Finding the Right Developmental Editor for You

Hello subscribers! This feels like a weird, hard week, but then that’s been true of just about every week since March, so I’m going to keep sending these newsletters I guess!

Because you subscribe to this newsletter, you’re probably aware that academic developmental editors exist (hi!) and you may have a pretty good idea of why people hire them and how they can help with your academic writing projects. I recently wrote a post for Feeding the Elephant that covers most of the basic info about working with an academic developmental editor, but in this current post I want to share some additional info that might help you if you haven’t yet locked down a developmental editor to work with on your current project.

My biggest tip for identifying an appropriate developmental editor is to rely on your network. Maybe a friend or colleague has worked with an editor they’d recommend. Or maybe someone you follow on social media gave a shout-out to an editor they worked with. Maybe you just finished a book you were blown away by and you noticed the author thanked a developmental editor in their acknowledgments. If you’re already talking to publishers, your acquisitions editor may have suggestions for you as well. The key is to at least start with a recommendation, which will give you one layer of vetting before you do your own research on the editor you may decide to hire.

Why not just go with the first editor you come across on Twitter or Google? We editors each have our own specific services we offer, our own processes for working with clients and manuscripts, our own prices and schedules, our own expertise and track records, and of course our own personalities. So you’ll probably want to suss out whether a given editor lines up with your own needs. Because you’re a unique person too, and the right editor for your colleague’s book project might not be the best fit for yours.

Here are some questions you can ask when figuring out whether a given developmental editor would be a good match for you.

  • Do they have experience working on projects like yours?

  • What’s their track record on helping writers get published? If they’re new to editing (i.e. don’t have much of a track record yet), what credentials and training do they bring to the table?

  • When would they be available to work with you?

  • What kinds of services do they offer and are they appropriate for your project and the stage you’re at with it? How much do they charge for the services you want?

  • What does their whole deal seem to be and do you vibe with it?

(For more on how to evaluate freelance developmental editors using these questions, see this post.) You may be able to assess a lot of these items just from looking at the editor’s website, but if not, you can always send an inquiry and ask directly. And definitely feel free to bring up anything else that’s really important to you when you email or speak to someone. Your editor should feel they’re the right fit too before they take on your project, so it’s good to get everything out there up front.

Finding a developmental editor who feels like a great match is a gateway to what will hopefully be a productive and maybe even career-altering relationship. Good luck on taking the first step!

If you’re intrigued by all this talk of developmental editors and think you might want to become one yourself, may I suggest you look into this training course I’m offering through the Editorial Freelancers Association starting next Wednesday (September 16th)? It’ll run for eight weeks and will be a low-stakes way of exploring whether this is a career path (or side hustle) you might enjoy. You can download the materials and work on your own, or choose to complete the optional assignments and attend live Q&As with me and other participants (and you can modulate your level of participation to fit your own schedule if things get hectic for you this fall).

Any questions about the course? My inbox is open—you can reply to this email or hit me up at

Client Shoutout
Congrats to Rosie Clark-Parsons, whose book on networked feminism will be published by the University of California Press in 2021. Dr. Clark-Parsons was a participant in the pilot session of the Manuscript Works Book Proposal Accelerator back in 2019, and I’m delighted to see her work over the past year pay off in this way.

If you’re a past participant in the Book Proposal Accelerator and have contract or publication news to share, please reply and let me know! I’d love to feature your book in the newsletter.

If you’d like to be a future participant in the Book Proposal Accelerator, check out the information page. Enrollment for the Winter 2021 session will open next month.