Craft: Coaching vs. Editing: What’s the difference?

Coaching versus editing: what’s the difference?

Most authors understand the benefits of editing, at some level, and realize that it can help them have a professional set of eyes on their book and make it better.

But are you aware of book coaching and how it can help your writing career and take your writing to the next level? If not, that’s understandable because book coaching is a newer area in the publishing arena. 

In the past, publishers and agents often provided this service, guiding authors into making their manuscripts levels better than where they started. But this service has gone by the wayside, with agents and publishers expecting top-notch work before they’ll consider it. It’s no longer good enough to show “promise.”

Even in self-publishing or indie publishing, authors need to make their craft standout from the crowd of other books in order to create superfans who are begging to read their next book. And to take your writing to this next level most often requires professional help. 

But what kind of help? Coaching or editing?

Book Coaching

Book coaching comes into the writing process much earlier than a developmental editor. At Tandem Services, we offer two kinds of coaching–draft and revision–in either an individual or group setting. Coaching also often addresses your goals and career aspirations as a whole, not just one book, which is something editing doesn’t get into.

Here are some common areas where book coaches provide feedback:

  • Character development. Fleshing out protagonists, crafting compelling backstories and personalities. 
  • Story structure. Analyzing plot structure, pacing, act breaks, resolution of character arcs.
  • Theme. Surfacing the core idea/message and ensuring it’s effectively threaded throughout.
  • Writer’s process. Time management, organization of drafts/edits, addressing writer’s block or other challenges. 
  • Outlining. Reviewing outline structure and offering suggestions to refine it.
  • Research techniques. How-tos on fact checking, interviewing experts, weaving research subtly into the narrative.
  • Publishing/marketing. Guidance on finding an agent/publisher, cover design, building an author platform.
  • Genre considerations. Maintaining genre conventions, subtleties like suspense/tension or emotional resonance.
  • Series development. Plotting sequels, maintaining continuity, evolving over multiple books.

The goal is a holistic approach that empowers authors at any stage, from concept to publication and beyond. Authors who need help with bigger picture structure or conceptual elements of their manuscript or career generally benefit from coaching.

Here are some signs that you may benefit from book coaching:

If you’re getting rejections, feedback, or reviews citing issues like unclear plot/characters or inconsistent tone, two-dimensional characters, coaching may uncover bigger problems requiring fixes first.

If you lack clarity on your writing process or goals, coaching provides guidance on strengthening your craft and productivity.

You’re struggling to clearly outline your plot and character arcs. Coaching can help strengthen structure.

You get stuck or lose momentum frequently when writing. Coaching provides deadlines, accountability, and brainstorming to get unstuck.

Draft coaching

Draft coaching is when you work with a writing coach while you are drafting your novel. We meet regularly (about every two to three weeks) while you are writing. You’ll have an assignment of a certain number of words to write before each meeting (about 10,000). And we’ll talk about big picture items such as theme, character development, pacing, and plot structure.

The advantage of working with a book coach while you are writing your book is that you are dealing with the issues as they come up, instead of having to go back and fix them later. And it can be customized to fit your particular needs.

If you are a person that dislikes the editing process, this is a great option for you, as it will minimize the amount of editing you have to do.

You also have a brainstorming partner who knows how story works and can help you make sure your ideas will work, while taking into consideration the pacing and structure of the story.

If you are earlier in your writing career, this is a personalized writing lesson–invaluable for helping you move your story forward.

Finally, most of my draft coaching clients don’t need a developmental edit, because we’ve been doing that as we go. They can go straight to copyediting. This saves you money.

Revision coaching

Revision coaching takes place after you’ve written your book and are working through edits and revisions. Usually this occurs after someone has gotten a developmental edit (or beta reader feedback) that requires some significant restructuring or reworking of the manuscript and the author isn’t sure how to go about it. 

Also, authors often just don’t have the knowledge or skill set yet to make the book into what they had envisioned.

Revision coaching works through the editing suggestions in a thoughtful and organized way (so you won’t do double work) and works through the structural issues that will make the book better. If editing is a struggle for you and makes you want to give up, revision coaching can help you through the process so it doesn’t feel so painstaking.

Group coaching

Group coaching is ideal for brainstorming, networking, and accountability. Often in a group coaching setting, you’ll have folks working through both draft and revision coaching. Group coaching cohorts should be kept small so everyone has plenty of time to discuss their project. I have no more than four people in a ninety-minute session.

While it may seem like you get less benefit in group coaching, I actually think you get more. You have your cohort’s opinion on your work and their feedback, which can be invaluable. You’ll also find that listening to other people work through their issues and getting feedback can be informative to your own work. And finally, you’ll find that someone else will ask a question you didn’t even know you had. There is a wonderful synergy that happens with group coaching.


There are three basic levels of editing: developmental, copyediting, and proofreading. Developmental editing is the closest to book coaching. It focuses on big picture issues, structure, character arcs, and so on. But while a developmental edit will point out issues and give the author some suggestions–more of a general direction–book coaching will give you much greater in-depth help on how to fix your issues (in revision) or to avoid them to begin with (with draft coaching).

All manuscripts benefit from a copyedit, which is a line-by-line review and cleanup of your manuscript draft to catch errors and increase clarity.

And proofreading should be the last step before a manuscript goes to formatting/layout by fresh eyes–someone who hasn’t seen the book before–to catch those pesky errors and typos that slip by.

Here are some examples of the type of feedback an author might receive from a book coach and an editor, so you can see how they are different.

Book Coach Feedback:

  • Your protagonist’s motivation isn’t strong enough. Let’s brainstorm ways to deepen her backstory and make the stakes higher. 
  • The plot drags in the second act. Let’s take a closer look at your character to see how we can pull things from his past/deepest fear/lie/wound, etc. to up the tension.
  • I love your themes emerging about love and loss. Let’s figure out how to play it up more.

Editor Feedback: 

  • In chapter 1, there are inconsistencies in character names that need to be corrected.
  • The sentence “He walked quickly down the street, glancing around nervously” is unclear–suggest rewriting for concision.
  • Paragraph 3 lacks transition between ideas. An additional linking sentence would help flow.
  • Check uses of its/it’s throughout for grammatical accuracy.
  • The timeline of events in chapter 5 is confusing. Your facts need better organization.

Both are Valuable

The best approach is often to work with both a book coach and editor at different stages. Coaching lays the foundation while editing polishes the surface. Don’t skip either. Your story and writing skills will benefit from their distinct yet complementary perspectives.

Whether you need coaching, editing or just to discover what you need, reach out to us. You can simply reply to this email We’d love to help you make your book the best it can be. 

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