What’s the difference?
Often, all authors intuit is: they can’t finish / they want feedback / they need to know if a book is on the path to being successful, or even worth completing.
To be honest? Almost ALL writers who ask for editing need to do at least some developmental work on their manuscripts first.
And with all the changes that have taken place in the publishing industry, it’s natural emerging authors want answers. So, here’s a rundown on the differences between a book coach and a professional editor, to help writers determine whether to hire a coach, an editor, or neither.
WHEN DO YOU HIRE A WRITING COACH?
You hire a book coach during the developmental stage of writing a book: meaning, you have an idea and early portions of a draft, but don’t yet have a completed manuscript.
WHY HIRE A BOOK WRITING COACH?
You hire a book coach because you need encouragement, deadlines, accountability, and feedback to sustain momentum to complete a book-length project.
You hire a book coach because you haven’t completed coursework in creative writing or worked as a professional writer, and therefore need to acquire craft skills, rather than wait until you have spent years drafting a manuscript, only to learn serious developmental errors require your entire book be rewritten.
You hire a book coach because, although writing groups are fun, free advice is not always good advice.
(For example: perhaps a peer is jealous, rather than unconditionally supportive. Perhaps a family member is uninterested in your topic or genre. Perhaps members of your critique group are divided in opinion when providing feedback, or are not experts in today’s marketplace.)
Bottom line: A good coach shortens the timeline and
sweetens the process of completing a book for emerging authors.
Book coaches clarify with the “big why” of a book before drafting and crafting. They help writers figure out:
A book coach also assists in the actual writing of your book.
Book coaches work with authors to develop a framework for plot and structure, helping writers outline a narrative arc and key scenes. They may limit work to this, or, if a writer desires, they may work together for the entire duration of the project.
Book coaches don’t ghostwrite or perform line-editing. Instead, they provide big-picture advice.
Book coaches give a great deal of encouragement, and they delve into a writer’s process in a way editors do not.
Book coaches uphold dreams when writers feel ready to give up. They are committed to helping you do your best work.
WHEN DO YOU HIRE AN EDITOR?
A professional editor is hired AFTER you have a completed draft of a manuscript. (After all: a writer’s raw material is not the blank page, but the rough draft.) If you need help completing your book, enlist a coach, even if it’s “almost done.”
WHAT DOES A BOOK EDITOR DO?
Editors provide different types of editorial services, depending on the level of polish a manuscript has attained.
LEVELS OF EDITING:
This provides an overall evaluation of a book’s developmental elements, such as plot, structure, characterization, theme, voice, point of view, and so on. The goal is to provide 1) a professional opinion of the manuscript’s readiness for publishing, and 2) identify opportunities for improvement.
A beta read provides an overall impression of a manuscript from the perspective of a potential reader. (This is usually performed by members of an author’s critique group, or friends well-read in the book’s genre.)
These come after a manuscript critique, and focus on the sentences and words in the document. This is where grammar, mechanics, and punctuation get corrected. Artistic and stylistic suggestions are also made at this level.
Proofreading is the final stage of review: it consists of checking a previously-edited manuscript for typos or errors prior to sending it to publishing and production. Proofreading is not line-editing, and most editors only offer this service to clients who have previously purchased a critique + line-editing package.
(It’s important to note: you do not need a professional to proof your manuscript. You only need someone who is not you to do so, preferably on a hard copy, in a large-sized font.)
HOW DO EDITORS DIFFER FROM COACHES?
Editors are professionals who perform editorial tasks. They are not there to cheerlead, sugarcoat, or delve into your writing blocks, but to provide necessary corrections and suggestions to make your manuscript the best it can be. Editors must be honest.
Editors prefer minimal contact with writers throughout the process, unlike coaches, who thrive in frequent contact with clients. When a book reaches an editor, it must stand alone, without additional context or explanation. Editors reach out when they are done editing a draft.
WHY HIRE AN EDITOR?
A professionally-edited manuscript is considered the industry standard. A traditionally-published manuscript completes as many as seven levels of editing prior to publication. A self-published book completes at least two.
A book filled with developmental flaws or grammatical errors will decrease author credibility and potential sales, while a professionally-edited book can enhance credibility in one’s field, serve as an effective marketing tool, and have a profound impact on readers.
Whether your dream is to launch a writing career or bring a new perspective to light, if you have spent years shaping a story, it’s essential to polish this work before presenting it to the public.
Bottom line: A good editor elevates the art and craft of a manuscript to a professional level.
DOES EVERY WRITER NEED TO HIRE A BOOK COACH OR EDITOR?
Of course not.
Writers who hire coaches tend to have tighter deadlines for projects, or feel they have less time in life to learn the craft through traditional means; they are often extraverts who thrive with support and wilt in isolation. Anyone who has undertaken substantial creative writing coursework, worked as a writer in any professional capacity, or has clarity around both their project and process may not need a coach.
Likewise, writers who have already secured a contract with a traditional publishing house or reputable agent do not need the services of an independent editor: their agent or publisher should take on a number of the editorial tasks outlined above. (Writers going the self-publishing route should always hire a professional editor.)
Finally, for those who have a completed rough draft, but lack the funds to hire professional help, there are a number of exceptional texts that teach self-editing skills. I recommend the forthcoming Refuse to Be Done by Matt Bell and Self-Edit Like a Pro: From Blank Page to Book by Allison K Williams. These essential resources can benefit writers at any stage of the writing process.
Ready to achieve your writing goals?
The Writing Cycle offers One-on-One Book Coaching for writers developing projects,
as well as an acclaimed Manuscript Critique + Line-Editing Package for those with completed rough drafts.
Spend some time on the site to learn more about each offering. If either seems a fit, reach out to secure your spot. (Coaching kicks off at New Years. Editing availability generally books out two-three months in advance.)
an Arizona-based editor who turns ideas into art. Need to get your book publication-ready?