinion of the manuscript's readiness for publishing.

Beta reading. Similar to critiques, a beta reading provides an overall impression of the manuscript. However, the perspective is from the viewpoint of a potential reader.

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.

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 into the thousands in 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.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Heidi Thorne


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    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 weeks ago from Chicago Area

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

    • dougwest1 profile image

      Doug West 2 weeks ago from Raymore, MO

      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.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

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

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

      Great insight.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

      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 and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 3 months ago from Mississauga, ON

      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.



    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

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

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

      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!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 months ago from Olympia, WA

      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 profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

      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.