MYSTERY WRITER, EDITOR, BOOK COACH
Coaching and Editing FAQ’s
What if I don’t use all my allotted pages on a deadline – can I use them later?
Sorry, no. They don’t roll over into subsequent deadlines or months. This means if you are on a program where you’re invited to send up to 20 pages, and you only send 10 pages one week, you cannot send 30 the next time. This system works well to keep people moving forward with some predictability and to avoid doing complex math. If page roll over, both coach and writer waste time keeping accounts of pages “owed”, the writer doesn’t progress, and the coach can end up with a huge pile of pages arriving out of the blue. Steady momentum and pushing to hit those page counts on deadline will get you across the finish line faster.
Will I be able to finish a novel from start to finish on a 12-deadline coaching package?
Maybe. Mathematically speaking, if you are in the Intensive program and writing forward at 20 pages a week, you’ll hit page 240, which puts you in the range of a full-length novel — or you’ll at least see the finish line from there. So yes, it’s possible. For most of us, though, the writing process is iterative. You may be taking two steps forward and one step back, revising a little as you go, or going back to early chapters and reworking something that in turn impacts your new pages. The deadline system is flexible in that you could hand in a mix of revised and fresh pages – like a reworked chapter two and a new chapter three. Or some reworked scenes and then fresh pages. Or you might save my feedback for a later revision, and keep moving forward. Either way, 12 deadlines would probably get you pretty close to completion of a draft or revision, depending on the scope, genre, and age market of your book. Some people may need to sign up for a second package. Purchasing a half-package option (after completion of the full package) of six additional deadlines is also possible.
When and how often are coaching deadlines, and what’s your turnaround time?
Deadlines are always on Sundays. All clients must hand in work by 11:59 PM EST on Sunday. You will receive feedback on those pages by Thursday of the same week. When we first set up your program, we’ll determine a pace that works for you. Most writers schedule a deadline every other week, two per month, and get through their program in about six to seven months. If my schedule permits, I may be able to speed up to weekly at times, or if you need to work around work or life conflicts, or take some time to think through a story problem, we can push deadlines out to three weeks. If you or I anticipate needing to take a week off (vacation, holidays, etc.), we can determine that in advance and work around those times.
What if I want to work more slowly or take a break?
My coaching programs are on the model developed by Jennie Nash and Author Accelerator. These systems do get people across the finish lines of their drafts and revisions. Momentum is critically important to progress and to the coach / writer dynamic. If you have a major life event or emergency, of course we can pause your program or push back some deadlines. But if you’re just feeling stuck and not handing in pages, my job as a coach is to help you to figure out WHY, and to get you unstuck! I will encourage you to keep going, even if it means using a deadline to do some exercises or look at comp books or craft books instead. Or we can always use one of your allotted phone calls – which can be scheduled any time – to make a plan to get you back on track. If you’re having trouble meeting deadlines, the best thing to do is communicate that with me, and we’ll come up with a plan.
Deadlines expire one year from purchase date.
While we can downshift to three weeks between deadlines if you need time to process feedback, think through things, or catch up with your life, that’s fine, but I would not recommend scheduling only one deadline per month and taking a year to get through a coaching package. You will lose momentum and energy. At the same time, I will have difficulty keeping your story fresh in my mind. I’m all for slow and thoughtful writing (hey, I wrote a book about turtles!), but I’m also about forward progress. Energy creates more energy. Onward!
What’s your turnaround time for standalone editorial services?
What if I sign up for a coaching package, but miss a deadline?
Sometimes things do happen to impede progress and best intentions. We get sick, we have a work emergency at the day job, a family member needs our help. If you anticipate not being able to hit a deadline, please let me know with as much notice as possible (ideally by the Friday before your deadline, at the latest), and we’ll reschedule for a different Sunday deadline. Please note that your rescheduled deadline may end up being two weeks past the original deadline, and not the following week, depending on how many people have already scheduled deadlines. I do not read for more than four clients in any given week to ensure the quality of my feedback. Also, when you reschedule, it will still be on a Sunday, though I occasionally will make an exception with advance notice and if my schedule permits. Sunday deadlines are necessary for me to manage my workflow and provide the best possible feedback to all clients. If your deadline reschedule request is approved for a different day of the week, you will likely experience a delay in the feedback. If you have a pattern of missing / rescheduling deadlines, we may need to discuss whether a coaching program is right for you at this time. And as mentioned before, if you’re not handing in work because you’re stuck, let’s talk and work together to get you unstuck!
What is the purpose of the calls in your coaching packages?
The calls are your chance to ask questions and to go over the written feedback in more detail. You can also use the time for brainstorming / problem solving with me; I’m happy to be a sounding board for ideas and help get you unstuck by thinking though problems out loud. Sometimes people use them to do generative writing exercises together to help with a craft or story issue. Sometimes we screen share and look closely at pages together. Sometimes I open up a Google doc and take notes (“scribe”) while you think out loud. Sometimes we might work on outline / structure issues on a Google doc at the same time. There are lots of options for productive use of call time! The call time is your time. You get to help set the agenda. Also: Zoom fatigue is real, and some people just plain don’t like to be in the hot seat on a call. I totally get it. I’d encourage you to give it a try though, before deciding phone / zoom coaching isn’t for you. Keep in mind we don’t have to use video – the call can be audio only. If you feel you have a significant barrier or aversion to working on phone / Zoom, we can discuss other options.
Will our Zoom calls be recorded?
Zoom calls can also be recorded upon request (I do not automatically record them), so please let me know in advance if having a recorded conversation would be helpful to you.
What if I miss a scheduled phone call?
You may reschedule a call with 24 hours notice using my Calendly system. If you are late for a call, I’ll wait for ten minutes and attempt to reach you. If we do not connect, unless there is a tech problem or some cataclysmic event, the call cannot be rescheduled and you will lose the time.
Can I email you in between deadlines?
I’m happy to answer quick questions, especially if you need to clarify something I’ve written in my feedback. Or if you’re feeling low energy and need a cheerleading boost, I will respond. If you’re on the Intensive Coaching package, you’ll get more email feedback to questions between deadlines (or we can have an ongoing conversation in the Google docs comments, if you respond to my comments there). Upon request, you can get a friendly check-in email from me once a week to make sure you’re actually writing and not just bingeing on Netflix or whatever. If you’re in the Basic Book Coaching program, I’ll answer quick clarifying questions by email. If your email questions can’t be answered fairly quickly or concisely, or the email questions start to add up, I may have us discuss them on our next scheduled call or incorporate answers into the written feedback on your next deadline.
Can I text you questions?
I don’t communicate with clients by text. This is mostly because I find phones distracting in my own writing and editing process, so I usually have my phone off and locked in an iron box in a vault deep under the earth when I work. (Well, okay, my ringer’s off, but you get the idea). If you are someone who (like most of us) struggles with accountability and productivity, texting your book coach as questions come to mind is honestly going to be another distraction and not very helpful. Also there’s a tendency we can all have to fire off texts at the first sign of self-doubt and start writing “by committee.” I want you to hear your own voice and trust yourself while you’re actively drafting and revising. So, email and scheduled phone / Zoom only, please.
What format should my work be in, and can I work in Google Docs or Pages?
All work must be double spaced with standard one-inch margins, in 12-point font, sent as a Word document. I work in Track Changes for line edits, and I leave (digital) in-line comments in the margins of the manuscript. This format and this method of editorial commenting is standard in the publishing industry. I cannot accept work in Pages, Scrivener files, PDFs, or Google docs. If you are unfamiliar with Track Changes, I’m happy to refer you to free tutorials. Following this protocol is good practice for communicating with publishing professionals who still do work in this way. It is too time-consuming for me to use different feedback and workflow processes for different clients — I’d much rather spend my time reading your work.
Do you review queries and synopses, or do agent research and other pitch support?
I don’t do standalone query and synopsis review or agent research. I know many coaches who will offer those services and are great at it. That said, writing a query or synopsis at any stage is a very useful endeavor, and can help to identify problems in your manuscript. I will review a query or synopsis for my coaching clients in that context. Such materials would count toward the overall page allotment for a deadline within a coaching package. I do not review these materials as a standalone service for writers whose work I don’t know. For current clients or writers signing on for an ongoing coaching package or an editorial review, I’m also happy to offer advice and perspective on paths to publication.
Do you work with self-publishing authors?
Absolutely! I totally support indie authors! I will help you to write the best possible book and give you professional editorial support. That said, I do not work with self-publishing writers at the stage of uploading to Amazon or other platforms, book design, or marketing. I may have referrals for you if you are at that stage.
How do I pay?
I use an invoicing system that allows you to use a credit or debit card or a bank withdrawal. I do not accept cash or checks. Once we decide to work together, I will email you the payment links along with my Terms of Agreement.
Unless you are on a payment plan (see below), payment is due prior to starting work.
Do you offer payment plans?
For services and packages under $1,000, no. For services and packages over $1,000, that can be arranged, but payment installments for any program must be completed within three months time.
What is your refund policy?
No refunds are available once work has begun (e.g., once the first planning call has taken place, and /or once the first pages have been submitted for feedback). For this reason, I strongly encourage that we schedule a free phone call before beginning work to make sure we both feel it’s a good fit and our goals and expectations are aligned.
Will your coaching / editing land me an agent or publishing deal?
I am not able to guarantee that. I know it’s a big deal to invest in your book in this way and not to be taken lightly. But publishing is a tough, tricky, even fickle business. I do have industry experience, a good understanding of the mystery market, and a commercial eye, meaning I think I know what will help make a manuscript appeal to agents and editors, and what things might get in the way of that. I will be rooting for you all the way when you send it out into the world, and if I think it’s not yet ready to pitch, I will be honest with you and tell you why. I can help you to finish your book, learn more about the craft of writing, and become a better writer. But I can’t predict what any individual agent will take on or what an editor will buy, or whether your self-published book will soar up the charts on Amazon. My job as a coach is to help you to tell the best story you can, to make your writing as strong as it can be.
Book coaching sounds interesting. How do I become a book coach?
Please visit the Author Accelerator website for more information about the fiction and nonfiction book coach certification programs, including a free video series to help you determine if this might be a good professional path or side hustle for you: bookcoaches.com. In full disclosure, I am an affiliate of Author Accelerator. I reviewed practicum work, and certified coaches when I worked there. I am passionate about supporting the growing community of book coaches, helping people learn to run sustainable and ethical businesses, and upholding standards for the book coaching profession. If you have questions about the Author Accelerator book coach training program and the certification process, I’m happy to answer questions. If you are thinking of purchasing their training course, I would be very grateful if you could let me know first and use my affiliate link, which I can provide upon request.
Why do you have so many FAQ’s?
I’ve worked with many clients, done intake processes for Author Accelerator and elsewhere, and spoken to lots of writers on the phone as they prepared to work with coaches. These truly are frequently asked questions. I respect them because you’re considering making a considerable investment of time and money in your book and your writing career. Plus, if you take the time to read through these FAQ’s, not only are you awesome and very informed, we can now use our time on an initial intake call to focus more on your work, and how I can best help you!
So, uh, what’s with the owl? I see owls on your website and in your logo.
Owls are mysterious to me – the very emblem of mystery. But they also represent clarity, so they make a good symbol for my coaching and editing process. Owls fly high, getting an aerial view of the landscape, the big picture, but they also see details, like a mouse on the ground, a vole beneath the dirt, and they swoop in for the kill. Almost nothing escapes their attention.
I find owls a comforting presence. I live near a forest filled with owls. I love hearing their hoots at night and early in the morning. As your coach and editor, I won’t hoot (I promise), but I will be holding your story in my head, making space for it, protecting it, even when you are at rest.
Also, when I was little, I played an owl named “Professor Polly” in a school play. I still keep a picture of Little Me on my desk because it was at that age I began to develop my obsession with storytelling. I distinctly remember at that age deciding that the only thing better than reading stories and pretending to be in them (as an actor) was actually writing the stories. That’s exactly what I grew up to do – and it’s my life’s work to help others who share this calling.