Many entrepreneurs, speakers, consultants and other professionals write books. Authoring a book can be the next step in growing a business or advancing a career. A book adds a certain gravitas and helps to establish a person as an expert or thought leader—someone whose views on a subject are taken to be authoritative and influential.
Self-publishing is a great option for publishing this type of book. Self-publishing allows a professional to get the book to market at a strategic time for the business, not at a time that suits a publisher. Self-publishing is also an option for professionals operating in a niche market, as traditional publishers are less likely to be interested.
However, writing can be a chore for many professionals. Not all business professionals are born writers, and most don’t have the time to focus on writing. Some experts are too close to what they do to be able to explain what comes naturally to them. They may assume that everyone “gets” what they do, and as a result, skip over a lot of important details and have a hard time explaining things in a logical or structured manner. They might even start to feel very lost in all their thoughts and ideas, and get the sense that if they continue in this manner, the book may end up a disaster.
The author may wish for a writing coach, someone who can take their “brain dump” and help make sense of it all, without going so far as to hire a ghostwriter.
Enter the developmental editor.
Particularly appropriate for non-fiction books, a developmental editor provides an outsider’s perspective and helps an author gain clarity and direction. Unlike copyeditors, who focus more on the line-to-line edit while maintaining an eye on the overall structure of the book, developmental editors take a birds-eye view, seeing the whole picture while also thinking about the book’s mechanics.
A developmental editor can take on many roles, depending on the nature of your book and where you are in the writing process. If you are still considering the vision for your book, your editor can work with you to develop that vision, collaborate with you on structuring the book, and then coach you through research and writing.
On the other hand, if your manuscript is finished, the editor will make sure what you have written fits your vision and generally makes sense. In doing so, the editor will challenge you on many aspects of the book, from idea to logical structure, to language and sentence formation. Significant restructuring of your supposedly “finished” manuscript may be in order; be prepared! This process requires the author to have a thick skin and an open mind.
At all times, the process of the developmental or substantive edit should be a collaboration between the author and editor. You and your editor must share a common vision for your book. If you can’t agree on an end goal, you run the risk of your editor dismantling your book and rebuilding it according to his or her vision. If you can’t agree on a vision, it’s time to find another editor.
In all likelihood, a developmental editor will counsel you to tear apart all your hard work and then collaborate with you to put it back together. The editor may suggest rewrites and give you examples of how a paragraph could be rewritten, or may even provide you with new text if he or she notices a gap in the flow of your thoughts as written. It’s up to you to approve or disprove new additions, and a good editor will capture your voice in any suggested rewrites or new text. (Note: This level of detail is also known as substantive editing.)
How do you know if your book requires a developmental edit? If you feel unsure about your manuscript, ask for an editorial evaluation. The editor will tell you if you require this level of editing or if copyediting is all that’s needed.
If you’re a business professional, your reputation is at stake when you publish a book. Beyond the polish of a good copyedit, a developmental editor is into book transformation. The editor will ensure your book reflects who you are, meets your vision, and gets the information across clearly that you wish to impart to your readers. While transformation can be painful, remember that your editor has the same desire and end goal as you: to make your book the absolute best it can be and show you in the best light possible.