Editing & Coaching

Especially keen on fiction and nonfiction picture books and middle-grade novels, I’m a puzzler of plots, a virtuoso of voice, and a sucker for stories that pierce the heart, wallop the funny bone, or rattle readers’ beliefs. When you work with me, you will receive in-depth feedback and suggestions about your story’s structure, character development, narrative arc, theme, point of view, language, and marketability. Whether you’re looking for one-time feedback or a months-long coaching plan, I’ll be your constructive and cheerleading Yoda, with a virtual red pen, and pom-poms.

Since beginning my publishing journey two decades ago, I have studied every aspect of craft across genres. I even created a mentor text analysis process that I am frequently asked to speak about at conferences and workshops. My fascination with craft inspired my pursuit of a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA).

I have unique expertise with children’s literature, as my critical thesis and publishing credits attest, but I am equally adept in the realm of adult books.

My current offerings:

*All manuscripts must be double-spaced with one-inch margins and a standard font. Please do not send me manuscripts until invited to do so.
*I am not the best editor for sci-fi, horror, erotica

Editorial Assessment (the traditional critique. Picture books, MG, YA, Adult—fiction and nonfiction)

If your manuscript is in an early stage, or if you’re looking for big-picture feedback about your overall narrative and how the component parts are working, this is the best option. After multiple readings of your manuscript, I will prepare a multi-page editorial letter with kudos for what works well and suggestions for addressing your manuscript’s specific challenges. Special attention will be paid to structure, point of view, character development, narrative arc, organization, theme, and voice. When appropriate, I will recommend mentor texts and helpful resources.

Fiction picture books, up to 800 words:  $175.00
Nonfiction picture books, up to 1,500 words, including back matter:  $275.00 (Plus up to $5 per add’l manuscript page)
Novels: Prices start at $0.020/word  (CONTACT ME)
Business or Self-help: Prices start at $0.025/word (CONTACT ME)

Developmental edit with line-level feedback (Picture books, MG, YA, Adult—fiction and nonfiction)

The most comprehensive option, a developmental edit digs deeper at a granular level. You will receive a summary letter plus comprehensive line-level comments and modeling on the manuscript. Special attention will be paid to structure, character development, point of view, narrative arc, organization, theme, and voice. When appropriate, I will also recommend mentor texts and helpful resources.

Fiction picture books up to 800 words: $225.00
Nonfiction picture books up to 1,500 words, including back matter: $325.00 (Plus up to $10.00 per add’l manuscript page)
Novels: Prices start at $0.025/word  —  (CONTACT ME)
Business or Self-help: Prices start at $0.034/word (CONTACT ME)

Coaching and Mentorship —(Picture books, MG, YA, Adult—fiction and nonfiction)

This is the package for you if you’re eager for a mentor to guide you toward completing or polishing a picture book, novel, or nonfiction manuscript. If, after a complimentary 30-minute phone or Zoom call, you decide you would like to work with me as your book coach, we’ll determine what kind of guidance and regular feedback will work best with your style and your goals. Once we begin our 1–6 month coaching plan, you will respond to my ongoing developmental feedback and suggestions by sending me revisions at agreed-upon intervals. We will rinse and repeat the process until the end of our contract term, with the objective of getting your manuscript ready for submission. At every step, I will serve as your cheerleader and mentor.

Sample monthly coaching plan for picture books:
* Developmental edit on one picture book manuscript and then a second edit after your revision. Or a developmental edit on two manuscripts.
* Mini lessons on relevant craft topics that will help elevate your writing
* Two 60-minute Zoom or phone calls
* One weekly email check-in

One-hour à la carte Consultation

This is a great option of you want to talk through your manuscript or get a quick glance on your pages before you commit to an editorial package, or if you have burning questions about a sticky writing issue, submitting to editors or agents, marketing, school visits, the publishing process, etc.  $100/hr  CONTACT ME


Ghostwriting & IP Projects

Children’s books and adult books — Due to variables,  CONTACT ME FOR PRICING

Critique Clinique

Occasionally, I offer a moderated critique workshop in which a small group of writers — grouped by genre and experience level — receive feedback from me, as well as from peers.  Subscribe to my e-newsletter to be among the first to know.

Contact me for details and availability. If I am not available to work with you and your manuscript on your schedule, I will gladly recommend other freelance editors.


“Special thanks to…Donna Janell Bowman for being the best writing teacher and mentor an aspiring writer can ever wish for.” —Susan Hansen

“…your detailed feedback really did teach me a lot about my own process and approach- much more so than other writing “coaches” (professors in my grad program), so cheers for that. I will also say that you are a really good coach.  You gave critical but necessary feedback that showed thought and care for my work and my person.  I think it’s really easy for reviewers to pass off beginning writers as incompetent.  Instead, you took the stories seriously even with their flaws which is encouraging and gave me confidence to keep going.  That’s hard to do.  I feel like there was a lot of room for me to ask questions, which you responded to quickly and with resources. I hope that we can keep working together.”  –Katie P.

“Donna has helped me with two picture book biographies. Both experiences have been terrific. She is a careful reader with a great sense for what brings a story to life. Her comments are incisive and spot-on, but not pushy or insistent. She understands the story I am trying to tell and takes my work that extra step (or two or three) further to make it the best it can be. The value I get from my critiques with Donna is worth every penny spent.”  — Audrey Ades

More Kind Words

“I’m so happy that Donna critiqued my (non-fiction) manuscript. Donna’s suggestions reinvigorated my love for this subject (unlike other critiques I’ve had that make me consider giving up completely) and helped me see my narrative in a new light. I learned so much from her questions, exercises and the overall process that I know I will use for future projects.” –Kari Lavelle (who signed with an agent 6 weeks after critique)

“One of the best ways to improve your writing is to learn from more experienced writers. If you’re looking to take your manuscript to the next level, I highly recommend purchasing a critique from Donna. Her feedback does not skimp. She dives deep into your manuscript and will help you see what’s missing by offering many suggestions for improvement. She even did a color-coded outline of my book. I’ve never received a more thorough critique! Donna’s expertise and encouragement were pivotal in my path to landing an agent.”   –Kim Rogers

“The time and care that Donna took with my recent manuscript were obvious in the spot-on thoughtfulness of her editorial comments. The changes I made in response to her feedback were the ones that got this story over the hump and out on submission. Sharing that manuscript with Donna was one smart move, and it’s one that I’ll be eager to repeat.” —Chris Barton, award-winning author of THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH (Eerdmans, 2015) and WHOOSH! LONNIE JOHNSON’S SUPER-SOAKING STREAM OF INVENTIONS (Charlesbridge, 2016), and THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS (Charlesbridge, 2009)

“I couldn’t possibly have written my debut picture book, The Youngest Marcher, without Donna’s guidance. Her expertise in structure, voice, plot development and resolution, setting, and character made all the difference. I highly recommend her critique services; they’re worth every penny.” —Cynthia Levinson, author of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER (Atheneum, 2017), WE’VE GOT A JOB: THE 1963 BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN’S MARCH (Peachtree, 2015), and HILARY RODHAM CLINTON: DO ALL THE GOOD YOU CAN (Balzer & Bray 2016)

“Donna digs in deep. Her expertise with non-fiction picture book biographies surpass the typical one-page critique. She will help you find the heart of your story and which way to focus your efforts moving forward. With years of practice, including an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, her critique will get you to the next level.”   —Cate Berry, VCFA graduate and author of the forthcoming picture book PENGUIN AND TINY SHRIMP DON’T DO BEDTIME P(Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins, 2018)

“I had struggled with a story for some time when I invested in a critique with Donna. Not only did I receive fresh insights, I felt like my book gained a champion – someone who would join me in willing it into the world and would also share the tools to help me find the universal in what had become intensely personal. Donna delivers – with kindness and compassion, grit and grace. Your best work deserves her focused attention.” —Aimee Thomas

“Donna has helped me with just about every book I’ve had published. She has a knack for getting in there and helping a writer to narrow their focus, to find the core of their story. Recently on a picture book project, when I was stuck on a plot point, Donna offered feedback that helped me to strengthen my story arc while understanding my character’s motivation better. That manuscript is now in acquisition with a major publisher. Thank you, Donna, for helping me to see the world through my character’s eyes.” —Don Tate, award-winning author, illustrator, and author/illustrator of many picture books including  IT JES HAPPENED: WHEN BILL TRAYLOR STARTED TO DRAW (Lee and Low, 2012), and POET: THE REMARKABLE STORY OF GEORGE MOSES HORTON (Peachtree, 2015), and STRONG AS SANDOW: HOW EUGEN SANDOW BECAME THE STRONGEST MAN ON EARTH (Charlesbridge, 2017).