Are Book Coaches and Editors a Scam?

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Are Book Coaches and Editors a Scam?


Question: Are book coaches and freelance editors a scam?

Answer: I see so many posts (and receive queries) on this topic, I thought it was time to put in my oar.

It’s essential to understand the HISTORY of the publishing industry to understand how it has evolved in the 21st Century.

Independent book coaches and professional editors with integrity (—obviously, and unfortunately, shady folks exist within any industry—) did not arise and do not exist to prey on aspiring authors.

Rather, the rise of the Internet led to a glut of free content, resulting in a bevy and democratization of ideas, and along with this, the inability for traditional journalism, publishing, and advertising industries to remain viably profitable after +/- 2005. Their staff and budgets were decimated.

Editors working at large publishing houses who used to have time to develop books (and relationships) with new writers were soon only able to devote resources to top authors. Agents were then expected to take over many developmental, editorial, and promotional tasks once done in-house. Today, even mid-list traditionally published authors must hire independent publicists, as marketing resources shift to sure-fire bestsellers. (Think a memoir by Michelle Obama, or the latest by J.K. Rowling.)

The rise of e-books enabled self-publishing (once prohibitively expensive) to suddenly become available to anyone. Today, anyone can become an author.

The upside to this? Many wonderful, experimental, niche books now find a direct route to readers. This is a good thing!

The downside? 80% of self-published work is slop.

So you can see how it proves challenging for readers to FIND these wonderful needles in the self-published haystack without authors either:
1) Doing a great deal of self-study, OR 2) employing expert editors and professional strategists to help them categorize, launch, and promote books to actually reach aligned readers.

After all, the final step in The Writing Cycle is to be read and impact the lives of readers.

This is all to say: the industry evolved; hence, independent professionals evolved with it. Comparing publishing today with publishing a hundred years ago makes little sense. Stop doing it. The art + craft of writing presents similar struggles. The landscape of publishing has changed.

(NOTE: This is true of MANY industries in the wake of the information revolution: 30% of jobs filled today did not even exist 20 years ago.)

Book coaches and freelance editing professionals are reflections of the gig economy’s proliferation and downsizing at agencies and publishing houses. They fill the void once occupied by full-tine employees in these industries. They are not scammers. If you wish to ensure your work is as polished as possible before sending it for submission or publication, rest assured you will benefit from their services. That said, do your homework when considering which coach or editor will be the best fit for your project. Most specialize in specific genres, work with authors at particular stages of experience or book development, and prefer to align with material that speaks to their passions, much as traditional editors always have.


Have a question? Contact me and I’ll answer it on the blog!

In an age when it’s easy to publish quickly, it’s more important than ever to publish well. If you have a rough draft ready for professional evaluation and editing, explore our manuscript services today.

Carol Test
Carol Test
CAROL TEST is an award-winning short story writer and former editor-in-chief of Sonora Review. Raised in Phoenix, she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and taught fiction workshops at the college level for more than a decade. She currently empowers authors to get works-in-progress publication-ready via The Writing Cycle.
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