Stacey Donovan

Award-Winning Book Editor, Author, and Ghostwriter

Former literary agent and advertising copywriter, published author, editor and ghostwriter of several bestsellers, Stacey Donovan helps guide her clients’ books to successful publication, whether traditional, niche, or independent.

STACEY DONOVAN has edited or ghostwritten dozens of published books for her clients, many of which have received critical acclaim and awards. Among them: New York Times Bestsellers (Mystery); International Thrillers Awards (Thriller); Florida Book Awards (Thriller); Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) Silver Medal Award (Memoir); Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year (Memoir); Stories of Mighty Women Top Biographies (Memoir); Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Ben Franklin Award, Bill Fisher Best First Book (Fiction); Chanticleer International Book Awards (Thriller)

As a professional book editor and ghostwriter, Donovan is experienced in many genres: Contemporary Fiction and Nonfiction; Mystery; Crime; Suspense; Psychological Thriller; Literary Fiction; Women’s Fiction; Young Adult; Erotic Romance; Erotica; GLBTQ; Memoir.

Donovan is also a published author of both fiction and non-fiction. Dive, her first, critically acclaimed novel was published in 1995 (Penguin) and reissued in 2015 (Open Road Media). The Art of Loneliness, a sexy novella, is available on Kindle. Co-authored by Donovan, the four-book series based on Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries is also available.

From Editor to Author

“The willingness to explore is what forms the core relationship of author and editor.”

The act of writing is ineffable. When certain words chosen by an author are sometimes revealed to obscure rather than convey the author’s intended meaning, I have found it a good practice to then explore the spaces between the words. The willingness to explore is what forms the core relationship of author and editor.

What did you mean by this? Is this intentional? – are questions I often ask in an edit. In an author’s revision, I’ve witnessed how the answers to those questions and others, relative to a book’s narrative elements, eventually result in or come close to the author’s initial intentions. Almost imperceptibly, seemingly simple questions influence several other aspects of how the author approaches a story. A few words are revised or excised, a sentence is altered, an entirely new paragraph is written, a chapter is cut—this process leads to revelation. A fresh awareness forms. Something has deepened, and paradoxically, has been unearthed for the author.

Behind the scenes, connections between various narrative elements create bridges. Characters, tension, plot, dialogue, conflict, and more—begin to flow; tributaries that eventually lead to a layered, fully realized story. Sometimes the revision process takes place over several drafts, sometimes as a result of the first developmental edit. Either way, I know my work is done when an author says, “This is the book I wanted to write. “I don’t know how I did it, I don’t know how you did it, but somehow we got there.””

Shadow of DeathI owe my writing career to Stacey Donovan. I was astounded at her instincts and her talent to not only point out opportunities for improvement, but to offer concrete guidance as to how to implement necessary changes.

I had no idea that inspiration, editing excellence, and patient teaching could all be wrapped up in one individual.

Now that I’m working on my fifth book, I look back with gratitude to Stacey who so generously shared her expertise and provided such valuable direction.”

—Patricia Gussin
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author,  winner of the Florida Book Award

Developmental Editing and Manuscript Critique Services

I’m an editor who likes to get my hands dirty, i.e. really dig into words, plot, structure, and any story’s other big picture elements—whether fiction or nonfiction. This I might do to my heart’s content in a developmental edit where I make corrections, offer suggestions, and add additional comments on the manuscript page.

Using these industry standards, I advise you of the Chicago Manual of Style rules and Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary spelling and meaning of words. Finally, I provide a comprehensive editorial memo that covers the many elements listed below, and additional thoughts and suggestions specific to your book.

When I’m not “hands-on” in a developmental edit, you will likely find me taking the “hands off” approach in a manuscript evaluation/extensive critique of your manuscript. This means I will do a “clean” pass; I won’t touch the story itself through editing on the page but I will plumb the same elements in a comprehensive editorial memo that summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript, as mentioned above.

What I can provide for your manuscript:


  • Developmental/structural/stylistic editing
  • Detailed critique/extensive evaluation
  • Ghostwriting of unwritten or written manuscript
  • Revision of written manuscript
  • Collaborate with you in a mentoring capacity as you revise your manuscript
  • Collaborate with you on query letter and/or synopsis
  • Determine with you which literary agent would be suitable for representation
  • Determine with you whether to pursue mainstream, niche, or independent publishing
  • Consultation on your initial and/or ongoing social media strategy
  • Copy editing

I’ll look for opportunities for improvement in the following areas:

  • Story and character arcs (for fiction and nonfiction)
  • Plot events and turning points
  • Conflicts, stakes, and tension
  • Narrative pacing
  • Information “dumps”
  • Characterization; believability, themes, motivations, etc.
  • General writing issues such as showing vs. telling, point-of-view, etc.
  • Grammar and spelling
  • Industry style standards (i.e. Chicago Manual of Style; Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary)

Client Testimonials

Seven Days of Shiva“Stacey became my writing professor, my therapist, my rabbi, and my friend. She showed me how to reach deep into my soul and write of the things that I had chosen to keep private or hide. I was so very lucky to find Stacey. “

– Marc Gellman,
author of Seven Days of Shiva

Mcnally's Dilemma“Working with Stacey Donovan on my first turn on the McNally series was a pleasure from first to last page.”

—Vincent Lardo,
bestselling author of the blockbuster Lawrence Sanders Archy McNally series

“How much do I love Stacey Donovan? Let me count the ways: professional, industrious, intelligent, sensitive, encouraging, communicative, supportive, precise, punctual, thoughtful – and she led me to publication of both my fiction and non-fiction books.”

—Peter W. Yaremko,
nonfiction and fiction author of four published books

Peter Yoremko Books

The End Game “This novella might not have been accepted by two publishing houses had it not been for the input of consummate professional Stacey Donovan, who provided the insightful evaluation and critique of the first draft.”

—Dick Rothschild,
author of The End Game

Skinless“Stacey Donovan was my editor on my first novel, Skinless, currently in production with Austin Macauley. I must say that she is a rare gem in the world of editing. Not only is Stacey very professional in all of her communications and deadlines, she displayed a keen interest in my writing, and she also clearly put her heart and soul into the edit she created for me. My particular style of writing contains a lot of my own urban vocabulary and turns of phrase, which could be difficult for some traditional editors because it pushes the boundaries of language and style. Stacey got right on board and I could tell that she really immersed herself with feeling each character, lived in the scenes and understood the through-lines and overall themes to the story. A huge gift to any writer. Throughout our process Stacey provided me a superb edit.”

—Maggie Moor,
author of Skinless

The Hampton Affair“Stacey Donovan is a delight as a Hamptons neighbor and even more so as an editor.”

—Vincent Lardo,
popular crime novelist and bestselling author of the Archy McNally Series by Lawrence Sanders

The Lost Power“I found her work to be thorough, insightful, thought-provoking, and even downright funny at times. Without a doubt, the manuscript is far better than it was after receiving feedback from my beta readers. I would recommend Stacey to any writer or author seeking to take their work to the next level.”

Avanti Centrae, award-winning thriller author of Van Ops: The Lost Power

Prostate Cancer“Stacey Donovan is outstanding! And your website and communications which brought me to her are excellent.”

Murray Keith Wadsworth, author of Prostate Cancer: Sheep or Wolf? Navigating Systemic Misinformation

Martha Milot“Stacey is a consummate professional. She provided specific and clear suggestions for strengthening plot, character development and style. I applaud her ability to deliver a no-holds-barred critique with the tact and sensitivity that left me feeling inspired to go back and work to make my manuscript better.”

Martha Milot,
author of Trail of Evil

“Stacey Donovan is excellent! Her work is insightful and smart. Notes were delivered with expertise, professionalism, detail, and grounding. I was impressed, still am. I would recommend Stacey Donovan absolutely without any hesitation or reservation.”

Roberta Degnore,
author of twelve published novels

“Was very impressed with the quality of work my consultant put into my memoir proposal. She went above and beyond in every aspect, especially the research involved, to make sure my project stands out. While her own style and experience in proposal writing shine through beautifully, she was also very mindful in formatting the work to the satisfaction of my agent. The further she got into the project, the more I felt it meant as much to her as it does to me. As a veteran journalist, I can’t express how priceless that is.”

Catherine Bosley

“I could not be more thrilled and delighted to have worked with Stacey Donovan. She is a consummate professional who wears many hats; editor, psychologist, cheerleader, spiritual advisor and oracle, not sure what that hat looks like but she wears them all quite well. The best recommendation I can give for Stacey is that I’m looking forward to working with her again and would not think of looking elsewhere.”

Dana K. Schwartz

“Stacey Donovan is a writer’s dream. With an incisive mind, she doesn’t let a scintilla of careless writing go by. The barnacles she knocked off some my prose gave it so much lilt and lift, it often made my jaw drop. Her critique of plot, POV, and characters gave me the feeling I had entered a graduate level tutorial, with this difference—the “instructor” was my partner and cared invested in my success. That said, I do not mean to suggest for a moment that Stacey holds back criticism. She is a “tough love” editor. With equal emphasis on each word.”

Les AuCoin

“If you want an editor who will not give up on making your work, be it fiction or nonfiction, the best it can possibly be, then Stacey Donovan is the right choice. I’ve worked with Stacey on several published works, and the one indefatigable quality that defines her is an unwavering dedication to excellence. She is a writer’s writer – intuitive, resilient, tireless – with an emphasis on craft, authenticity, and surprise. Stacey knows down to her bones what is ineffable in any creative work.”

—Elise D’Haene,
co-author (with Stacey Donovan) of the acclaimed Red Shoe Diaries, based on the Showtime series by Zalman King, and winner of several screenwriting and literary awards

Red Shoe Diaries

My Mother, My Daughter, Myself by Dr. Jane Goldberg“Stacey Donovan is the right woman at the right time. I was with a terribly muddled manuscript and when Stacey worked her magic on my writing it suddenly came to life. But that wasn’t the best part of what she brought to bear on my manuscript. It was the level of organization she found. After years of my messing with the book (as well as several other editors who tackled the job and failed), I didn’t seem to have what it took to give birth to this baby on my own. Stacey is the one who birthed it and made it a coherent whole.”

—Dr. Jane Goldberg, PhD,
author of eight published books

“Stacey Donovan is more than a good editor. What makes her better than just good is an unerring ability to work with an author. She brings to the table not just an eye for weakness, but the creativity to make suggestions that the author can work with. Naturally, the writer’s talent is a factor, but with an editor’s help, the writer can give it his or her utmost. Stacey makes you work and work better than you ever thought possible.”

—Robert Boris Riskin,
author of three published books

Books by Boris Riskin

Accidental Lawyer“I feel fortunate to have had Stacey take on my manuscript. She discovered weaknesses in my story and suggested ways to strengthen it that made my story stronger. She’s diplomatic in her approach and communicated her criticism in a positive, constructive fashion. She’s especially pleasant to work with. Smart, witty, professional, and always responsive.”

—Kim Hamilton,
author of Accidental Lawyer

Painted Doll“I’m published by a boutique house that hires editors with specialized knowledge for each title, and it took us a long time to find a freelance resource for editors who had the level of professional experience needed for my mystery series. By the time we found Stacey Donovan, the deadline was short, but she not only delivered a detailed and very helpful edit of the manuscript, she did it on time and in budget. I was very happy to discover that her work was the same high quality as the editing I got at the Big Five publisher I used to be with.”

Jonelle Patrick,
author of Painted Doll

Transforming Tommy“I utilized Stacey Donovan’s services for developmental editing and proofreading of my first novel. She was immensely helpful. She was prompt in her communications and responsive to all questions and inquiries. The enthusiasm she showed for my early draft and throughout the process was very encouraging. She found the areas in my earlier drafts that needed work. Areas I just couldn’t see any more from rewriting it so much. She helped point me in the right direction to ratchet my novel up to the next level and make it shine. All constructive criticism is done with a positive and optimistic approach making the spoonfuls of critiquing go down easy. I would certainly recommend you consider utilizing her editing services.”

Peter Archon,
author of Transforming Tommy

“This was my first experience working with an editor, so I had no idea what to expect when I hired her. I think I got damn lucky. Stacey did an excellent job. I was impressed by the depth of commentary she provided about my manuscript, and the organized way she reported it. I thought her critique was particularly insightful, and I liked that she described in detail her opinions on the strength and weaknesses of the characters and the story. I had several followup questions, and saw the same attention to detail in her responses. I am working on the revisions, and there’s no doubt that the story has improved as a result of her input. I would work with Stacey again, and I recommend her work to anyone looking for a thorough evaluation of a manuscript. She’s a pro.”

Vicki Marie Stolsen,
author of The Bachelor Chapters: A Thinking Woman’s Romance

“I was pleased with the network’s very prompt response to my initial query. The information on your website regarding each of the editors was very helpful. I was most interested in working with Stacey Donovan and this proved to be the best choice I could have made. Before officially working together, Stacey took the time to truly understand the scope of what I needed, showing me how she would be able to assist me. This was enormously beneficial and reassuring. Working with Stacey was a phenomenal experience. I learned a great deal in the process as she asked all the right questions and effectively guided me in writing a much better book. Stacey always responded in a timely manner and addressed every issue that I brought up. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience that exceeded my expectations.”

Loretta Coha, PhD

“Stacey is smart, patient, witty and really good at what she does. She has gone far above the contract by being a cheerleader, hand holder, and friend. Her editing and general advice about writing was the best but her personality and accessibility set her apart and really added to the process.”

Allison McBane

Stacey Donovan’s Books

From Readers’ Reviews


Dive by Stacey Donovan“Stacey Donovan really gets inside the mind of her young heroine in this superbly crafted coming of age novel that turns the pains of growing up into revelatory experiences. This writer has the guts and the supreme command of the English language required to make this a real work of art. Hers is a unique voice not afraid to shy away from the complexities of life. I recommend highly!”

The Art of Loneliness

The Art of Loneliness by Stacey Donovan “If Joan Didion wrote erotica, this is what it would sound like. Stacey Donovan is a powerful voice in erotica, one who pushes the limits of the genre and redefines it.”

Red Shoe Diaries: The Complete Set Books 1-4

“Lusty, literary, and sexually empowering for BOTH women and men. The ‘cherry on the sundae’ (so to speak), is the bonus story at the end of the book: Sex in the Hamptons: The Writers’ Confessions. Here the authors reveal their most intimate experiences with men and women. Funny, touching, and wild, I really felt as if I was getting to know these two women up close and personal.”

Red Shoe Diaries

Montauk: A Literary Celebration (anthology)

A Cup of Comfort for Writers (anthology)

Your Fate Is in Your Hands (co-author)

A Sample of Books Edited

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