What's the difference between developmental editing and copy and line editing?

Copy and line editing is what's called "mechanical editing." Copy and line editors look at the fine details of writing: grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and an author's adherence to the appropriate style guide.

Developmental editing comes before copy and line editing. Developmental editing is big picture stuff, the stuff that will make or break your book and establish you as an author who knows what it takes to produce a commercially viable manuscript.

I want you to think of me, your developmental editor, as a body guard and PR pro.

I watch for areas that weaken your position, expose you to law suits and reputational risk, fail to deliver on your promise to readers, and your competitors may be able to take advantage of. I'm here to protect you.

But wait. That's not all! As a developmental editor, I also think like a marketer and PR pro. I always keep your ideal reader top of mind because if you stop talking to them and don't solve their problems, it doesn't matter how smart you are, how much experience you have, or that your manuscript is perfect by English teacher standards. If your manuscript isn't reader focused and commercially viable, agents won't be interested. Book buyers will stop reading. Your ratings will fall. Your phone won't ring.

A literary agent told me I should work with an editor. What did she (or he) mean?

It might mean that your manuscript has promise but in its current state, it's not worth the risk of offering you a contract. When in doubt, ask the agent outright. (Lit agents are cool people. They really do want you to succeed. Remember, they only make money when their clients make money.)

If a literary agent recommends that you get some help, ask them to be specific about which type of editing they're recommending and what specific weaknesses they want addressed.

What's the difference between developmental editing and book doctoring?

It's a matter of degrees. The examination/diagnostic procedure is much the same, but the treatment is not.

Book doctors are all-in. They diagnose and treat.

When you work with a developmental editor, they'll give you a written report with suggestions for improvements, but, for better or worse, you make the changes.

What's this I hear about your custom video tutorials, Cristen?

I get it. You might want to hire a talented book doctor but cannot justify the expense. Or, you may have heard horror stories about authors who paid a good chunk of money for a developmental edit only to get an editing report with general comments that were cryptic and, therefore, the advice difficult to apply with confidence.

So, in addition to the type of editing report you'd expect, I give as much feedback in the manuscript (in the form of comments in comment bubbles-I love you, Microsoft Word!) as I feel necessary and useful.

But because this is complex stuff and I understand that although you may be a kick-ass attorney, drummer, or whatever you are, writing books isn't your normal thang, I record custom videos in which I offer context, explanations, and solutions. We'll also have several consulting/coaching calls. Your success and having a positive experience are important to me.

How long does it take, and how much does it cost?

Depending on the length, complexity, and state of your manuscript, developmental editing ranges from $1,500-6,096 (based on 50k word count), and it'll be in my hands for 2-8 weeks.


photo credit: Pixabay.com, CC0