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).
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:
Full Manuscript Edit – Includes Editorial Letter and Inline Comments
$7 per page
Note: Slots for this package are often full for the next two to three months. Please reach out early if you are interested in getting on my calendar for this developmental editing service. Email: SheilaAthensBooks@gmail.com
This package is for writers who would like my feedback on a complete manuscript, which for my purposes means a novel or memoir anywhere from 70k to 100k words. You’re investing a lot of money here, so the work sent to me should be a revised (not first draft) and polished manuscript.
My deliverable to you would be twofold:
- A four to six-page WORD document recapping what I see as the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript, as well as an analysis of big picture topics such as character development, narrative drive, voice, increasing obstacles and other aspects of storytelling
- Inline comments throughout the manuscript. I leave a lot of comments–both positive and to show areas of improvement–so this package results in robust feedback for you.
- Please see the Important Notes section at the bottom of this page for additional details about formatting and other related topics.
“Give Coaching a Try” Package with Editorial Letter PLUS Inline Comments
Note: My business is booming. Space on my calendar is currently quite limited, so I am not offering this package at this time. Please email me at SheilaAthensBooks@gmail.com if you’d like to be notified when this package becomes available again.
This package includes a two-page 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.
“Sheila is Waiting for My Pages” Package
Twelve ten-page submissions – $1395
(or three monthly invoices of $465 each)
Note: My business is booming. All slots for this package are currently full. Please email me at SheilaAthensBooks@gmail.com if you’d like to be notified when a slot becomes available for an additional writer to enter this program.
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. Submit up to ten pages per submission and receive 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 twelve 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 (more info on this below)
- Six 25-minute phone calls to use at your discretion, so basically a phone call after every two submissions
This package requires a minimum commitment of twelve submissions, though this works so well for most clients that they keep going until their manuscript is complete.
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 you’ll book your submission days via my online calendar, you can schedule around times when you’ll be traveling, have a big family event or are otherwise unavailable.
The first of your twelve submissions would be a completed “homework package” that I would send to you after you make your first payment. 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).
Submissions must be used within six months of the date of the first invoice. Please note that after the initial homework, ten pages per submission x eleven submissions equals 110 pages of feedback, which would cover approximately one-third of an adult-length novel. The vast majority of my writing clients continue to work with me beyond the initial twelve submission engagement package.
Interested in one of these packages?
I’m happy to chat.
Please email me at SheilaAthensBooks@gmail.com if you’re interested in working with me. We would determine together if we think we’d be a good fit, then go from there.
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!
Phone consultations (other than those already included in a package) are available with other work at a rate of $50 for a 30-minute call or $100 for an hour-long call. I’m happy to extend these same rates to those interested in a consultation call about starting their own book coaching and/or developmental editing practice.
I can bill the “Sheila is Waiting for My Pages” package in three monthly payments, but monies for other packages are due in advance. Once we agree upon which service you would like to use, I’ll send an invoice, payable via Paypal. 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.