8 Qualities to Look for When Hiring a Developmental Editor

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It’s hard to write a book. And since you’re only one person, you can see the manuscript only from your own perspective, which could lead you to overlook plot holes, inconsistencies, lack of realism, characterization issues, and a number of other problems. The solution is to enlist the assistance of a second pair of eyes—by hiring an experienced professional developmental editor.

Developmental editors differ from other types of editors in that they focus on the big picture rather than finer details such as spelling and grammar. They can provide detailed feedback on the manuscript as a whole, offering advice to patch up plot holes, better develop characters, or make the story more engaging, intriguing, or marketable. If you’re looking to publish your book, first putting it through a developmental edit is a must.

This is no job for an amateur, though. You want a developmental editor who really knows what they’re doing. Below, we’ve outlined a number of qualities to look for in your search for the right one.

1. Training and credentials

Developmental editing is not easy, so it’s not a job for just anyone. Your developmental editor should be sufficiently trained and possess all the necessary credentials to do a superb job. A number of editors’ groups and associations offer certification and membership, so browse the internet to find highly competent editors from these organizations.

2. References

If other authors have been satisfied with a developmental editor’s work, there’s a good chance you’ll be happy, too. When you approach prospective editors, call or email them with a list of questions about their experience, editing process, payment terms, and anything else you want to know about. Request references and ask them pertinent questions to get the information you need.

3. Solutions

A good developmental editor will fill the document with comments alerting you to ambiguities, explaining their changes, or suggesting entirely new directions. They won’t just say, “This character needs more development” or “This plotline doesn’t make sense.” Rather, they’ll explain why and will offer recommendations for improvement. It’s not much help to simply know that something doesn’t work—you also have to know what could work instead.

4. Creativity

Developmental editors must be able to immerse themselves in the world of a story and offer story-appropriate suggestions to polish the plot and characters. Your manuscript may be your work, but an editor can offer creative input to give your story a boost and really help it shine. Your editor might, for example, suggest changing a character’s profession slightly for deeper character development or adding a new subplot to flesh out the story. They should also explain the rationale behind their creative suggestions.

5. Writing skills

If a developmental editor can’t write well, they’re not much of an editor. Linguistic prowess is a must, and they have to know how to string words together effectively to paint a strong picture in the reader’s mind. A good editor will offer suggestions to strengthen your narrative or sharpen up your dialogue—and they can do it in accordance with your unique style, as well.

6. Flexibility

In essence, what a developmental editor provides is suggestions and recommendations. However, ultimately, the book is yours, and you have the final say on all changes, so you’re free to disagree and reject any changes you want. A good editor can justify why they made the suggestion if they feel it’s really necessary, but they must accept that you’re the boss. If your editor refuses to cooperate when disagreements crop up, you should find a better editor.

7. Explanations

Sometimes, a developmental editor may make a great suggestion—but without understanding the reason behind it, the author may disagree and reject it. A truly skilled editor will not only make suggestions to professionally polish the book but also explain their reasoning so the author understands and can become a better writer. A good editor will explain the advantages their suggestions may have over the original version.

8. Market sense

Marketing isn’t a developmental editor’s job, but they should possess basic knowledge about the market to help give your book that certain edge. If you’re planning to publish your book around a holiday, they can keep this intention in mind in their work. A good developmental editor is familiar with reader demographics and stays informed about the popular foreign markets to know which readers want what. They also stay up to date with news, global trends, and cultural phenomena so they can expertly address such topics in your book.

If you want your book to be as excellent as possible, you can’t go without the expertise and wisdom of a professional developmental editor. They’ll provide you with the recommendations you need to turn your book into the next bestseller, polishing characters, dialogue, subplots, and everything in between. They also know how to engage your target audience for maximum impact.

If you’ve finished your manuscript, the natural next step is developmental editing. Now that you know what to look for in a top-notch editor, go out, hire the best developmental editors in the industry, and become a bestselling author.

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