It is natural for editors to feel unappreciated. When done well, our work is invisible, and authors have a vested interest in keeping our contribution hush hush. In my experience, it is the authors who have needed my assistance least who are most effusive in their praise on the acknowledgments page, while those whose carcasses I’ve hauled out of the fire say nary a word of thanks. DEs, in particular, may feel as though they have been thrust unwillingly under Harry Potter’s mantle of invisibility.
At these times, a DE must ask herself about her own motivations. If she is in the DE business for praise and appreciation, she should probably find another calling. If, however, she enjoys the intellectual puzzle that a disorganized manuscript presents and wants to spend her work hours with her mind fully and creatively engaged, then she should accept her invisibility as a gift, a kind of superpower. After all, developmental editing offers the thrill of creativity without the very real burdens that go with authorship: the birthing of the central concept, the risk of one’s reputation, the uncertainty of income.
For an honest and entertaining account of a ghost writer negotiating the fluid border between editorship and authorship, I recommend Jennie Erdal’s Ghosting: A Double Life.