What Is a Book Doctor: Why Should I Hire One?

Many indie authors ask themselves – should I hire a book doctor? They wonder: If an editor can really make my manuscript better and increase my chances for success. What makes the editor different from me? How does she know more about this than I do? This article is meant to help you decide whether you need a book doctor and how to choose one.

In this article, we will define a book doctor as a professional editor or writing coach who works with your manuscript in a holistic way – not just copy editing, but also going over the big picture: Is my story compelling? Is it structured correctly? Will readers enjoy it? Also, we’ll explore the differences between book doctoring and developmental editing.

What is a Book Doctor?

A book doctor is a professional editor who works with writers to create the best possible manuscript. For this reason, they are often referred to as project consultants or developmental editors.

Book Doctoring vs Developmental Editing

A developmental editor is a professional who helps you take your raw manuscript and turn it into a publishable novel. They work on the structure of your story, the character development, the pacing. In essence, they help you craft your story from start to finish.

Read also, Book Editing: 16 Genuine Websites to Hire a Book Editor

A book doctor, by contrast, usually works on a manuscript that is already in good shape. It has been edited and revised several times but still needs help with one or more problems that can make the difference between success and failure. In this case, the editor helps you fix those problems to increase your chances for publication. It’s a great way to get a second opinion on your book if you have already tested it with beta readers, but still feel uncertain.

Why Should I Hire a Book Doctor?

The question is a valid one. There are hundreds of thousands of books published every year, more and more of them self-published. It’s true that an editor or book doctor can’t make your book a bestseller if it isn’t already good enough for that. However, the editor/doctor will give you the tools to bring out its full potential and turn it into a bestselling book.

Here are some of the major benefits you get from hiring a book doctor or editor:

#1 An experienced point of view.

Your manuscript has been in your hands and in your head for so long that it’s hard to see things objectively. Even beta readers can be biased because no matter how well they know you and your writing, they still read the story through their filter and with their preconceived ideas. The editor’s job is to take a step back and look at the book from an outside view so he or she can give you an unbiased opinion about it.

#2 Novelty of approach.

Every book doctor has a unique approach to editing. For example, one might be really good at fixing pacing, while another excels at character motivation, yet another shines in worldbuilding, etc. You will get a whole new set of eyes on your manuscript that brings fresh ideas into play that you may never have thought of before.

Read also, 15 Best Websites to Hire a Book Translator

#3 Different angles on problems and possibilities:

As writers ourselves, we’ve been there many times before – we know the hopes and fears that go with writing a book. We know just how much your manuscript means to you, how important it is for you to get it right and sell as many copies as possible. As professionals, however, we can’t afford to be too emotionally involved in our work. That’s why we will approach your tale from a fresh perspective and diagnose its problems objectively so we can suggest effective solutions for them.

When should I Hire a Book Doctor?

There are several signs that suggest you should seek the help of a professional editor or book doctor.

#1 You aren’t sure if your story works.

Particularly when you see it with fresh eyes after some time has passed away since writing it, there’s a good chance you will notice things which don’t work. A qualified editor can help you find and fix them.

#2 Your story keeps getting rejected by publishers/agents even though it has been professionally edited.

It happens to most authors. Rejection slips are a normal part of the writing process, but if your manuscript keeps being sent back to you time after time despite having gone through several rounds of editing, then maybe there are some issues with it that you haven’t been able to identify. If your book is good enough, a book doctor may be the thing that turns the tables for you and gets it published.

#3 You have fixed all problems but still think it’s not good enough.

This is the most difficult sign to spot because many authors don’t have much objectivity about their work. When you don’t feel that your story is good enough, even after all the beta readers and editors whose opinion you value have praised it to high heaven, then maybe there’s something wrong with your manuscript even though it has been professionally edited already. If this is the case, an experienced book doctor should be able to identify what’s missing.

Read also, Book Editing: Follow These 10 Easy Steps and Edit Your Manuscript

If you find yourself in any of these scenarios, it might be time to hire a book doctor or editor for your manuscript.

How To Choose A Book Doctor?

It may seem counterintuitive, but the first step towards hiring a good book doctor is actually finishing your manuscript! This way you’ll have something solid on paper that can be improved instead of something still in the development stage full of holes.

Of course, you shouldn’t rush to publish your first draft either – that would be a disaster. You need time to go back and fix things that may not have worked the way you wanted them to. This is the second step towards hiring a good book doctor. Make sure you’ve given your story more than one revision so it’s polished enough to show to someone else.

The third step is finding an editor or book doctor who will meet your expectations. Once you have some candidates in mind, ask for samples of their work on fiction manuscripts similar to yours before making your final decision. Also, remember that just because someone has edited some bestselling novels doesn’t mean they are right for editing your book as well! Every piece of writing has different needs, so look for an expertly skilled editor to match your particular story.

Can a Book Doctor Steal Your Book?

One of the concerns you might have about bringing an editor or book doctor on board is that they will steal your manuscript idea. This isn’t possible – editors sign non-disclosure agreements before they look at your work so it’s legally protected, and if the manuscript really was great, nobody would want to steal it. However, there are some things that an unprofessional editor might do:

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#1 Give you false hope.

Sometimes professionals don’t see the potential in a book because they aren’t capable of seeing it themselves! They may tell you that the story has potential when in fact it doesn’t. That way you’ll be disappointed with their work as well as with yourself for hiring someone who didn’t deliver what he/she promised.

#2 Destroy your work instead of editing it.

Unfortunately, this happens more often than you might think! If an editor decides he/she doesn’t like a story, they may sabotage it to make sure nobody else picks it up either. There are examples of authors whose manuscripts were edited by someone who introduced spelling mistakes into them or added typos on purpose because they didn’t want the author to sell the book! Of course, these situations are very rare – most professional editors know that if they do their job properly, not only will they be able to help you improve your manuscript but also assist in its sale as well.

Read also, Hemingway Editor Review: Is the Free Writing App Worth the Hype?

However, there’s no way for you to tell what kind of person an editor is until you actually work with them, so trust your instincts!


In this article, we’ve talked about what a book doctor is and who they are for. We also outlined some of the dangers authors run into when hiring an editor or book doctor. Finally, we discussed how to find a good editor and avoid potential pitfalls. If you follow these guidelines, you will make a smart choice and feel happier with the results! As always, thank you for reading! Let us know in the comments if you’d like to see more articles on writing from us as well as which topics those might be about.

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