Ellen Goodson Coughtrey

Ellen Goodson Coughtrey – Editor

Literary agent with a passion for editing, a nurturing approach, and a decade of experience turning words into NYT best-selling books!


With ten years in the literary agency world, I bring an experienced eye, nurturing warmth, and big brainstorming energy to my editorial process. Whether you're stuck cycling through ideas or have all your words on the page, I can help your manuscript become its best self. My favorite thing about editing is the way it marries creativity and logic: I will bring my objectivity and distance to your close-up, in-too-deep creative dilemmas and help you find solutions that work with your authorial vision and satisfy your audience.

My particular passion lies with fiction, all sorts, though I dare to include memoir in that category. (After all, the best memoirs read like page-turning novels -- except the stories happen to be true!) I unabashedly love a beautiful sentence, and I strive to make sure every story has enough urgency and plot to propel the reader along. I read with meticulous attention to detail, and while I critique as honestly as possible, I'll deliver the news, the praise and the criticism, with warmth and care. We're a team, writer and editor. I'm here to help you make your work shine, not shut you down.

Moreover, if you find yourself near the finish line with your novel, let's talk submission letter and sample. I read dozens of query letters every week, and know all too well the pet peeves and pitfalls that get a pitch tossed out before it's been seriously considered. Together, we'll make your query letter and sample as bulletproof as possible.

So bring me your thorniest plot problems and character woes, your writer's block and your notebook of ideas, even your Best Man speech notes (we'll make them laugh or cry -- up to you!) and we'll get to work!

Fantasy Historical Fiction Mystery & Crime Psychological Thriller Romantic Suspense Women's Fiction Young Adult
English (US)
  • BA in English and Theater with Honors, Davidson College
  • Concentration in Creative Writing with Creative Honors Thesis, Davidson College

Work experience

The Gernert Company

Jul, 2013 — Present

Over ten years, I've worn many hats within the same agency, assisting with foreign rights, royalties and accounting, and lots of slushpile reading -- where I've found many talented writers who've gone on to traditional publishing deals. I've extensively edited client work for multiple agents, providing fresh eyes and insights on hundreds of manuscripts, and proudly cultivated writers of my own.


AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES AND NATIONAL BESTSELLER. "There’s no such thing as a book you can’t put down, but this one was close." —Stephen King"Smart suspense at its very best." —John GrishamTautly wound and expertly crafted, Two Nights in Lisbon is a riveting ... read more
Look for Amy Meyerson’s new novel The Imperfects, a captivating literary page-turner.THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLERBest Books of Summer 2018 Selection by Philadelphia Inquirer and Library Journal“Part mystery and part drama, Meyerson uses a complex family dynami... read more
Named a Best Book by Entertainment Weekly, O Magazine, Goodreads, Southern Living, Outside Magazine, Oprah.com, HelloGiggles, Parade, Fodor’s Travel, Sioux City Journal, Read it Forward, Medium.com, and NPR’s All Things Considered. "A thunderclap of originalit... read more
**INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER**In the vein of Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest, Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans explores the staying power of shame—and the redemptive power of love—in an Irish Catholic family tor... read more
The Night Swim

Megan Goldin

“A blistering plot and crisp writing make The Night Swim an unputdownable read.” –Sarah Pekkanen, bestselling author of The Wife Between UsIn The Night Swim, a new thriller from Megan Goldin, author of the “gripping and unforgettable” (Harlan Coben) The Escape... read more
Need to Know

Karen Cleveland

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • FINALIST FOR THE ITW THRILLER AWARD • Perfect husband. Perfect father. Perfect liar? “Terrific.”—John Grisham “Superb.”—Lee Child “Breathtaking, heart-pounding.”—Louise Penny “A fast-paced, relentlessly gripping read.”—Chris Pavone ... read more
The Last Tourist

Olen Steinhauer

New York Times bestselling author Olen Steinhauer brings back Milo Weaver in The Last Tourist.In Olen Steinhauer’s bestseller An American Spy, reluctant CIA agent Milo Weaver thought he had finally put “Tourists”—CIA-trained assassins—to bed. A decade later, M... read more

Maria Dahvana Headley

“Maria Dahvana Headley is a firecracker: she’s whip smart with a heart, and she writes like a dream.” —Neil Gaiman, bestselling author of The Graveyard Book and Coraline Aza Ray Boyle is drowning in thin air. Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a myste... read more
The first entry in a clever, lighthearted mystery series set in modern Provence—a delightful blend of Agatha Christie and Peter Mayle—featuring the irrepressible Penelope Kite, a young-at-heart divorcee with a knack for stumbling across dead bodies.It’s love a... read more
Sin Eater

Megan Campisi

“For fans of The Handmaid’s Tale...a debut novel with a dark setting and an unforgettable heroine...is a riveting depiction of hard-won female empowerment” (The Washington Post).The Sin Eater walks among us, unseen, unheard Sins of our flesh become sins of Her... read more
How Lucky

Will Leitch

2022 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel“A fantastic novel. . . . You are going to like this a lot.”—Stephen King“What’s more thrilling than a fictional character speaking to us in a voice we haven’t heard before, a voice so authentic and immediate—think Huck F... read more
Child Zero

Chris Holm

From molecular biologist turned Anthony Award-winning author of The Killing Kind comes a fact-based thriller about our species’ next great existential threat—perfect for fans of Michael Crichton.It began four years ago with a worldwide uptick of bacterial infe... read more
When I Was You

Amber Garza

“A heart-pounding thriller. When I Was You pitches two women with the same name against one another, and the rug is pulled out from under you the moment you decide to trust one of them.” —Sandie Jones, USA Today bestselling author of The Other Woman“Amber Garz... read more
The Love Scribe

Amy Meyerson

From the bestselling author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays comes a charming novel about a woman with a special gift—her stories help people fall in love.When Alice’s best friend, Gabby, is reeling from a breakup, Alice writes her a heartfelt story to cheer her ... read more
Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront...and she inches closer and closer to her death.High school senio... read more
Little Matches

Maryanne O'Hara

“Gripping and true in all ways. This fine, affecting memoir will stay with me for a very long time.”—Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion“In this vividly written memoir novelist O’Hara shares a painful but ultimately beautiful account of her daughter ... read more
"Superb characters, sparkling dialogue, and a gripping, terrifying plot, plus flashes of humor to boot; JoAnn Chaney's What You Don't Know has it all." --Chris Pavone, New York Times bestselling author of The Travelers He didn’t take their lives -- but he ruin... read more

Ellen has 16 reviews





Ruhi C.

Ruhi C.

Apr, 2024

Working with Ellen was a pleasure. Her dedication to storytelling shines through in her insightful and detailed notes, which brought fresh and unique perspectives to the project. Ellen's approachability and collaborative spirit made the process smooth and productive. Her constructive feedback has significantly enhanced my story and renewed my enthusiasm for it. I'm delighted to have had the opp...
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Ellen G.
So wonderful to work with you, Ruhi! Looking forward to next time!
Abby S.

Abby S.

Apr, 2024

This was my first time hiring a developmental editor, and I'm so glad I found Ellen. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but it was clear that she really took the time to both read and understand my novel draft. While a lot of editors I researched offer a phone call *after* submitting their editorial letter, Ellen schedules it before to clarify plot/character questions so that the final deliv...
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Ellen G.
Thanks so much, Abby! It was truly a pleasure reading and speaking to you about your novel -- I very much hope to read more of your work in the future!
H. S. M.

H. S. M.

Jan, 2024

Ellen has done an excellent job of helping me with my query materials. She made an extra effort to understand my novel and how it could best be presented to agents. She really understands the publishing industry.
Douglas G.

Douglas G.

Nov, 2023

Ellen's editorial assessment was excellent. She not only pointed out places for improvement but also explained and gave examples. She gave a fifteen-page editorial assessment and a thorough commented edit via Word. Ellen is the first editor I have engaged (other than a few first pages edits that were completely off the mark). She provided what I was seeking and more. Thank you, Ellen.
Ellen G.
Thanks, Doug! Such a pleasure reading your novel -- happy revising!
H. S. M.

H. S. M.

Oct, 2023

Ellen did a fantastic job with my query letter, synopsis, and first three chapters. Her comments were insightful and resulted in a much stronger package to send out to agents.

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