An author's guide to developmental editing

Find out why successful authors often work with developmental editors before writing their book!

When consulted early, developmental editors can help many authors get their books published faster and easier.

Here's what you need to know about this often-neglected, valuable resource that can save you time and unnecessary effort while planning and writing your book.

What are developmental editors?

Developmental editing is a specialized form of editors. Perhaps a good starting point is to describe what developmental editing isn't.

Developmental editing are not primarily concerned with grammar or spelling. Nor are developmental editors concerned with permissions or fact-checking. Although developmental editors will try to catch glaring spelling and grammatical errors, their primary emphasis is on the "big picture."

Developmental editors view a book from a higher perspective. They help authors plan and write their books from a point of view that takes into account the total project. Developmental editors help authors by asking questions like:

  • Readers. Who are the book's intended readers? What are their characteristics? What are the reader's goals or problems? What's holding them back? What information are they looking for?

  • Competition. What books are currently available? What are their strengths and weaknesses? A good developmental editor will help authors identify the "missing book," the book that's really needed, one that's distinctly different from current books.

  • Author goals and resources. How will the author benefit from writing the book? What are the specific benefits the author will enjoy, and when will the author begin to benefit? Does the project make sense?

  • Format. What type of book makes the most sense, from the point of view of type of book (i.e. case study, procedural, etc.) and size (number of pages).

  • Publishing alternatives. What kind of publisher makes the most sense, a trade publisher or self-publishing? What about print-on-demand? What are the pros and cons of each alternative?

  • Marketing. What's the best way to "package" the book in terms of title, subtitle, and internal organization? How will the author bring the book to the attention of its intended readers? What kind of online and offline visibility does the author currently enjoy, and what's required for success?

Whose interests do developmental editors represent?

A lot depends who writes their paychecks. A developmental editor's compensation can come from 3 sources:

  • Publishers. Trade publishers typically have developmental editors on staff, or they may hire outside editors to work on specific projects. In addition, many printers specializing in helping authors self-publish their books bundle editing services with their printing and distribution programs.

  • Book sales. Sometimes, literary agents offer developmental editing services to their clients. In this case, the agents are doing so in the expectation of sharing in a large publishing advance and continuing royalties from book sales.

  • Independent developmental editors. These work directly with authors and are paid for by the authors. They typically bill on an hourly or monthly retainer basis.

Each alternative has its option. In general, though, authors get what they pay for. When publishers provide developmental editing services, their loyalties are short-term and limited to the current project. In addition, they only have a limited amount of time available for a particular project.

There is also a practical limit on the time that literary agents can offer their individual clients, and their focus is typically short-term rather than the author's long term career growth and profitability.

Independent developmental editors can help authors by emphasizing a long-term view that sees books as agents of career and income change, helping authors build a business around their book, rather than simply writing a book that gets published.

What can a developmental editor do for you?

An independent developmental editor can help you get published easier and faster by helping you create the book proposal and/or marketing program needed launch a profitable publishing program.

The following are some of the ways authors profit from a developmental editor's assistance:

  1. Online research. You will learn how to research existing books online. You'll learn what to look for, where to look, and how to keep track of what you find. /LI>

  2. Goals and profits. You'll learn how to craft a business around your book, based on your goals and expectations. You'll learn how to find out how other authors in your field profit from their books.
  3. Tips, tools, and techniques. A good developmental editor will introduce you to new ways of writing and marketing. In some cases, you'll learn to take more advantage built into your current word processing program. In other cases, you'll master new tools, like mind mapping.
  4. Habits of success. There's more to publishing success than content mastery and writing skills. You'll learn how to profit from habits like daily progress based on short working sessions. Your developmental editor will help you find the time to write your book.
  5. Content plan. Working with your developmental editor, you'll translate your existing knowledge into a table of contents for your book, and for your book marketing. You'll learn how to chunk content into logical sections, chapters, and topics and how to write as efficiently as possible.
  6. Positioning your book. Working with a developmental editor, you'll uncover the "missing book," the book that your intended readers have been looking forward to reading. Instead of writing just "another book," together you'll create a desired book wanted by an existing, enthusiastic market.
  7. Publishing alternatives. Today, there are more publishing alternatives than ever before. You'll learn how to evaluate the pros and cons of each option, and relate it to the ways you prefer to spend your time.
  8. Marketing. By taking a proactive view of marketing, you'll use your marketing to sell your clients, prospects, peers, publishers, and readers on your book while you're writing it. You'll learn how marketing your book will help you write it more efficiently.
  9. Reader loyalty. With your developmental editor's help, you'll uncover ways of building lasting and profitable relationships with your readers and others interested in your topic. You'll learn how to learn from your readers, regardless of where they purchased your book.
  10. Queries and proposals. Your developmental editor will help you identify the agents and publishers most likely to be interested in publishing your book. You'll learn what to include in query letters and book proposals, and the right ways to follow-up.
  11. Accountability. By working with a developmental editor, you'll be motivated to keep your project on schedule. After each call, you'll receive a confirmation of the topics discussed, along with suggestions for objectives to be accomplished before the next call. You'll be encouraged to keep moving forward.
  12. Problem solving. Your developmental editor will be there for you, in case you experience difficulties like writer's block. Assistance will be just an e-mail or a phone call away.

When do developmental editors make the most sense?

As you can see from the above, there's more to developmental editing than proofreading and checking grammar. Most authors can benefit from a developmental editor before there's much to proofread or spell-check.

Developmental editors are "activists," rather than "reactors." More than just focusing on "a book" or a book proposal, they help you create the right book, a book that not only gets published, but plays a major role in your future success.

Planning, promoting, writing, and profiting all must be part of the same package. Planning, promoting, writing, and profiting must complement each other, not be "grafted onto" each other.

Today, there are lots of ways to get published, but only a few ways to get profitably published.

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