Step 5 – Developmental editors

Step 5 - developmental editor

Hiring a developmental editor will likely be the first time you get your cheque book out in the self-publishing process.

It can be expensive, but it’s money well spent providing you some research first.

Developmental editors are literary professionals that deal with your entire story using a wide lens approach.

Then, they give feedback on things like:

  • The entire story arc
  • Character consistency and development
  • Sub-plots and side-stories
  • The authors writing style and voice
  • Obvious and subtle elements that could cause offense to readers
  • Pacing
  • Dialogue

The cost for this service will depend on the standard and experience of each editor.

Typical prices are:

Per 1000 words£15.00 – £20.00$20.00 – $25.00
*Per hour£30.00 – £40.00$40.00 – $55.00
*Figures taken from the Editorial Freelance Association at


These figures are relative to the quality of your work. The more time an editor has to spend dealing with errors, the longer it will take and the more it will cost.

Learn the basics of self-editing and let the editor focus on what you need them to do.

Costs of a developmental editor
Costs of a developmental editor

This is money that I enjoy spending because you pay for what you get. But if you try to save a few bucks at this point, you risk hiring someone who might not give your MS the service it deserves.

Invest in your book and invest in yourself.

Researching developmental editors

So, the first thing you’ll need to do is make a list of freelance editors and books they have worked on before.

You can normally find this information by going to their website and checking out their testimonials page.

Another way to approach this is to think about all those indie books you have read that really stood out. Who was the developmental editor?

If you can’t find that information, email the author and ask. Tell them that you enjoyed their work and would like to approach the same professional they hired.

Personally, if I received an email like this, I’d be over the moon. It’s a great compliment that proves my book was edited to a high standard.

It says as much about my book as it does about my editor. And I’ll respond with the details.

Another point to highlight is this: good editors have waiting lists. If you want the best, you must be prepared to wait.

My editor was fully booked for seven weeks. Due to the fact that she is a professional editor, she was forthcoming about how long I could expect to wait, and gave me the option to look elsewhere.

I’m so glad I waited.

Again, you are paying for a quality service, so if you can’t wait a few weeks for the right person, you’ll be doing your story a disservice.

Be patient and wait for an editor you believe is the best person for the job.

Research Developmental editors
Research Developmental editors

Make a list

Now will be a good time to create a spreadsheet.

You need to capture names, websites and previous work of editors you’re considering.

Spend a few days or weeks reading the books they’ve worked on, and engage with them on social media to see if they’re your type of person.

Also, take note of their prices. Some editors charge a daily rate, and others (the majority) will charge by word count.

Personally, I prefer quotes based on word count. This gives me an idea to budget with. But also, a daily fee can become expensive if a MS needs a lot of work, or if the editor is slower than average.

You should also consider what country your editor lives in? If you’re a British writer who is intending on publishing primarily in the UK, you might be better suited to a UK-based editor.

This is so they understand colloquialisms and local spelling, e.g., colour vs color.


Some editors will only will only work on certain genres so make sure the editor you target works on books like yours.

Also, some editors don’t like nasty surprises.

If your story has potential to trigger people through topics such as sex, animal cruelty, child abuse, extreme torture/violence, let your editor know in advance.

Some of them will tell you on their website, or they may inform you in their contract. But it’s always polite to give fair warning.

Don’t argue

Your editor has seen and worked on countless projects over the years. They are trained professionals in this field and do this for a living.

If they suggest a change or an amendment, there is probably a very good reason for it.

So please, don’t argue with them.

Don't argue with your editor
Don’t argue with your editor

Now, don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to change anything. Amendments are entirely up to you.

But remember, you sought this person out, hired them for their skills, and now have a talented editor giving you advice. It’s probably best to adjust your point of view to see it from their side.

Ultimately, you’ll be paying them at the end of the job regardless of whether you agree with them or not.

Instead, ask why and try to appreciate what they are telling you.

When I received feedback from my developmental editor, I was shocked. In my feedback, I was told me that I needed to be careful with how I portrayed a certain character.

The character was presented with an underlying gender-bias. But the way it came across in the pre-edited work made it seem like the author (me) was a bigot.

The truth is, one of my characters is a bigot. He is quite sexist and horrible. But the way in which I wrote his scenes could’ve easily led a reader into thinking that this was my mindset.

All it took was one phone call to my editor to get this cleared up. During that call, we discussed ways in which I could rewrite in order to clear up the confusion on the page.

Thanks to a simple conversation, she offered some great advice, and we worked the problem and found the correct balance.


Developmental editors are the experts who will lay your story out in full, analyse it, and find any weakness in plotting, sub-plotting and character development. They will also consider pacing, voice and style, and then provide you with expert feedback to keep you on the right track.

Research your developmental editors, make a list and approach them. With a bit of work, you’ll find the right person to work with.

Engage with them, ask questions, and listen to them, because they have likely done this dozens of times. Which more than us as this point.

Good luck.

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