Ghostwriter, Developmental Editor, Book Coach, Editor – What’s the Difference?

Ghostwriter, Developmental EditorAt first glance, it may seem like a ghostwriter, book doctor, book coach and editor are all doing the same thing – helping you write a book that’s well organized, clear, interesting, focused and a great read. So what are the fine points that distinguish them, and when should you turn to one instead of another? Here’s a brief rundown:

1)      The Ghostwriter 

A ghostwriter actually writes your book for you. If you like, you don’t have to commit a single word to paper: he/she will do it all. Or you can write parts of it, leaving the rest to the ghost. In general, you will provide the ideas, experiences and point of view for the book, and the ghost will organize your material, develop it and shape it, fill it the blank spaces, create the remainder of the book’s content and produce a finished manuscript. Of course, you’ll need to review the drafts and make corrections/additions, or at least tell your ghost what you want to be changed. But in general, you don’t really need to do any writing at all; the ghost does it for you.

2)      The Developmental Editor

A developmental editor (“book doctor”) arrives on the scene once you have a completed or nearly-completed manuscript that doesn’t quite work.  Maybe the manuscript lacks focus and/or organization, there are areas that need further development, the language needs to be sharpened or cleaned up, or some sections are overwritten. The developmental editor’s job can be summed up in two words: organizer and trouble-shooter. He or she will analyze the manuscript, ask pertinent questions, give constructive criticism, perhaps reorganize some or all of the manuscript, and even rewrite certain sections.

3)      The Book Coach

A book coach is a consultant who can advise you at any point during the book writing process – from the conception of your book idea to the finishing touches on your completed manuscript – but does not do any actual writing. He or she can provide crucial advice and direction concerning a wide range of topics, from refining your initial book idea to maximize marketability, to choosing the best format for your manuscript, to producing clear, compelling copy, to finding an agent or working your way through the self-publishing process. Like the book doctor, the book coach doesn’t do any actual writing, but his/her professional expertise can help you navigate the treacherous and confusing path that leads from book idea to finished product.

4)      The Editor

There are two kinds of editors: the developmental editor and the copy editor. Neither does any actual writing. The developmental editor is, essentially, a book doctor who will look for big problems in the manuscript such as poor organization, missing information, faulty logic and gaps in the text, marking them for you (or your ghostwriter) to fix. The copy editor is one of the last professionals to work on your manuscript, checking the finished manuscript for errors in spelling and grammar and ensuring the style is consistent throughout. If you have engaged the services of a book doctor, you won’t need a developmental editor. But every manuscript needs a good copy editor!

Which professional to hire will depend on how far along you’ve come in the book writing process. Maybe you’re still at stage one, wondering if your idea could translate into a great book. Or maybe you’ve started to write but are finding the process difficult, if not impossible. Or you might have a completed manuscript that needs a little help. Whatever your situation, there is a writing professional who is ready and willing to assist!

About Nadine Taylor, M.S., R.D.

Nadine Taylor, a Registered Dietitian, is an experienced writer who has authored or co-authored several books in the health and memoir genres. Her memoirs include Diana & Dodi: A Love Story, and her health books include Green Tea: The Natural Secret to a Healthier Life, Runaway Eating, Natural Menopause Remedies, Arthritis For Dummies and 25 Natural Ways To Relieve PMS. She has also ghostwritten numerous books in various genres.