Complete Book Shepherding (Editing, Publishing Program)

What is a Book Shepherd?

Donald L. Hughes Book Shepherd for Christian Writers

A Book Shepherd is an expert who knows all phases of the writing, editing, publishing, and book promotion processes and guides the author through each stage. He knows best practices and can offer resources that will benefit the author. The Book Shepherd works with the author from the first draft to the published book. The goal is to produce the best book possible and to help the author achieve a wide readership. The author is willing to listen to the book Shepherd because he has the education and experience to help.

What do I bring to the table as a Christian Book Shepherd?

  • M.A. degree in Communications.
  • M.Div. degree in Theology.
  • Have written books (over 40), and magazine articles and blog posts that have inspired millions of readers.
  • Have a traditional publishing background.
  • Was a pioneer in digital/self-publishing.
  • Have edited and/or produced a large number of books for clients.
  • Awareness of market trends and best writing and publishing practices.

See my brief bio here.

Why I Decided to be a Book Shepherd

I see a lot of Christian books, and I’m concerned about the decline in the quality of both subject matter and production values. I have decided to act as a Book Shepherd for six books per year on behalf of motivated Christian authors. I want to try to do my part to encourage dedicated writers and lift the quality of self-published (independently published) Christian books.

The conflicting voices from questionable “experts” you hear on Facebook or other social media sites can hurt you. Work with someone who has the training, experience, and depth of knowledge you deserve.

The authors in this program will get clear, objective, kind input from a seasoned professional, not a phalanx of conflicted opinions like those available on Facebook or elsewhere. I cannot ensure success because no one can. However, I can help you produce a book that you’ll be proud of, and that has a chance for success in the marketplace.

Qualifications for the Program

This reduced-fee program is not open to all Christian writers.  I am looking for these qualities in the six authors I serve annually:

  • Fiction or nonfiction author.
  • Your first or second book, but you intend to write others.
  • You have a teachable spirit and want to work with a mentor on a collegial basis.
  • You have a completed or nearly completed first draft.
  • You are able and willing to complete revisions and publish your book within 90 days or less.

I’ll do a brief review of your first draft, and we’ll discuss it via email or video Zoom at no charge to you. If we share the same values and goals, then I would be pleased to offer my Book Shepherding services to you.

Please start the process by completing this form

Recent books - book shepherding

Some Recent Projects (all or part)

The All-Inclusive Service I Offer

Once you commission me, I provide ALL these services for ONE fee:

Developmental (Substantive) Editing

  • A comprehensive analysis of your book structure and content (fiction or nonfiction).
  • An analysis of the clarity of your writing (sentence and paragraph structure, word choice, etc.).
  • A helpful evaluation of your writing style from an objective point of view.
  • A positive critique of specific elements you can change to make your book more reader-friendly.
  • A professional opinion about your book’s potential for commercial success, including preliminary market research.
  • I catch hidden issues, problems, and blunders for you to fix before copy editing.

You get a personalized, objective written appraisal of your book. Normally my written reports are from 10-25 pages. This assessment normally takes 7-10 business days. I have taught at the university level, so my analysis is a teaching-learning process for you, not rank criticism. After you have time to digest my report, we will discuss it by Zoom, email, or phone so you can ask questions or seek clarification about my notes on your manuscript.

You do your final revisions at this point, and your manuscript is ready for copy editing.

My comments emphasize both the strong and weak points of your manuscript. There is no harsh criticism.

Copy (Line) Editing

I help perfect your manuscript by reviewing and improving grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Here’s a partial list of the things I check and correct when I do the line editing of your book:

• Basic sentence and paragraph construction
• Spelling correctness and consistency
• Proper noun usage
• Reduce adverb usage
• Delete repeated words
• Eliminate repeated phrases
• Correct misused words
• Check similar words (like to, too, two and there, their, they’re)
• Eliminate or reduce redundancies
• Consistent bullet/list formatting
• Check for acronym consistency
• Consistent use of compound words
• Reduce run-on sentences
• Reduce passive voice
• Reduce parenthetical phrases
• Consistent heading/subheading formatting
• Proper formatting of book, movie and other titles
• Check for common typos
• Consistent capitalization
• Consistent use of numbers (1-9 are words, 10 above are numbers)
• Quote style (straight or curly)
• Proper use of em and en dashes and hyphens
• Reduce exclamation mark usage
• Proper use of period and ellipse marks
• Close open brackets and quotes
• Eliminate double spaces after periods
• Make dialog tags consistent
• Correct other relevant issues. Clarity is the ultimate goal.

Note that I use the AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style for footnotes, and my house rules for Christian writing.  That is how we avoid ever-changing personal preferences. Once I have copy edited your book, you read it and give final authorization for publication.

Copy editing has many subjective elements and my clients entrust me with that aspect of book development. They acknowledge that when engaging my services.

Book Production (Bookcraft)

I package and publish the book under your brand. This includes:

  • Doing interior design, including typography for both a paperback and ebook.
  • Creating the cover, and working with you on the design, including text.
  • Publishing the paperback and ebook on your Amazon KDP account. This includes researching proper categories and keywords to enhance your search visibility.

Your book will be ready for distribution upon your approval when this work is complete.

How long does this process take? It depends largely on the speed of your response to my work, but most books go from first draft to published book in 60-90 DAYS.

Book Promotion

I do these aspects of book promotion for you:

  • Identify the sales viability of your book in the Developmental editing stage and suggest changes that might make it more marketable.
  • Books are discovered by computer search today, not bookstore browsing. I include all the proper metadata in your Amazon listing to enhance this. This includes not only the hidden metadata but also such things as your author and book description. There are other places you can distribute your book, and I can advise you about that as part of my service to you, but Amazon is the largest worldwide bookseller, and they set the standard.
  • I will provide you with a written list of the best methods and places to promote your book. Every author needs his or her own website for promotional purposes. Ask me for a price quote if you do not have one.
  • I will consult with you about the results of your promotion and possible alterations to your plan.

I do not personally promote your book. Even traditional publishers are requiring authors to promote their own books today, and authors accept that. My book promotion services are limited to consulting with you about your promotional activities and offering resources and best practices.

ALL work is done with your advice and consent. I provide the reasons for my recommendations, but you are free to make other decisions at your own risk.

Book Shepherding Terms

MY FEE FOR ALL SERVICES ABOVE is $2,495 for books up to 55,000 words.

There may be an extra fee for books beyond that word count. We’ll discuss that after I do your free initial review.  I mention a few other price exclusions in my notes below.

Why so inexpensive when I regularly get paid $4.500 or more for all these services from others? I simply want to help birth better Christian books. Also, as you see, I know what I’m doing and can work efficiently, and you benefit from that.

I am as transparent as possible with all my clients. Since I reserve time to serve you and turn away other work, the full fee is payable in advance. There is no refund of any kind for any reason. All the work on this page is usually completed, and your book is ready for publication in about 60 days, although we sell set mutually agreeable deadlines after I have reviewed your book and before you pay. Much of the timeframe is dependent upon your turn-around times for different facets of the project, not mine. What if you have some life emergency and cannot do your part? You can ask for one 90-day extension, and your fee will be forfeited after that.

Normally I work with clients for about 30 days after their book has been published. However, I am always available to my authors if questions arise beyond that formal timeline.

Important Notes

These notes are part of our working agreement

  • I do not offer partial services at this low rate. Ask for a regular quote if you only want a portion of the services I offer. I do not discount my published rates or provide them at no cost.
  • Sometimes authors want to rewrite or polish their manuscript after I copy edit it, and that requires a second round of copy editing. Re-editing attracts a $250 fee, payable in advance, for each full or partial review/edit after you make changes.
  • The art and design for your cover are included in the fee when assets are available from standard graphics and font sources. Any custom painting or other custom art is at the sole extra expense of the author and does not affect my fee. I am happy to discuss your cover expectations during the initial free consultation.
  • Once you approve an interior design mock-up and want changes made after the interior design is in progress, there is a $250 fee for each set of changes, payable in advance. You are free to choose your interior design from the alternatives I offer and make suggestions for alterations, but you cannot change your mind later without paying the fee.
  • Communication procedure. This is a touchy subject, so please understand what I’m saying. Know that my goal is to serve you and that I want open and free communication. Yet, some clients have overwhelmed me in the past, and my purpose here is to avoid that.
    • Email me anytime. But only one email per day unless I respond and we converse for a while by email. Sadly, I have received 4-12 emails in rapid succession daily from some clients, which is not an efficient way to work. Save your questions and put them in one email. I always respond within 24 hours Monday-Friday (M-F), but almost always in a far shorter time.
    • Feel free to telephone me if you are in the US. I’m pleased to talk with you. But send me an email with the date of your call with the expected time (use US Pacific time zone, not your local time zone). That way, I can be sure I am at my desk and can respond to you. Unscheduled calls go to voicemail, and my response will be slow. It is the desire of my heart to be responsive to the Christian authors I shepherd, but I am not available “on call.”
    • My favorite way of communicating with you is by Zoom. We can see each other face-to-face, which eliminates the confusion often associated with email.  All Zoom communication can be scheduled in advance by either of us by mutual agreement via email. Please become familiar with Zoom.
    • Please note that I prefer to communicate M-F between 7:30 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific time. However, I am glad to speak with you by phone or Zoom outside those hours if necessary if you make an appointment for a certain date and time in advance.
  • An important word about perfection. When I have completed all the work on your book, I want to assure you it will not be perfect. Traditional publishers pay about $25,000 for various phases of editing and book production, and it is easy to find errors in published books even after all that great expense and care. Nevertheless, I work very hard on your behalf to do quality work. I am in agreement with famed football coach Vince Lombardi. He said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”

From my perspective, our goal is to have a happy, creative working relationship. We want to respect each other and honor the Lord. We are engaged in a collegial mentoring-type relationship, not an adversarial one. I want the process to be educational for you and fun for us both.

Please start the process by completing this form