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I am an editor at the University of California Press and author of the first full-length handbook ever published on the subject of developmental editing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Cost of DE

Publishers will want to know, How can we justify the extra time and money required by developmental editing? How much does the work of a DE increase the sales of a book, or enhance its critical reception? These valid questions are hard to answer in dollars, but the lack of metrics should not keep a publisher from delving into developmental editing. After all, there are plenty of qualitative factors widely believed to determine the success or failure of a book. We publishers have no tangible proof that strong cover designs increase sales, yet we assign an almost totemic power to the arrangement of image, color, and type.


  1. Amen! I'm always offended when people talk as if the cover were the only thing that matters to potential book buyers--as if readers don't expect the same level of attention and detail inside.

    I think this has a lot to do with the fact that good design can call attention to itself, whereas good editing is invisible. And even when the results of editing are obvious (the text has a good flow, ideas are expressed clearly), they are usually attributed to the author. Which is fine as far as readers go, but publishers, who know better (or should), shouldn't act as if the editor has no role in this.

  2. An excellent point. At UC Press, where I work, the staff is collaborative and generous and the DE is often hailed as something of a miracle worker during editing and production. But once the book's been out a few years, staffers tend to forget what went into developing it. The same author can show up with a new proposal and in-house folks will read it in light of the previous book's success, as if the first manuscript hadn't been submitted in a shambles. As an in-house advocate of DE, part of my role is to provide the historical memory of developmental contributions.

    Your post inspires me to address the topic of the DE's "power of invisibility" more fully in a new post. More anon.

  3. Is there a benchmark for developmental editing cost for a memoir of about 250 pages - working with the author from concept to completion?

    My email address:

    Ann Matranga
    Sausalito, CA