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The Development Editor’s Role

One of the goals of this blog is to discuss how things work within a typical publishing company. I think the best way to accomplish this is to let you hear from some of the people who do the real work. With that in mind, I’m asking some of my colleagues to start their own blogs. I’m also asking some of them to chime in on mine.

I recently asked Jodi Jensen, a Senior Development Editor on our team, to summarize her role in the publishing process. Here’s what she had to say:

As development editors (DEs), we have the sometimes challenging job of acting as a middleman between the deadlines of the book and the quality of the text. Our mission is to make sure the final published book fulfills the vision determined at the start and also keeps the promises we make to readers in our marketing materials.

As DEs, we look at the chapter from 10,000 feet and leave the details of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure to our highly skilled copy editors. We're the first line of defense regarding the quality of the book, and we look closely at structure, content, tone, audience, formatting, and consistency. A key piece of a DE's job is to help guide authors through the labyrinth of elements that make up our key series. Our goal is to find a way to make each book fit comfortably into the brands that the market knows and trusts.

Last, but certainly not least, the DE functions as the ringmaster for the project. We monitor the submission of chapters from authors, coordinate the technical edit, act as a liaison between authors and the Graphics Dept. to ensure high-quality images, and work with the Production Dept. to make sure chapters go through layout as seamlessly as possible.

Having written a few computer books many years ago, I can say from personal experience that a great Development Editor can be a difference-maker. Although I sometimes groaned at the extra work the DE asked me to do, I can look back now and say that their guidance made the finished product more usable and understandable. What could be more important than that?


Naba Barkakati

Joe, Based on my experience as author of several Wiley titles, I couldn't agree more about the key role that DEs play in the publishing process. Once I start on a book, the DE becomes my main contact at the publisher and it's the DE who guides me through the manuscript submission process and keeps everything moving. That's why I always remember to thank the DE in the Author's Acknowledgments :-)

Joe Wikert

Hi Naba. Well, that explains why our DE's are always looking forward to your next project! You're right about the DE's role. They also often serve as a traffic cop, making sure everything is flowing in smoothly and heading into the right stage of tech editing, production, etc.


Hi Joe, Thanks for such a useful information about DE. In my opinion, in a small publishing house, which is gradually growing, a person (hopefully an editor)who is responsible for the quality (overall) of the final product, usually performs several roles during different stages of publishing while the book is going through different depts.), say,production, editorial, etc. He/she involves deeply in copy editing, editing, development editing, fact checking, cross checking marked corrections, etc. as he/she is answerable for other's work also. So, the responsible person has to cross check each & every details in the book whether it's Author's feedback/corrections/suggestions or the editor's corrections.

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