Frequently Asked Questions
Defining the Work
Perhaps the best way to explain the range of services that falls under the title of book doctor or manuscript doctor is to extend the medical metaphor (which I did not invent), and say that I am able to offer everything from a brief urgent-care visit to a full workup with regularly scheduled follow-up visits.
In its most extended form, I approach book doctoring as a one-on-one tutorial about writing and publishing. In every aspect of my editorial work, I focus on supporting and advocating for the well-being of the author and the results of the writing process.
It’s wonderful to work with not-yet-published writers. In slightly more than six years at Roaring Brook Press, I started 21 debut authors and illustrators on their way. Several are now publishing their sixth or seventh books—or even more!
I also work happily with people who have published widely and successfully. They ask for my help because they’ve reached an impasse on a particular project or want to try a new genre or age group or experiment with format or voice or point of view. Or maybe they just want immediate in-depth feedback and an opportunity to organize their thoughts, their notes, their goals with an experienced and supportive editor.
Whether you have been published or not, I obviously cannot guarantee that our work together will result in this book being published. But I can help you take it to the next level by giving you detailed comments and direction. Some of my clients will go on to be very publishable now or a few manuscripts from now, and that is very satisfying for all of us.
Exactly the same range of genres, age groups, and subject matter as I did during the thirty years I worked in publishing houses. I edit concept books for the very youngest to chew on (literally!), picture book art and text, learning-to-read and early chapter books, middle grade fiction and nonfiction, teen fiction and nonfiction, plus fiction and nonfiction for adults.
Yes to both. And, equally important, yes to pointing out the strengths of the manuscript — the areas to build on, the tone to emulate, the character to bring to the foreground. Most of us are hard on ourselves and critical of our own work. The Internal Critic serves an important purpose, but not if that voice drowns out a sense of accomplishment about what works well — and sometimes kudos just for the daunting task of putting words on paper.
Much of the strengthening of a manuscript takes place as we cut out didactic passages, refine the language, and get to know the characters so well that actions and emotions are credible. It comes down to trusting your reader enough to not spell out every detail and, of course, to be willing to revise, revise, revise.
An editor’s main responsibility is to ask questions — the right questions — that lead the author to new insights and practical new approaches to plot, characterization, pace. I often suggest writing exercises to shake things up and help move an author in a more productive direction.
I use our time together, whether by e-mail, on the phone, or in person, as a one-on-one tutorial. Sometimes we work out “homework” assignments to keep up the writing momentum after our time together is over.
Yes. I am all about details! We’ll talk about how to structure a sentence, dispense with egregious clichés, choose powerful verbs, and avoid too many adverbs. And cut, tighten, refine — my authors always say that my tombstone is going to read, Less Is More!
A professionally prepared proposal is like a résumé: it won’t land you the job, but it may win you an interview and a chance to get your foot in the door. A proposal is often the first step in attracting an agent and securing a commitment from an acquiring editor. It’s a tool for selling yourself and your project.
I can help you develop a proposal for an adult or young reader fiction series or for nonfiction. We will define the market, create an overview, and include sales hooks, bulleted marketing points, sample text, comparisons to existing books, and a persuasive pitch about why you are the best person to write this book. I’m happy to help you work out a strong query letter and plan for submitting to agents and editors, too.
Together, the writer and I arrange regular email, phone, or in-person check-ins. The main goals are keeping writers on a schedule—if they work best with deadlines—and sustaining the flow of both pages and ideas.
We talk about the writing—whether they have produced a paragraph, a page, or a new chapter. Or if they need help organizing research notes or plot fragments, setting up a framework, or trying different viewpoints and narrative techniques. Or to tailor writing exercises and assignments to the individual writer for ongoing inspiration.
My goal as teacher/guide/coach is to connect with the writers, invest in their writing process—and do whatever it takes to keep them moving forward.
It’s often enjoyable to meet, but not always possible. I live in New York City but have clients all over the United States, including Hawaii. Also, I rarely meet my international clients, who live in Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and Venezuela.
We discuss the work by e-mail and phone. Then we send manuscripts back and forth electronically (using Track Changes in Word) or by postal service as hard copies.
I do not put authors directly in touch with agents or editors. I am not set up to be an agent and don't plan to function as such. I am an editor, through and through — and it’s what I love.
Yes, absolutely, it’s the honest thing to do. I might offer to help polish the manuscript and refine those last few details, but if it’s really ready, I will advise the author to move it along without me.
Editors in publishing houses always hope to do more than buy one book; they really hope to acquire an author and have an ongoing relationship. And yet, nowadays, published authors are asked to do much more to promote themselves and publicize their books than ever before in the history of publishing.
I help you look ahead at the big picture and plan for a career. I give marketing suggestions and talk about the care and feeding of editors and agents (lots of respect and a big present every December! Just kidding. Well, half-kidding, anyway).
We’ll also discuss opportunities to communicate with your readers and promote your books. Some appropriate ways to augment your publisher’s efforts: speaking in schools and libraries, maintaining a website, participating in targeted Listservs and online marketing, plus other media and in-person strategies.
Fees & Services
My fees are commensurate with my more than thirty years’ experience as a working editor and creative writing teacher. The amount depends on the length and complexity of the manuscript, how many rounds of revising I anticipate, and how much e-mail and phone contact we both expect.
The most extensive work involves my making detailed notes throughout the text of novels and nonfiction manuscripts. Plus, I provide a multipage editorial letter highlighting the strong points of the piece and giving specific suggestions for parts that need strengthening.
If it’s appropriate, I suggest a plan for you to move ahead in revising and with career planning. And I always provide an opportunity for back-and-forth about writing and publishing.
My fees for this in-depth editorial work for novels and nonfiction start at $3,000.
For a second round of revising on the same fiction or nonfiction project, fees start at $1,000. This includes light copyediting and editorial polishing.
If it seems appropriate and productive, I offer a consultation on the phone (or in person, if you can meet in New York City). Depending on the scope of the work, I bill the phone or in-person consultation at an hourly rate, usually $250/hour, plus a preparation fee. In some cases, where most helpful to the author, I propose a flat fee (usually $1-2,000) for a longer, more ongoing consultation.
I don't provide written comments for the consultation, but you will probably want to take your own notes or even to record our session. We’ll use our appointment to discuss voice, characterization, plot, audience, format, and marketability. And it’s an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about writing, publishing, and career planning.
Yes, it does, but not in the detailed, syllable-by-syllable way I would for my in-depth editorial work (and this preliminary review does not include a marked manuscript or an editorial letter).
I’ll comment on major structural issues, characterization, and so forth — whatever will give you tools and ideas to hang up the phone and start a serious revision.
You can ask about whatever you like during our phone time or meeting. I’ll comment and you can respond, and we’ll make sure that you get to ask any remaining questions you have before we say good-bye.
No. The first step is my quick review to get a sense of what's involved — a preliminary, send-it-in-for-an-estimate step. The preparation fee is for my serious reading, taking notes, and thinking — to prepare for our conversation.
I suggest saving your “cleaning up” energy for after we discuss your manuscript and you finish the next revision. From my initial review, I will already be thinking about some of the strengths and areas that need strengthening, and will have enough to say to give you momentum for revising.
Yes, I’m open to further work together in the future — depending, of course, on the work involved and what my schedule permits.
The turnaround time depends largely on the length and complexity of the manuscript. Occasionally, I agree to an exceptionally fast turnaround, and that involves an additional “rush” fee. But usually, I allocate a range of 3-12 weeks, a time frame tailored to the individual needs of the project and the author.
Please e-mail a Word document of the manuscript, plus a brief synopsis, to Deborah AT DeborahBrodie DOT com.
I will review the work and get a sense of what's involved. Then I’ll contact you with a proposed fee and schedule.
If you have questions that have not been answered here, I'll be glad to provide more information. Please use the form on my contact page.