When we take on a book project, we most often take it on for a developmental edit in addition to a line-edit. A line-edit is an every-word, every-sentence kind of edit. We’ll be looking for clarity, flow and grammar. You might think of it as painting a house. A developmental edit, in that same metaphor, would be helping to construct that house.

To give you a better picture, here are the most-frequently covered topics during a developmental edit:


Does the book answer the question is seeks to address? Is the content digestible? Will the reader truly walk away with the promised benefits?

Organizational structure.

This is the most common area of feedback we give on a nonfiction project. Is the structure working? Does the content hang together? Are the chapters roughly consistent with one another, in both length and content? Has anything been left out? What suggestions would we make? Sometimes we will go so far as to suggest the author restructure the whole book based on a different “conceit” or organizational mechanism. (An example of a conceit would be “the 8 steps to XYZ” or “the 10 most important principles I’ve learned through my work” or the like.) We aren’t afraid to give big suggestions if we know they’re going to make the book more readable/successful.


Is the voice/tone of the writing working for the content (i.e., not too dry, not too casual, inviting to the reader, engaging, etc.)?


Are there exercises the reader can use to integrate the content into her everyday life? If not, do we need to add them?

Let us know if we can help you renovate your manuscript into its most potent form with a developmental edit.


Kelly Notaras is the founder of kn literary arts and the author of THE BOOK YOU WERE BORN TO WRITE: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom Onto the Page and Into the World, published by Hay House. An editor for 20 years, she’s worked at HarperCollins, Penguin, Hyperion and Sounds True. She speaks regularly at the Hay House Writer’s Workshops and offers consultation by appointment. Find out more about how she can help you with your book.