You may be wondering, “What is developmental book editing, and what does it involve?” This article explains this type of editing, its importance, why you might need it, and how much it costs. You’ll also learn what goes into the development process and how long it typically takes. This type of editing is particularly important for nonfiction books.
What is developmental book editing?
Developmental book editing is the process of improving a manuscript by focusing on the organization of ideas and overall content of it. This type of editor offers ideas the author may not have considered. The editor can also help to improve the book’s marketing potential by making it useful to a certain audience, whether the author wants to self-publish or work with a publisher.
Most published books undergo some kind of developmental editing, where the revisions will be more pronounced when compared to the other types of editing. It’s vital to get these services performed in the right order, as dev ed focuses on the big-picture issues of your book.
When to approach a developmental editor
Just as it’s best to work with an architect before you begin to build your house yourself, it is best to work with a developmental editor before you write the first word on your book. Not everyone does that, though. Most authors approach editors after they have their first draft written.
Can an editor help if the author came to them after instead of before? Yes, but it takes more time and effort (and money). It’s best if you contact a developmental editor or an agency the moment you get the idea of writing a book.
Cost of developmental book editing
You may find many people saying that developmental book editing is the least expensive form of editing. They are referring to a manuscript review and calling it dev ed. A developmental edit can take two hundred hours and can involve chopping the manuscript into pieces, moving things around, rewriting sections, and giving hundreds of suggestions for improvement.
A manuscript review can take two hours and is a page or two of evaluation and suggestions. A manuscript reviewer does nothing to the manuscript itself.
I hope this makes the difference clear. If someone says development is cheap, they are not talking about the real thing.
The process of developing a book from beginning to end involves a high level of editorial care. A developmental editor will assess your manuscript to find any holes, large structural problems, and narrative or viewpoint issues. The editor will make copious recommendations and conduct an analysis. This is the most expensive type of editing. It is the most involved, and is an investment worth making if you want to produce a quality book.
Do not expect to obtain a sample edit for this type of editing. It’s simply too complicated. You can, however, pay a dev ed a small amount to do a manuscript evaluation and let you know what types of issues your book needs the most help with and what the price of developmental editing will be.
The price of this kind of book editing varies. Several factors contribute to the price tag, including the word count of the manuscript, the complexity of the book, and the language and style of the work. Ethical editors charge by the word or a flat project/package fee. As of 2022, expect a price of 10 to 15 cents a word or package pricing in the range of $10,000. It’s vital to look beyond price when choosing an editor and to think of this as an investment into your business.
If that just gave you sticker shock, read to the end for a solution.
What goes into book development
It’s important to understand the process involved in developing a book from concept to publication.
Developmental book editing is the first step in the editing process. The process is based on several unspoken questions that the editor will ask to help the author develop the book. These questions may vary from project to project but will typically include topics such as structure, reader journey, and consistency. By identifying the most common problems, the developmental editor can reduce the overall time required to revise a manuscript.
During the developmental book editing process, the editor will focus on the overall style and content of the book. This includes enhancing the writing style and suggestions for rewriting portions of the manuscript to improve the flow. The editor’s job is to keep the author on track and make sure that the finished manuscript will keep its audience interested. It also means avoiding mistakes that can sabotage the manuscript.
The editor will spend time reading the book several times and will move back and forth to different sections. They will likely make changes to the flow and readability of the book. During this stage, your writing style will be examined and possibly adjusted.
How long it takes
The answer to the question, “How long does developmental book editing take?” varies from author to author. This stage is usually completed within three months and involves hundreds of hours of work on the manuscript.
Some clients have told me that my team and I spent more time doing the developmental editing than they spent writing the book. How much time it takes depends in part on how long the book is and on how much work it needs.
Some think of editing as a passive activity. That is far from the case. Unlike reading for pleasure, editing requires engaging with every aspect of a book, questioning the words on the page from different angles. The editor is constantly looking for ways to improve the contents and delivery. Because this process takes time and expertise, it is best to hire a professional developmental editor rather than relying on beta readers and critique partners.
Developmental book editing pros
A developmental editor primarily edits book-length manuscripts. They do not correct grammar and spelling issues, but work from a big-picture perspective, taking into account the structure and pacing of a book. The developmental editor may work for a publishing house or an editing service or may be a freelance editor.
A developmental editor is someone who examines a manuscript from beginning to end. They look at every aspect of the work, from the structure to the tone. This process is particularly useful for nonfiction manuscripts. The editors involved in this process also have a deep understanding of the writing process and are trained to identify errors in a manuscript before it goes to the next stage.
This is the most painful type of editing for an author to go through. An empathetic editor understands this and will treat you with respect and compassion throughout the process. It’s important to ask about their commenting style before making the decision to hire any editor. Many editors are harsh. You deserve kindness and empathy.
Editing for self-publishing
If you are self-publishing, you are responsible for either wearing or hiring someone else to wear every “hat” involved in writing, editing, publishing, and marketing your book.
Developmental editing services can be hired before you start writing your book or as you complete the first draft. We provide valuable assistance at all stages of the writing process.
Once you’ve decided to hire an editor, you’ll need to communicate with them about your vision, audience, and other details.
What is the difference between developmental editing and copy editing?
Developmental editors work closely with authors and other stakeholders to develop a manuscript. They take the time to analyze the major aspects of a book. They also assess the book’s suitability for its intended audience. For this reason, developmental editors are an invaluable asset to the publishing process.
Copy editors are another invaluable asset, and they work on completely different things. They are responsible for correcting word usage, spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues. They also look for inconsistencies in the text. Some provide fact checking.
Avoiding developmental editing
You can avoid needing developmental book editing if you are experienced in writing and in organizing your ideas in book form. If those things are not true for you, then there is one other way you can skip developmental book editing. Participate in a book-development program such as Your Book Bakery. Click the image to find out more about the program that can save you $10,000 while helping you write your book.