What is a book doctor? Should I pay to have my book edited before submitting it?

Publish date:

Beginning Writer's Answer Bookedited by Jane Friedman

A book doctor (as opposed to a copyeditor or proofreader) will read your book, looking for big-picture issues that need addressing, such as development, structure or organization, and flow. (When reading novels, they look at plot, character, pacing, and other elements vital to lively and salable fiction.)

Image placeholder title

An editor you pay will be more objective than a teacher, writing group member, friend, or spouse. They can help you fix what’s wrong with your novel, though they cannot guarantee publication. They also can’t turn bad writing or a clichéd story into a best-seller.

Check the track record of the editor you wish to hire. He should have a background in the particular field of your manuscript (novels, plays, etc.) and should, if asked, be able to provide a sample of a former critique to give you an idea of the nature, extent, and content of the criticism provided. Usually, reputable book doctors or editors don’t take on projects that they feel have no chance at traditional publication (if that’s your goal).

Whether or not you should hire an editor is totally up to you, but most manuscripts do benefit from at least a line edit (or proofread) before submission. If an editor or agent has two manuscripts on his desk, and one needs a heavy edit, and the other looks polished and ready to go, it’s not hard to know which one he’ll prefer and be more likely to accept.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dream Sequence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your characters dream a little dream.

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.


Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a lazy poem.


Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.


Shook vs. Shaked vs. Shaken (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use shook vs. shaked vs. shaken on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Day 30

For the 2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge, poets write a poem a day in the month of November before assembling a chapbook manuscript in the month of December. Today's prompt is to write an exit poem.