The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection

How to Get the Most Out of Your Writing Consultant

A writing consultant is a professional writer who has several years of experience in the writing and publishing industries and who can assist aspiring authors with writing, marketing and promoting their work. Hiring a writing consultant can be more cost-effective than hiring an editor to look over each of your manuscripts, and you’ll have the satisfaction of doing the majority of the work yourself.

Unfortunately, many of the so-called professionals who label themselves consultants have no more to offer than the check-out girl at your local grocery store. Since consultants tend to make more money than freelance writers and editors, people with virtually no experience will try to market skills that simply don’t exist. If you’ve decided to hire a writing consultant, be careful about checking the references and samples of several professionals before making your decision.

In most cases, a writing consulting session lasts anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour in length, depending on the subject of the problem at hand. Since the majority of writing consultants work remotely — in other words, they don’t live in the same geographical locale as their clients — most consulting sessions are conducted by phone. Beware a consultant who claims to work via e-mail; very little can be accomplished in this manner and you’re more likely to simply waste your money.

The things that you should look for in a talented writing consultant are: management

  • Good communication skills;
  • Professionalism in written and spoken correspondence;
  • Plenty of samples of writing, preferably published;
  • A list of satisfied clients, including their contact information; and
  • Demonstrated knowledge of the writing and publishing industries.

Your best bet is to interview several candidates and choose the one with whom you have the best rapport. Make sure that you interview prospects over the telephone versus just by e-mail, though you may be charged for long-distance calls if the consultant must contact you by phone.

Once you have chosen a writing consultant, your next step is to negotiate time and price. Make sure that your set up a consulting session during a time frame when you will be available and ready. Ask about several possible openings and choose the one that best coincides with your schedule. As far as fees, you should expect to pay between $150 and $300 per hour for writing consulting, depending on the experience of the consultant.

Some consultants — myself included — require clients to pay for sessions up front.

Once you’ve set a price, a date and a time, you’ll need to prepare for your session. If you’re going to be discussing a particular manuscript, deliver at least the first twenty pages to the consultant the week before your session. This allows the consultant to familiarize herself with your writing style and abilities so that the consulting session will be more productive.

In addition to preparing the consultant, you should also prepare for yourself. Come up with a list of questions you will like her to answer and be specific about the problems you are having. You don’t want to waste your time shooting the breeze or trying to think of something to ask. Your writing consultant is there to help you through the writing process and will use your time however you see fit.

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