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.

A Comic Strip That Borders Heaven

Timazi Magazine of Kenya recently featured part one of “Big Day,” a comic stripcomic birthed by friendships made at MAI’s LittWorld 2012 conference. There John and Maggie Gathuku, who lead the Christian youth magazine, met Mexican illustrator José Carlos Gutiérrez (right in photo below) and author Ivanova Nono Fotso of Cameroon (left in photo).

José Carlos crafted illustrations for the comic script written by Ivanova, and submitted the comic to Timazi. When José Carlos’ computer crashed, Timazi’s designer in Kenya, James Njoroge, completed coloring the illustrations.

The seven-page comic, based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, will be published in three issues of the magazine.

ivanova-jose-carlos-by-ian-darke-cropped-resized“This comic has a great emotional value since I started the drawings and sketches in a hospital room, a few months after returning from Littworld,” José Carlos said. His 21-year-old brother had been diagnosed with leukemia and began chemo treatments.

“He got saved in that same hospital as I prayed with him at the very beginning of his treatment,” José Carlos recalled. On the same day that his brother passed away, José Carlos completed inking the comic at the hospital.

Today comic books are the world’s most widely-read type of popular literature, capturing the interest of both children and adults. Christian publishers around the world are harnessing the genre to spread the Gospel.

Maggie hopes that “by reading this comic strip, students will understand and appreciate the message of our Lord Jesus Christ by preparing well for His coming.”

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!

India: “After lunch you can kill me.”

indiaBabu is an MAI trainer, Indian journalist and historian who has authored five books. He shared this recent personal story with us:

A few months ago at about midnight my telephone rang and the voice on the other end was strange and angry. The man introduced himself as an engineer-cum-businessman and an active member of the World Hindu Council. The furious phone call was prompted because he had received a copy of my book, Let There Be India: Impact of the Bible on Nation Building.

“Why did you send me your book? We do not want you to distribute this book. We do not want anyone to read the content. It’s dangerous. You are also in danger. You may be killed. Stop it…I will send back the book.”

I hadn’t sent him any books. Someone must have sent it as a gift.

I profusely thanked him for reading the book, or at least part of it. Then I told him, “If anyone kills me, the earlier the better. I believe in Jesus and therefore at my death, I will be with Him in heavenbook_72rgb.” I shared the Gospel with him.

I also invited him for lunch. “My residence address is in the book. My wife makes very tasty food. After enjoying lunch you can kill me.”

That call was in April. We regularly pray for him. He hasn’t yet sent the book back.

Since Babu’s book was published in 2014, he has been speaking extensively, asserting the Bible’s influence on India via the contributions of missionaries and Bible translators.

The title has become a major reference book in university research studies, discussed among Indian historians and politicians. Christian readers have responded enthusiastically.

Last year Babu was named MAI’s “Distinguished Lifetime Trainer” for his dedication to encouraging writers over three decades and facilitating more than 125 publishing-related workshops across India.

“MAI has been a major source of inspiration to me for the past 30 years,” Babu told us. “I have decided to focus with increased urgency on my call to the field of Christian literature.”

Christian publishers and writers like Babu “on the front lines” are being equipped and encouraged because of your partnership with MAI.

Sometimes God Surprises Us

By John D. Maust, MAI PresidentJohn 2015 headshot

Sometimes God surprises us by doing something we did not imagine.  Has such a thing happened recently in MAI’s work? A friend wanted to know.

One country came immediately to mind. Several years ago, we began doing some behind-the-scenes writer training in a closed nation of Southeast Asia.  Some gifted and committed writers began to emerge, and we thought it would be helpful for several to attend LittWorld in 2015 in nearby Singapore.  We hoped to provide scholarships for two or three.  But, generous donors seemed to emerge out of nowhere, and we were able to provide full conference scholarships for eight.

During LittWorld these eight emerging writers bonded in their friendship and shared passion for the ministry of the written word.  One said afterwards, “We now see that writing is a way to serve the Lord.  Before it had been a task we were assigned to do. Now it is a vision we are excited about. We are now so inspired to serve the Lord through writing!

“We’d never really seen the potential that writing has for reaching so many people in places where we ourselves cannot physically go due to time and other restrictions. The written word is powerful. And what a humbling privilege that we might become the authors of these written words.”

Following LittWorld, the writers organized a “writing for children” workshop, led by two MAI facilitators they met at the conference.  They also received graphic design training from a speaker they met at LittWorld 2015.  Today they are forming a fledgling publishing ministry called “Firefly.”  MAI will accompany them on their publishing journey, and we are eager to see what other surprises the Lord has in store for the writers group and Christian publishing in their country.