I'm going to assume that if you're here, it's because you're an author or aspiring author who is in pain because your book is in bad shape. So, let's get right to it.
A book doctor is a cross between a developmental editor and a ghostwriter. We treat mangled manuscripts (think undefined scope, outlines with notes and bullet points, streams of consciousness, disjointed ideas, incomplete thoughts and sentences accompanied by general malaise) and restore your joie de vivre.
Are there needles involved?
Nope. No needles. In fact, the whole point of book doctoring is to take the pain away.
Developmental editors evaluate your manuscript and offer detailed feedback and recommendations about what's not functioning optimally and options for creating a healthy manuscript, but it's up to you to fix it.
The problem is, most authors get overwhelmed and often paralyzed during the revision process. After all, knowing what the problem is and what needs to be done to fix it doesn't mean you can or want to perform the surgery yourself.
How does it work?
When you're fed up with the project or remember that you used to have a life and business you love, toss everything you have at your book doctor, tell them your goals and vision, and go anesthetize yourself in whatever way you see fit while they scrub up, open the body (of work), and dig in up to their elbows.
First, we book docs do exploratory surgery, report our finding to you, and recommend treatment. (This is the developmental editing part.)
Second, with your permission, we surgically remove vestigial content. (This is the part that scares and grosses most authors out.)
Third, we fix the problem areas and fill in the missing parts (not as gross and scary but more work than most people want to do at this point in the project).
Fourth, we do an editing pass to dress the wounds.
Fifth, we wake you up and show you the results.
Last, you give us feedback, we revise accordingly, and hand you the rehabbed work. Oh, wait. This is usually the second to last thing.
Last last, you buy your hard-working doctor a double gin and tonic as a recovery and celebratory drink. We toast to your good health and watch as your manuscript runs off into the world to do great things.
How long does it take?
This is an in-patient procedure. Your manuscript will be on the operating table for several months.
What does book doctoring cost, and will insurance pay for it?
Depending on the state of the patient (your manuscript, not you), you can expect to pay between $15,000-24,000 if you hire an experienced book doctor with a good history of patient recovery.
To date, I'm not aware of any insurance policies that cover this kind of work. If you hear of any, let me know. I and many of my fellow book doctors will jump through whatever hoops are necessary to accept it because this is the service authors most often need and want and that makes the biggest difference in outcome (assuming they didn't start with a ghostwriter).
When should you consider consulting with a book doctor?
I'd love to keep the lighthearted doctor analogy going here. But the truth is, this is serious business. Like working with a ghostwriter, hiring a book doctor is an investment. It's for ambitious authors who recognize the monetary value of their time and energy and who have a clear vision for how a strong, healthy manuscript (book) will pay for itself by increasing their exposure to high-level professional opportunities.
Think of yourself as an athlete. If you see yourself and your book as equivalent to weekend warrior level fitness, you probably won't be willing (or need) to invest in this level of manuscript development. If, however, you expect this book to perform at pro athlete level, you should consider addressing everything that's holding that body back from operating at peak performance.
If you've got a body of work that's not working for you, now's the time to call a qualified book doctor.