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Editors, Consultants, Designers, oh my…

Sheila Lowe is the author of the Forensic Handwriting psychological suspense series and the Beyond the Veil series. You can find out more about her on her website,, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

Those who write books don’t do it alone. At least, the professionals don’t. Unless, perhaps, they are JK Rowling or Patricia Cornwell (If JKR cut 200 words from the middle of the last Harry Potter, I wouldn’t miss them). Authors who say “I don’t need an editor” are fooling themselves. As much as we would love to think of our work as timeless prose (and some of it may well be), it isn’t easy to be objective about something we’ve written. And that is why God made editors.

This article focuses on the development variety, who work with authors on content and structure, to make sure everything makes sense, and the style is consistent. That doesn’t mean being edited always feels wonderful.

often, When I get notes from an editor, my first response is unrepeatable. My back goes up, my face is probably red, and I’m wondering whether they actually read what I wrote. And then, aAfter taking a few breaths, I go back and look at the comments again. Sometimes it’s a minor word change (one of my editors was forever criticizing my “Britishisms.”) I have lived in the US for most of my life, but I am, after all, still British. But Most of the time, I made the change. (The edits to this paragraph are of the minor variety, and for illustrative purposes to show you how I tighten things up 😏. This is not what a developmental editor does.)

When there’s something bigger, like a disagreement about how a character behaved, it’s time to ask the hard questions: Have I made my character act, well, out of character? Or, has the editor viewed the scene through his/her own filter, which affected their viewpoint? There are times when I decline to make the suggested change because after careful consideration, it makes sense to me to leave it as-is (stet!).

When I was with a major publisher, and later a smaller one, each had their own editors. In both cases, before sending my manuscript for critique and publication, I retained an independent editor to help me make sure the book was in as good a shape as it could be. Consequently, when they got the manuscript, the editors at the publishing houses had very few comments. Since taking my rights back and publishing independently, I continue to work with the same private editor, as I have since 2007. We make a good team.

There are also times when I work with a consultant on specific parts of a book. I had a recent zoom session with Jeff Elkins, the Dialogue Doctor, on a scene that took place at a banquet with eight characters who needed individual voices. Jeff was great! Some of his ideas from a male point of view, I simply would not have thought of. They helped me see some things differently and gave me a jumping off point.

Where to find the developmental editor who is right for you? Reedsy is good, but can be very expensive (they add a big fee on top of what you pay their editor or consultant). Asking for recommendations from other authors whose books are doing well may be the best way to go about it. Also, Facebook has the Indie Author Support group.

Note: copy editors and proofreaders are both important in publishing, but they have a different job from a developmental editor and require a whole different article (that makes me want to make a joke about a definite article. But I will spare you).

There is so much more to say on this topic, so if you are still awake, my personal favorite is an old book: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers By Renni Browne and Dave King. What’s yours?

Happy writing!

Sheila Lowe

Sheila Lowe is a real-life forensic handwriting expert and author whose Forensic Handwriting mystery series features Claudia Rose, whose career as a document examiner and handwriting analyst mirrors Sheila’s own, and the Beyond the Veil Series about a young woman who reluctantly communicates with dead people who want her to do stuff for them. Follow Sheila on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Colleen Winter
    Colleen Winter

    Great post. I found it interesting that you retained an editor even when you had an editor with your publishing house. I am in need of a developmental editor for my next book and will check out the sources you mentioned. Haven’t had much luck on Reedsy though. Thank you!

    1. Sheila Lowe
      Sheila Lowe

      Reedsy is far too expensive, as they don’t tell you up front (not that I saw) that they are adding a big fee on top of what you are paying their consultant. I paid the consultant (who was great) around $5000 for 3 months–not for editing, but for getting my Amazon page in shape and doing some ads. On top of that, Reedsy added around $700 to me, and an additional fee to the consultant.
      Best of luck to you on finding a good editor to work with. Referrals are best. Kim Taylor Blakemore does that kind of work and I loved her book After Alice Fell.

  2. Avatar

    This is a timely post for me, Sheila. My agent has my first manuscript out on submission, and I’m nearing the end of the first draft of what I hope will be the second in a series. This second one is a bear and way too long. I’ve been thinking of asking the same developmental editor who helped me previously to help me see where to best cut and I think your experiences have tilted me towards doing that. Thanks.

    1. Sheila Lowe
      Sheila Lowe

      Sounds like a good idea, especially since you’ve got an agent and they’ve sent out your book. It must have been in good shape.
      Best of luck!

  3. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    I’m fortunate to have had the same editor for all my books to date! We’re both grammar nerds and English lit fans. And it doesn’t hurt that she likes my books. Thanks for your post, Sheila.

    1. Sheila Lowe
      Sheila Lowe

      Isn’t it great to work with someone like that!

  4. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    Sheila, I have that book too! I’ve enjoyed working with editors of all types so far. The way I look at it, I need all the help I can get! Thanks for your informative post.

    1. Sheila Lowe
      Sheila Lowe

      I have a shelf full of books on writing and editing mysteries, but that book is my favorite!

  5. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

    Thanks for focusing on the different types of editors and how it takes a whole team of people to get a book to publication!

  6. tracey64p

    Vey helpful, Sheila- Thanks for this great post. (I’m in the loop now…) LOL
    I’ve always used developmental editors for all my projects. Sometimes it’s so hard to see problems with the manuscript. A good D editor can point out weaknesses. Copy editors can be very helpful too, but I agree. Get a referral from a friend.

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