Book Development

One-on-One Creative Collaboration

 
 
 

Developmental editing is at the core of our practice and often the most misunderstood aspect of our work. Developmental editing, sometimes called structural editing, is not primarily concerned with correcting grammar—though we do clean up texts as we go—but about a book’s big picture.

It asks these questions of a text:

  • Is the argument as clear as can be?

  • 
Is everything mentioned that’s worth mentioning?


  • What’s missing?


  • What doesn’t belong here?

  • 
Is the information presented in the best order?

  • 
Does it consider the audience?

  • 
Is it honest, in every conceivable way?

  • 
Is it original and refreshing, and if not, how can it be made so (without sacrificing candor, clarity, or economy)?

Developmental editing is the experience of having one's work understood and interrogated on a level rarely encountered. It cannot be done via algorithm and it does not scale.

Think of a developmental editor as a creative collaborator, someone who knows the process in and out, and is committed to helping you make the text the best it can be. They may communicate some uncomfortable truths—such as recommending you cut an entire section. But they always have a clear, compelling reason for every recommendation they make, and more importantly, it should be clear that they’re making this recommendation because they genuinely care for the author, and desire their success wholeheartedly.

The ideal developmental editor is someone who can accurately gauge how long it will take to implement their suggestions. What you don’t want is someone who will make a hand-wavey gesture and say, “Just give us a different opening,” without realizing that the current opening took a few dozen hours to get right, and that replacing it will take longer.

The editor-edited relationships that develop as a result of this process become intellectual sanctuaries; they become the first place an author turns to when they need creative encouragement and bracing honesty.

TYpical Project Length: 3-12 months

Fee Structure: Varies; Retainer or Project Fee preferred

Inputs: Written Drafts, Notes, Conversation, Interviews, Research

Outside the New York Public Library’s  Stephen A. Schwarzman  building, where an incredible number of quality books-in-progress are researched, written, and agonized over each year. The chairs are empty because everyone’s inside.

Outside the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman building, where an incredible number of quality books-in-progress are researched, written, and agonized over each year. The chairs are empty because everyone’s inside.