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Ask the Book Doctor – Kendra Langeteig

What’s a Book Doctor?

People are often amused when I say that I work as a book doctor. A book doctor is also known in the trade as an independent book editor or a developmental editor. I enjoy using the doctor label because of my degree as a doctor of philosophy in literature, along with my interest in mind-body health and cognitive research. Even though I’m a PhD not an MD, a book editor such as myself, who can diagnose and treat any problem in a book manuscript, is much like a general practitioner. We have the training and instincts to make a book strong and vibrant from head to toe.

Not every book doctor works on editing manuscripts, but most of us can troubleshoot anything from dysfunctional structure to complex grammar issues. The book doctor can help you when it comes to seeing the big picture of your book concept in relation to your audience and market, essentially working with you on a book project as your coach or consultant. This is the editor you want to go to for support when writing a book for a wide audience. This is also the editor that can help you to achieve the transformation you want to see with a major book revision.

What kind of books do you specialize in as a book doctor?

I specialize in books known in today’s market as “transformational,” books that encourage personal growth, healing, positive change: inspirational, self-development, memoir/personal narrative, how-to, spiritual philosophy, integrative medicine, and so on. I also have expertise for working on literary fiction, along with books on art and architecture. My wide-ranging interests and experience enable me to support authors writing books on virtually any topic. I love challenges. If your book presents an interesting learning opportunity, I may take you on! However, I am not the ideal editor for authors of strictly academic texts or highly technical books. I’m still recovering from an allergy to footnotes and tabulated statistics (having worked with scientists on pathogen reports for FDA).

How do I know what kind of treatment my book will need?

Authors sometimes imagine that minor proofreading is all it will take to get their book into shape for publishing. Often, that’s not the case. To help you anticipate the kind of improvements that could be necessary, I recommend a quick manuscript review. See “Description of Editing Services”.

How much will it cost to hire you as my book doctor/editor?

The fee you pay for my professional services will depend on the level of editing required to achieve the results you desire, along with your budget for the project. Basic copyediting takes considerably less time for an editor to complete than making structural revisions or in-depth stylistic improvements. If you want custom high-end services, that will add to the fee. See “Services,” and “Rates.”

Can anyone write a book? What if I’m not a “real” writer?

If you have a burning desire to write a book and a commitment to getting it written and published, you certainly can do it. You don’t need to have special credentials or talent to write a book. However, you will need to learn the ropes. Inspiration and enthusiasm can fuel the journey, but with the host of unknowns you’ll inevitably meet along the way, it can be a long, bumpy road. I recommend that first-time authors sign up for a book-writing workshop or hire a writing coach to support them through the process. Or if you want to get your book out there soon without doing the hard work of writing it, you can hire a ghostwriter to write it for you.

Do I have to be an authority on a subject to write a book (as the word “author” implies)?

Yes – with qualification. You’re an authority on your own life, so that gives you authority for writing about your experience. You can jump in and start writing a book immediately. However, if you want to write a book in a specialized field in which you have little training or experience, you won’t be able to write with “authority” until you get the knowledge. Don’t let that stop you. Many writers decide to write a book because they want to learn more about a subject that fascinates them.

Can you help me to write a book if I only have a vague book idea and a few notes?

Before answering that question, I’d want to talk with you about your book idea, your experience as a writer, your goals, and so on. I offer private coaching sessions and book-writing workshops for authors who want to develop a book from scratch. Feel free to contact me to discuss your book project, and we’ll take it from there.

Who are your clients?

I specialize in working with professionals in the personal development/transformational field on guides, memoirs/personal narratives, and how-to books. I also enjoy working with novelists. Most of my book projects involve full-scale developmental editing and collaborative writing. See my Portfolio.

How soon can we get started?

The starting date for our work on your book project will depend on the amount of editing/writing required, along with both of our schedules. Let’s first decide whether your book and my experience would make us a good author-editor match. I recommend for prospective authors to contact me to schedule a free consultation.

How long will it take for me/us to write my book?

The length of time it takes to write your book will depend on many factors, such as available time, writing experience, and the complexity of your book topic. If you’re writing intermittently, it will take you far longer to finish your book than if you were free to work on it consistently. For example, authors I’ve collaborated with on self-help/how-to books have written and revised their books for publication in four to six months. For authors involved in research, it’s taken well over a year to draft a manuscript.

How long will it take you to edit my book manuscript?

The amount of time it takes to edit your manuscript will depend on the nature of the editing required to prepare your book for publishing. It’s fairly easy to anticipate the number of hours that would be needed to complete basic copyediting for a client. If you’re looking for high-end substantive work on your manuscript, however, expect to add many more hours to the editing process.

How does the online editing process work?

After I edit your book manuscript, I will email you the revised ms content as a Word document file attachment. My proposed revisions, comments, and author queries are tracked and highlighted on the document for you to review. That gives you the opportunity to accept or reject my changes and recommendations as you see fit. Some authors prefer to have comments and queries typed directly into the draft, bracketed and highlighted in color. All of the editorial decisions I make to enhance the quality of your book will be approved by you before finalizing them. For long-term developmental editing/co-writing projects, I do my best to make the author-editor collaboration fluid and enjoyable while also keeping us on track to complete your book within the proposed schedule. Developmental projects go through several revision phases. It’s a back-and-forth process of swapping electronic drafts until we arrive at the final version.