What is the role of a developmental editor?

Learn the nuances of developmental editing and how to collaborate effectively with an author. Kim Miller is a senior editor at Tyndale House Publishers, located near Chicago, USA.

Watch this six-minute video. Enjoy a summary below.

Developmental editing is not copyediting—correcting grammar, cleaning up mistakes, or cleaning up a manuscript. It is a partnership between an editor and author who work to strengthen a book’s structure and content. The author is a key partner and his or her voice is strengthened and maintained.

Editors come with attitude of humility, recognizing the author is producing the book. We are there to assist and help. With humility, we come with confidence that we bring a set of skills, life experience and objectivity.

Developmental editing is a collaborative process— the editor and author always work together. The editor is always there to assist but ensures the author has the final word.

The reader is the important unseen person in developmental editing. The first time we read the manuscript, the editor is sitting in the reader’s place.

Steps in developmental editing:

  1. Read the manuscript for the first time. We editors come with questions: Who is the intended audience? What is the overarching message? As the reader, what do we see as its strengths and weaknesses that the author may not see?
  2. Create an editorial plan, a form that lists the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s very important to list the strengths in particular, and to bring ideas on how to improve the manuscript. This form will serve as a blueprint to use with the author through the developmental editing process.
    Get the author’s input and then make some adjustments. Remember, your focus on the big picture, going back to the audience and message.
  3. How complete is the manuscript? Does it address the readers’ “felt need”? Is there something worthwhile for the reader?
  4. Does it carry through to the end and offer a resolution to the story or a pay off on the topic?
  5. Is there spiritual value and is it biblically sound?
  6. How is the structure? Does it flow logically and in a good order from beginning to end? Does the chapter order makes sense? Do headings break up chapters? Could some content be put into maps or glossaries?
  7. Is the writing clear, compelling and logical? Give feedback to the author.
  8. Give specific direction in all these areas. Don’t just say, “Sometimes your writing is general or awkward.” Give examples of places where work can be done. Ask the author to do the work, but always give examples, feedback and ideas. Talk through things with the author because he/she may likely feel unsure of how to proceed.
  9. Once the editing is complete, get the author’s approval on a final manuscript. It’s their book and you want them to be satisfied.
  10. Turn over your work to the copy editor for spelling, factual and grammar errors. You’re still involved as the process continues, perhaps serving as conduit between copy editor and author. Your role is to stick with the author until the project is complete.
  11. Finally, celebrate with the author when the project is complete. Congratulate him or her and rejoice as you begin to hear feedback from readers.

This video was shot by Team David at MAI’s LittWorld 2015 conference in Singapore.

Gems in the Making: How to find and cultivate local authors

Manuscripts by local authors are considered “gems in the making” by Joy Solina, editorial manager of CSM Publishing in the Philippines. Since its founding, CSM has aimed to feature Filipino authors. This year’s line-up includes 27 original titles by Filipinos. We asked Joy to tell us about their vision. Watch her 3-minute video and read the extended interview below.

Tell us about CSM’s aims to publish local writers.
CSM is a firm believer in the Filipino Christian as the best writer for Filipinos. Who would know our culture, our heart language, our way of thinking and our diverse interests better? Therefore, manuscripts by Filipino Christians are considered gems in the making. Thus, we learned to develop the discipline and to understand the dynamics of publishing local writers.

How do you cultivate authors?
A good local author is someone who communicates well with his audience, either originally as a speaker/preacher or as a writer. When an author is both, that is a great find. Know the author’s strengths and uniqueness as a communicator so you can study how to draw out the best in his or her writing. Local authors usually are not familiar with the publishing process, so take great care and effort in explaining and guiding them as they write.

What is your 2016 line-up of locally authored books like?
This year our line-up of locally authored books caters to believers with various roles in life and ministries: relationships (love, marriage, parenting), inspirational, devotions for adults and for children, ministry resources (strategic planning, Bible teaching, worship), and personal finance. Twelve out of the 27 original titles to be launched at the Manila book fair this September are in conversational Tagalog, the local language.

It can be faster and more lucrative to get rights and publish books from abroad. How do you juxtapose that reality with your vision?
Republishing the many, many available best-selling books from overseas is always tempting.  Why go through all the trouble of developing new authors when you can publish big name authors more easily by simply obtaining a license to reprint their popular titles? But the vision of developing local authors directs your priorities. The process of publishing a work of a local author may be more tedious and expensive, but if its message communicates to your target audience better, you end up more successful. It goes without saying that local authors know the context of your target audience far better than foreign authors. This, of course, is just one aspect in the whole mix of producing a great product. Some of the other “ingredients” include book design, the kind of language used, and the price that suits your target market.

Tell us about a Filipino author you’re publishing this year.
One of our best-selling authors, Ed Lapiz, is the senior pastor of a large network of churches that started in the Middle East when he was working there years ago. His books cover relevant issues facing the average Filipino family that has a loved one working abroad—every Filipino family!…His five mini-books this year are entitled: Because of Life’s Uncertainties (facing the unknown), You Shall Not Murder Time (dealing with regret, unforgiveness), When the Floods Rise (the importance of a good foundation), The Great Ministry of Companionship (ministering to the lonely), and You Are Not…You Are (identity in Christ).

How would you advise publishers who want to develop more local authors?
Be open to changing the way you do things, such as how you recruit authors and work with them. Personalize the way you treat each author. When they like the way you handle them as authors and the way you take care of their titles, they will recommend you to other would-be authors. Be selective, flexible and committed to blessing your readers.

Study how to get the price your target market prefers, never give up, think out of the box, offer a helping hand, bend the rules every once in a while, and never lose sight of your goal—developing more local authors!

The Curse of Editing

By Yemima Adi

Being an editor can be a blessing and also “a curse” for me. I am really grateful for eyes which can find mistakes in a text. Then my fingers can dance over the keyboard to make it much better to read. But this unique talent can be a curse too since my eyes automatically find mistakes first rather than details to praise.

I encounter this fact every time I deal with our graphics team. Whenever they create a Asian woman reading freedigitalimages by a454draft, I always look for mistakes first. No words of praise burst from my lips.

One day the graphics team made a design for a particular project. As usual, my eyes wandered, looking for mistakes in the draft. Later that same day, I took the draft to our project coordinator, whose first words were: “It’s really beautiful. The design, the color…I never thought that the text could be put so nicely.” After that, she started to examine the design. Though she found several mistakes in the sentences and gave suggestions for revisions, her attitude stunned me.

It reminded me of Proverbs 15:23, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” When I read all of chapter 15, it guided me to control my words, whether in giving an answer (verses 1, 28) or a response (verses 2, 4, 18).

What a beautiful lesson I learned from our project coordinator that day. I told her that I want to have an attitude like hers whenever I deal with any kind of draft. I have also learned that giving a word of praise is not a one-day lesson, after which I can be “a master.” It is a process, a hard one for me with my editor eyes. But I want to learn it day by day. Not just giving perfunctory praise, but sincere compliments.

Lord, please help me to lighten a heart today with a sincere word of praise.

This article by Yemima Adi is published as “A Word of Praise” in MAI’s Light_Writers_Soul_MAI_2D devotional book, Light for the Writer’s Soul: 100 devotions by global Christian writers. Read more inspiring articles in this unique devotional book.

Yemima Adi of Jakarta, Indonesia, is a freelancer who loves to play with words, especially in the Indonesian language.

Image above courtesy of a454 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Beautiful Format Saved My Life

The following true story comes from a reliable source and concerns a beautiful Arabic edition of the Gospel of Luke. We are sharing this with permission from the author:

Some years ago I got a phone call that nearly killed me.

My wife and I were living in a flat-roofed house in a city in Central Asia with our four small Central_Asia mapchildren. A local friend of mine called to ask me to meet with the leadership of a militant group who were quickly overrunning the neighboring country. He wanted me to take an unmarked taxi to the “wrong” side of town to house 12B at midnight. There the leader would be waiting for me.

Why would I even consider going on such a foolish errand you may ask? Long ago I had,  at least theoretically, decided to put myself under local believers. My friend was a local believer from a Muslim background.

A year earlier he had been rounded up as a dissident, and been locked in one of Central Asia’s most infamous jails in the capital city. With him were a small cadre of men who opposed the current regime. These men clung together in the most horrific of conditions. With little food, poor sanitation, freezing cold and frequent beatings one or two men died every night. The survivors formed strong bonds of friendship that would last a lifetime.

Later the others who survived would go on to lead the militant movement, and my friend went the other way – finding Jesus and visiting me weekly to study and pray. I was deeply touched by his transparent prayer life and his open confession of weakness, precious evidence of how the Lamb had touched his life.

So he called me to share the story with these men who now were leading one of the most fearsome militant groups on the planet. Torture, kidnapping, beheadings, IEDs and suicide bombings were child’s play for them. They were rabidly opposed to Christ and especially to Westerners – like myself.

Gospel of Luke study arabic

Arabic Gospel of Luke (not the one referred to in the article)

I prayed with my wife and thought about what Scripture portion to take as a gift. I had just been given six copies of Luke’s Gospel beautifully printed in Arabic. While not the local language, I knew it was the most respected language, the language of heaven. I slipped one copy under my jacket and caught a taxi to meet my fate. I was not sure I would return, but felt joy in obediently following my friend’s request.

I was thrilled when the taxi driver could not find the house. “I’m off the hook,” I thought to myself. “I have been obedient, but the Lord has other plans.”

“Let’s go back,” I told the driver.

“Hang on, one more street to check,” he said.

And there was 12B, the house ringed by men holding Kalashnikovs. I wished the driver would just keep going, but he stopped. I stepped out and a large bearded man said, “Are you Ahmed (my local name)?”


“The boss has been waiting for you.”

He searched me, and somehow did not feel the Bible pressed against my trembling chest. He ushered me into a large hall lined with armed men. At one end a neatly dressed man with hard blue eyes was squatting on a raised stage. I was ushered toward him. We exchanged greetings and he beckoned me to sit with him on the stage. I removed my shoes and timidly began to sit. I sensed that all the eyes in the room were intently watching me – like spiders watching a fly landing on the web. I was the fly, now trapped.

I was surprised when the leader nodded to his deputy to dismiss all the men. Only the two of us were left, face to face on the mat. “So, my friend told me you have something to share with me?”

Such was my fear that even at this point, though I had the Bible and was ready to share, I did not want to. I had no idea how open I should be, or what line I might cross that would cause me to be the next victim. But suddenly I felt calm and relaxed. Is this what the verse about the Holy Spirit giving us words to say means?

“Well, I came to bring you Good News.” I used a special word used for the kind of good news carried to relatives when a son is born in a family. I was carrying the Good News to the man of very high rank, who from his hard eyes I could tell, had ordered men to be killed.

I felt a great relief that I had a Bible of high quality and beautiful appearance stuffed under my jacket. At this point to have handed him a small tract or poorly printed Bible would have been an insult.

I notice he hesitated, thinking perhaps I was reaching for a gun when I reached under my jacket. “This is a translation of the Holy Injil,” I quickly interjected.

Then I passed him the Gospel wrapped in a special cloth.

To my surprise he smiled for the first time.

“I have been waiting a long time to read this,” he said as he reverently held the book up to his lips and kissed it.  “Tell me what it says,” he asked.

As he held the beautiful book I felt freedom to gently tell the story. I felt great calm and caught a tiny insight into how much the Lord loved him.

About half an hour later I wrapped up the story, he kissed the book again and said the most remarkable words: “This is a holy book and I will insist that all my field commanders read it.”

I was sure that the appearance of the book – its Islamic style calligraphy, cover and introduction all added to its credibility, and had saved my life.

Unique challenges of creating kids’ books

A lot of people think creating kids’ books is easy. After all, they’re short, right? Not according to Stephanie Rische, senior editor and team manager for children’s books and nonfiction at Tyndale House Publishers. Kids’ books come with unique challenges. Watch this 3-minute video to learn more.

Consider the audience. For adult books, the same person buying the book is reading it. For kids’ books, a two-year-old isn’t going to walk into a store and buy the book. You must keep in mind three audiences:

The buyer. The person who will buy the book for the child. Is the title and cover appealing? Does the message appeal?

The reader. The person reading the book with the child. Books for kids have a “re-read” value. Unlike adult books, they can be read again and again with a child. Does the book appeal to the reader for re-reading?

The child. Not only do you want to communicate a message of faith, but one that’s engaging, fun and enjoyableStephanie Rische photo to read.

Register online now for Stephanie Rische’s upcoming MAI webinar, “Even Dr. Seuss Needed an Editor: The art of editing books for children,” on Tuesday, August 16, 8-9 a.m. CST.

This video was taken by TeamDavid at MAI’s international publishing conference, LittWorld 2015, in Singapore.