Great question! Let's start by defining what a developmental editor is.
One of the first things authors learn during the writing and publishing process is just how many different types of editors work on a single manuscript. The main types are developmental, line, copy, and proofreader and they play different roles at different phases of the writing journey: ideation, writing, editing, and finalizing.
Developmental editors, however, are the only editors that can play a role in every step of the writing process.
Developmental editors are trusted thinking partners for authors. We help you to figure out what it will take to turn your idea into a fully fleshed out and compelling manuscript: themes, messaging, structure, organization, outline, topics, stories, etc. We are there to answer the "Now what?" question at every stage of the writing process. Many developmental editors (including myself) also play the role of Book Coach and Project Manager, keeping authors accountable and their efforts aligned with their goals for the book.
Developmental editors help authors make the entire book writing process feel doable. In my case, I also aim to make the process enjoyable, exciting, and resonant. It is always my goal to support authors in writing the book that is burning in their hearts.
If you're self-publishing, it's a bit easier to understand the value of hiring a developmental editor — everyone (and I mean everyone) benefits from a second pair of expert eyes on their work.
But if you already have a book deal and in-house editor at a publisher, what's the point? Especially if you have to pay for one out of your own pocket?
Here's the value outside developmental editors like me provide.
For over 15 years, I have worked with authors on all three publishing paths: traditional, self, and hybrid. Consistently, what they tell me is that:
Nobody else is giving them the feedback on their work that they crave.
Nobody else cares as much about their every word.
Nobody else is willing to go deep into the trenches with them to make this the best version of their book possible.
But that's not because in-house editors don't actually care. Sadly, it's because there's no one at a publishing firm whether it is a vanity press or a traditional press that has the time and energy to invest in making sure you are writing the book of your heart. This kind of intense editorial attention is simply not built into their business models.
In fact, that's why so many publishers (and agents) refer their authors to developmental editors like me—so they can be assured their authors and the books they are writing receive the tender, loving expert care that they really deserve.
My Philosophy on Developmental Editing: What I offer authors is an ability to see and hear their idea, even if it’s not fully formed or well-articulated yet. From that place of connection and understanding, I partner with them to fully express their message in their own voice—and in a way that is accessible to readers. And of course, I do all of the other nerdy development editing stuff like working with flow, structure, hierarchy, consistency, etc!
That's just not something available to authors nowadays without hiring a developmental editor.
But don't just take my word for it. See what the authors, agents, publishers, and book publicists I've worked with have to say about me here. And here's one testimonial below.
Danielle has amazingly created action items out of ambiguous feedback, and led the development of my book from an array of sub-headings to a flowing manuscript that truly springs from my heart. Our publisher loves her and often tells me, "Well, if Danielle okay-ed it, it'll probably work..."