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

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.

We All Need An Editor

Stephanie Rische photoBy Stephanie Rische

When people hear I wrote a book after being an editor for over a dozen years, they often ask me: “So, since you’re an editor, you probably didn’t need much editing, right?”

WRONG.

Here’s the thing: I can be objective and incisive about other people’s stories, ruthlessly chopping out stories that need to be cut or pointing out the holes. But when it came to my own manuscript, my line of vision was clouded by blind spots. I was just too close to the content. It would have been bad enough if I were writing a novel, but the fact that I was writing about my life fuzzied my vision all the more.

What do you mean, I need to cut out that scene? It’s one of my favorite childhood memories! What do you mean, I have too many friends named Sarah, or that I’m the only person who thinks this is funny, or that this only makes sense within the confines of my own brain?

That’s why I’m so grateful for my wise and kindhearted editor, Kim. There came a point, after editing and re-editing my own manuscript ad nauseam, that I could no longer see what worked and what didn’t. She was able to see the potholes and road blocks in the manuscript, and she helped me pave the way so readers could ride through the pages smoothly. And she did it in such a nice way that the process wasn’t painful at all. It was—dare I say?—fun.

People tend to fear the editor’s red pen, but let’s be serious: Kim was making me look good. I’d rather get called out on my mistakes before the book goes to press and I find myself standing in my proverbial underwear. And there are also the unsung heroes of the editing process: the copyeditors. I’m so thankful for Sarah and Annette, who faithfully fixed my sloppy punctuation, noticed missing words, and identified my pet sayings (you mean I can’t use “just” four times in one paragraph?).

What I learned being on the other side of the editor’s pen is that writing is a lot like life. We strive away in our private world, trying to live out a life of faith. But as good as our intentions are, we all have glaring blind spots. There are areas we fall short, but we are so close to it that we don’t even recognize the problem. That’s where we need life-editors—people who will give us wise, kind accountability.

We were never meant to do life alone; we need friends who have our best interests at heart, friends who will gently and lovingly point out where we’re not living up to God’s best vision for us. And isn’t it much better to hear that news from someone who loves us than from the big, scary world?

And as much as we may fear the vulnerability required to open ourselves up to accountability, whether with our writing or with our lives, there’s something sacred about sharing that space with another person. When someone is invested enough to look over every word and comma you typed or listen to the details of your life, it’s kind of like stepping onto holy ground.

So I would like to encourage you to get your own editor today . . . to invite feedback into every area of your life, writing and otherwise. You will feel the burn, to be sure, but the end result is worth the fire.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
Proverbs 27:17

This article was used by permission of the author and first posted on her blog.Stephanie Rische book cover
Stephanie Rische is the author of I Was Blind (Dating), but Now I See, a memoir that chronicles her misadventures in dating, waiting, and stumbling into love. She is a senior editor of nonfiction books at Tyndale House Publishers, and she blogs at www.StephanieRische.com.