My client roster is full until early 2022. For that reason, I’m not taking on new clients at this time.
Please feel free to email me if you would like to be notified when I am open to new clients again. My email address is SheilaAthensBooks@gmail.com. If you send me an email, please include your genre, a bit about your writing journey, how you learned about me and which package is of interest to you. My book coaching packages are near the bottom of this page.
Most of all, thank you for your interest in my editing service!
I love helping other writers bring their stories to life. Writers I’ve worked with have gone on to land top-tier agents, contracts with the Big Five publishing houses and successful launches of self-published books. Here are some examples:
I worked with Suzanne Park on the developmental stages of Loathe at First Sight (Avon/HarperCollins, August, 2020).
I worked with Zarqa Nawaz on her quirky and laugh-out-loud novel, The Rise and Fall of D.I.C.K., which her agent sold in a pre-empt.
Three weeks after my engagement with Elizabeth Wafler ended, she landed one of her dream agents.
Author Nancy Yeager worked with me on three Victorian-era romance novels, including Third Husband’s the Charm. I worked with author Michelle Hazen on A Cruel Kind of Beautiful. She later landed a contract with Berkley Publishing for Unbreak Me.
Writers I’ve worked with have been selected for some amazing awards:
Karen Simpson won a scholarship to a writing retreat in Paris!
Patricia Friedrich was selected from hundreds of applicants to receive a yearlong fellowship to the Stony Brook University.
Nancy Yeager’s Two Scandals are Better than One won first prize in the historical romance category of IndieReader’s Discovery Awards.
Kyle Ann Robertson’s Not So Little Things was named a women’s fiction finalist in the RWA contemporary romance chapter’s Stiletto Awards.
- Traditionally-published author with a major US publisher
- Learned my book coaching skills while working under Jennie Nash at Author Accelerator. Was invited to mentor coaches-in-training in Author Accelerator’s Advanced Book Coach Certification course.
- Through my work at Author Accelerator, I trained under Lisa Cron on her Story Genius methodology. I’m also well-versed in the traditional three-act structure, the Hero’s Journey, Robert McKee’s Story seminar, Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet and other story planning methods.
- I’m a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association and the former chair of their Agent Pitch Events. I was a member of Romance Writers of America for years and attended several of their highly-educational national conferences. My debut novel was a finalist for their prestigious Golden Heart award.
- My three-decade career as a corporate trainer, executive coach and vice president of human resources gave me teaching and coaching chops that dovetail nicely into my role as a book coach and developmental editor. In other words, I’m ready to teach, coach, develop, prod and hold you accountable to produce your best work.
What To Expect If We Work Together:
I’m particularly well-versed in women’s fiction, romance, book club fiction, historical fiction and mainstream fiction. I also work with memoir writers.
I’m well aware that any money you pay toward my services could otherwise be spent on your child’s baseball uniform, your electric bill or that big-deal writing conference you’re dying to attend. For that reason, I do my best to provide honest and straightforward feedback. I’ll tell you what you’re doing right, but won’t sugarcoat those areas that need improvement. You want me to help your writing and storytelling get better. I do my best to honor that fact.
In addition to working with you on your current manuscript, my goal is that you’ll realize I’m also a teacher. My own experience working with talented editors has taught me that it is one of the best ways to learn the craft of writing.
More details about what to expect are listed under each of the packages below.
I would love to help you bring out the magic of your story.
Here is a list of my services:
“Sheila is Waiting for My Pages” Six-Month Program
This program runs in two cycles each year:
January 1 through June 20 –and– July 1 through December 20
Includes: Ten (10) seventeen-page submissions* and three phone calls
My clients on this package love knowing that I’m waiting on the other end for their pages. This accountability spurs them to get their work done. My feedback includes in-line edits, plus a recap note that addresses big picture items such as character development, increasing obstacles, maintaining the reader’s interest and narrative drive. In addition to the written submissions, you would also receive:
- Access to a video to educate you on the special outlining method you’ll use to complete the initial homework assignment for this package
- Three 45-minute phone calls to use at your discretion. We can use it for whatever story-related activity you feel will help you most, whether that’s discussing my feedback, brainstorming your novel, chatting about the writing process or something else.
This is a great program if your productivity increases when you know you’ve got a deadline looming, but there’s also flexibility to accommodate the other parts of your life. Because the cadence equals a submission about every other week, you can work around big family events, project deadlines at your day job, minor medical procedures, etc.
Due to its rigorous nature, the ideal client for this package has usually already written one or more complete manuscripts. They may not have been published, but they have been written. I do sometimes make exceptions to this guideline.
Important Note: Clients in the current six-month program are given first priority for a slot in the next six-month program
*When we first start working together, your first submission would be a completed “homework package” that I would send to you one month prior to your program start date. This package asks you to identify important foundational elements of your story, such as the point, the protagonist’s character arc and narrative drive. You would also complete a full outline, with emphasis on key scenes such as the opening scene, the Aha moment and the final scene of the manuscript.
I’m a staunch believer in planning/designing a story in advance of writing it. My guidance includes a strong emphasis on outlining your story so you know where it is headed. If you’re a pantser, then I’m likely not the book coach for you (though I have converted a few pantsers into lovers of outlining once they see how valuable it is).
Please note that this package includes:
- Submission #1: Initial homework, which includes a complete outline for your story using a methodology that has proven helpful over many clients and many novels
- Submissions #2-10: Seventeen manuscript pages each
- Total: 153 manuscript pages submitted
That covers approximately one-half of an adult-length novel. The vast majority of my writing clients continue to work with me until their manuscript is complete, which would mean signing up for a second six-month program. If/when you are a repeat client on this package, you would hand in ten (10) submissions of seventeen pages each since you would skip the initial homework/outline on submission #1.
Clients already in this six-month program wishing to secure a spot in the next six-month program: A non-refundable deposit of $1000 is due April 1 for a July start date and October 1 for a January start date.
Clients new to this program: A deposit of $1000 is due at the time of commitment to hold your spot.
Everyone: The remaining, non-refundable $1600 is due by May 1 for a July start date and November 1 for a January start date.
“Give Coaching a Try” Package with Editorial Letter PLUS Inline Comments
This package includes an editorial letter and inline comments on the first fifty pages of your manuscript. I’ll provide feedback on big picture topics, such as how well you’ve drawn the reader into the story and how quickly and clearly you introduce the problem that will drive the story forward. The inline comments will provide specific feedback on where and how you can improve your work.
Consultation on the Topic of Your Choice
$89 per hour
We’ll get on a Zoom call to discuss the writing or editing/book coaching questions of your choosing. Here are a few of the topics others have asked me about, but this is by no means an all-inclusive list. I’m happy to discuss (just about) any writing-related matters that are on your mind.
- The various forms of feedback–critique groups, engaging with an editor/book coach, beta readers, paid beta reader services, sensitivity readers, etc.
- Determining the publishing path that’s right for you; establishing your publishing goals
- Building your writing circle
- How to prepare yourself to make the move from a regular day job into owning your own book coaching/editing business (I was a VP of HR in the financial services industry prior to becoming a book coach/editor)
- What it’s really like to be a book coach/developmental editor; deciding if you should take the leap to start your own book coaching practice
If you are interested in booking a call, please send me an email at SheilaAthensBooks@gmail.com. I’ll send you a link so that you can book the call directly onto my calendar, as well as an invoice. I have times available for these calls on most (but not all) Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Both afternoon and evening time slots (Eastern time, United States) are generally available.
Please plan to send your initial questions in advance so that I can be prepared for our call. You will, of course, be able to ask follow-up and probing questions. This is YOUR time with me, so let’s make the most of it!
Important Notes about Sending Your Pages to Me:
All manuscripts should be in Microsoft WORD and in standard industry format, which means one-inch margins all the way around, double-spaced and Times New Roman, 12 point font. Each new chapter should start one-third of the way down on a new manuscript page.
Should your manuscript gain agent representation, a publishing contract, be successfully self-published or receive industry accolades, you give me permission to talk/write about the fact that I was involved in your editing process. I will want to brag about you!
Payment for all packages is due in advance of the work being performed. All payments must be made via Paypal within five days of the invoice date. All payments are nonrefundable.
Please understand that I will sometimes flag typos, misused words and grammar errors, but the services I provide are not copy editing or proofreading services. When there is an ongoing pattern throughout the manuscript, I will flag it the first few times and leave it to you to identify the remaining instances. My primary mission is not to fix these small errors. My primary mission is to help you make your story stronger.
Photo of file folder courtesy of Elizabeth Wafler.