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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, August 8, 2009

Developmental Briefs

This past week at the University of California Press, we’ve undertaken a new initiative: to provide consistent early editorial and production assessments of draft manuscripts, which we are calling “EDP briefs” (the acronym is short for “editing, design, and production”). This brief addresses many narrow questions (e.g., length of manuscript, number of pieces of art), but it also prompts the in-house editor to note broader developmental problems. In this sense, the assessments are similar to the “developmental briefs” I’ve seen used by trade publishers and book packagers.

But isn’t the phrase “developmental brief” oxymoronic? In my handbook on developmental editing, Chapter 6 provides a format for writing a full “developmental plan” of five to ten pages in length. A brief, in contrast, merely identifies developmental issues in a bulleted list, though it may also gesture toward possible solutions for the author and publisher to consider. A developmental brief should be one to two pages long and take no more than four hours to complete.

As publishers’ budgets get tighter and tighter, we need to be increasingly strategic in our developmental interventions. Thus, a three-step screening process of brief, full plan, and full edit can help us to ensure that our limited resources go to projects that will truly benefit from them. If a project’s brief is convincing, then we may move on to developing a full plan; if the plan passes muster with all stakeholders, then we’ll undertake the full developmental edit.

I’ll report on the success of this new initiative in future posts. No doubt, the proliferation of assessments will generate plenty of material for this blog!

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