I love developmental editing. Before I started this program, I met regularly with a critique group where we all read each other’s novels-in-progress and gave notes. Honestly, it was often my favorite part of the week, and I learned so much working with others to critique my work and theirs. When I started my placement at Luath Press, I was excited to pick a book that wasn’t being published for another year, which meant I could give some developmental notes.
As I read through my manuscript, I identified what could make the story better and made notes of it. However, as time passed and I worked on other projects for my placement, I found there was a piece missing with everything I did – what did the author want out of this book?
When I critique things for my friends, it’s a conversation. We talk issues out, ask questions, figure out what the solutions are. Because I know my friends and their projects, I know what their goals are and what they want to accomplish in their work. But working on this manuscript, I was totally lost as to what the author’s goals were, what their intended audience was, where they saw room for improvement. I could only guess at these, and I needed to communicate to the author to see if those actually worked.
When I heard my author was willing to hop on a Zoom call with me, I jumped at the chance. This gave me the opportunity to get my questions answered and figure out how I could best help the author, the book, and the publishing house.
During my interview with the author, I immediately got new ideas for the marketing projects I had to work on. Talking with the author about the supplemental material they wanted to provide also provided insight into what they valued in the book, especially what they wanted readers to really understand. They were able to answer specific questions I had about the intended audience, themes, and what kinds of marketing they would be willing to collaborate on – specifically a reading, which is what I hoped they would say! The interview also allowed the author a chance to talk about the research they had done in preparation, which was not only helpful in my placement projects, but interesting for me as a writer to learn about. Talking about their research gave me an idea for a cover, and I thought about marketing material we could center around the information, which also gave me ideas for communities to reach out to.
While it’s important to see where a book stands on its own, the publisher knowing the author’s wants and intentions is equally as important. Publishing is a collaboration. You need an author, an editor, a marketer, a cover designer, and much more. Communication is a vital part of any functioning office, but arguably even more in the publishing industry, especially with authors. Knowing the author’s intent, values, and goals for any project will not only help the editing process, but the marketing and design processes as well. My placement taught me how important this is, and how much easier projects can be when everyone working on a book is on the same page.