Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What is a developmental editor?

Writing might itself be a solitary act but authoring a successful textbook is a highly collaborative effort. In this post, I take a look at developmental editors and the role they play in the process.

After a project is accepted and a contract signed and executed, the author is assigned developmental editor, or DE. The DE becomes the author's day-to-day contact, workflow consultant, and the person who will review all manuscript and make sure everything is ready for subsequent publishing phases.

Where the acquisitions editor (AE) works with authors to formalize the concept for the book and plan for the features and ancillaries (instructor's guide, PowerPoints, test banks, and so forth), the DE really digs into the project. She helps authors and AEs make such decisions as where in the chapter a section on online resources will go, whether key terms will have definitions, and whether new terms will be boldfaced or italicized.

Basically, after the author and AE have formulated a solid concept for a book, the DE assumes responsibility for implementing that plan. The AE still holds responsibility for the project as a whole but now works with the DE to guide the project to fruition.

The DE works closely with the author on the art program, the part of the manuscript that tells us what kind of photos and illustrations are needed at which points in the manuscript. This can be a complicated process, but the DE can help make it much clearer and more organized for authors.

A good DE is the author's best friend and the AE's most valued collaborator. If a book doesn't have a good DE, chances are that it will fall short of its goals when—and if—it finally publishes.