Editor / Guest Post / Post

The Chicks Check in With Developmental Editor, Kristen Weber

Ever wonder about the behind-the-scenes stories of the book publishing industry? Well, wonder no more, because each month we’re featuring an interview with a well-known book blogger, editor, or agent. For May, we’re thrilled to welcome fabulous developmental editor, Kristen Weber!

What was your first job in (or out of) editing/publishing? How did you end up in this career path?

I was pre-law in college. I think that’s a path many people who love to read and write end up on. But the reality of all the loans was staggering, so I decided to take a deep breath, take a year off from school, and see what I could do with books, my first true love. I sent my resume to all the publishing companies I could find and ended up interviewing for an assistant position in the subsidiary rights department of Hachette Book Group. This was the perfect spot to land.

The subsidiary rights department is in charge of selling the rights to a book in different formats, like audio, large print, or to foreign publisher. I got to be involved in every step of the process as these licensees replicated our books in their own formats. This exposed me to all sorts of different departments and employees and I ended up befriending Sara Ann Freed, who ran the legendary Mysterious Press. We bonded over our love of mysteries and manicures and when she needed a new assistant, I applied. The rest, as they say, is history.

What exactly is a developmental editor, and what does one do?

A developmental editor looks at many elements of a story including voice, setting, narrative structure, and pace to see how it all comes together. Like a doctor diagnosing a patient, developmental editors need to figure out how to help a manuscript reach its full potential, while keeping the author’s own voice and vision intact. Unlike copy editors-who take a manuscript that has already been developed and subject it to a much more technical process focusing on elements such as spelling, grammar, punctuation and formal style, developmental editors are more concerned with the big picture. Developmental editors are typically just called “editors” at publishing houses.

Now that I work freelance, I’m careful to make it clear that I am a developmental editor instead of a copy editor. I’m the one that you should come to before you start submitting your project to agents or once you start and you’re receiving nice but vague rejections you have no idea what to do with. And besides editing your book, I’ll stick with you during the submission process or as you self publish, offering advice and support. No developmental editor can guarantee publication, but that’s always my goal. And I’m happy to say that most of my freelance clients have ended up with agent representation and/or published in some way.

Do you have a fun or interesting story about a past client (no names, of course!) or manuscript you’ve worked on that you’d be willing to share?

I’m often asked how one can become an editor, and the best way is to find someone to mentor you (and of course, read, read read!). I was so lucky to have that type of relationship with Sara Ann Freed, who trusted me and would often let me edit her manuscripts on my own.

One time, she gave me the manuscript of a very famous, not-to-be-named celebrity. It needed a lot of work, so she sent me to his office and I helped the author break the story out literally page by page. We plastered his entire office with printed-out pages of the manuscript and worked on it like a puzzle, as we tried to figure out the best way for the mystery to unfold. It was a lot of work and not what anyone would think of as traditional “editing,” but it was so much fun to get outside the office and involve myself completely in someone else’s brainstorming process.

If you could go back in time and act as developmental editor for a famous author, who would that be?

I am lucky that I actually edited so many of my idols. I’ve edited M.C. Beaton, Marcia Muller, and Marget Maron, all true luminaries of the mystery field. It doesn’t get much better than that, but I’d love to have also worked with Sue Grafton. Her Kinsey Milhone mysteries are what started my love of the mystery genre. Ironically, I did interview at her publisher and with her editor when I was searching for my first job, but fate brought me to Mysterious Press.

Describe your favorite type of author to work with.

Someone who understands the process. You’re not going to find any editor—or agent—who tells you your book is perfect, although many authors come to me secretly hoping for that. Nothing is perfect. I’m reading on another level than the typical beta reader or critique partner. I know what it takes to get your novel published, because I used to be one of the gatekeepers. I love authors who are open to hearing my comments. They might not agree with every single one of them, but I love when they try to make them work within their own vision. Ideally, working with a developmental editor will help you improve not only the one manuscript you hired them for, but your entire writing process.


Please read more about Kristen below and say hello in the comments!

kristenKristen Weber began her career in the subsidiary rights department of Hachette Book Group, but quickly switched to the editorial side, eventually overseeing Grand Central Publishing’s legendary Mysterious Press. She most recently worked in-house as a senior editor for Penguin’s New American Library, where she helped launch Obsidian, their dedicated mystery imprint. Now working as a freelance editor in Los Angeles, she has helped her clients land agents, secure deals with publishing houses, and publish independently—some going on to win awards and hit bestseller lists.

You can learn more about Kristen and her services here: www.kristenweber.com

29 thoughts on “The Chicks Check in With Developmental Editor, Kristen Weber

  1. I love this post! I think I want to be a developmental editor when I grow up…

    My pet peeve is when the characters don’t grow; they just have a series of events (Unfortunate, or otherwise) “happen” to them. It’s like looking at footprints on the floor to learn dance steps, without knowing whether the dancers like each other, or are going to get married, have babies, divorce

    I fell into editing because I narrate audiobooks, and I send the author/ rightsholder a bunch of niggling, pedantic queries BEFORE I narrate, (like, “I think you left a word out of this sentence” or “Remember, you said on p. 47 that Jones is taller than Smith”). So I’ve had several authors hire me to edit subsequent books. Sometimes, I’m the developmental editor, but I realize I have my biases; I tend to read the first three chapters and say: “I hate this character. Make her more like Elizabeth Bennet.” Am I doing this wrong? :/ 😛

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ha! I think those kind of things when I read books, as well! But I most definitely do not want to be a developmental editor. I had to tutor baby attorneys at my law firm on improving the briefs they’d drafted, and I always just wanted to do it myself rather than teach them how–so much easier!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh, no for me it’s the opposite: I could no more write a book than I could sprout wings and fly, but I enjoy critiquing other people’s work. It’s like I’m sitting in my armchair, watching Olympic gymnastics, and saying (as I reach for the Cheez Puffs) “Nah, that’s only an 8.5. She didn’t stick that landing.”

        Liked by 1 person

    • Narrating audiobooks sounds like such a fun job too! I always suggest authors read their work out loud to catch mistakes, so it makes sense you’d catch a few things too.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your comment! It is also a matter of not being prepared for that level of critique. A professional editor is going to give you much more to think about and work on than other critique partners or beta readers. They’re aiming to raise your manuscript to a truly publishable level. So it can be shocking – and most of my clients need a little time to digest, even if they didn’t think their manuscript was “perfect” – but the end product is worth it.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I hired Kristen to read and comment on the manuscript that eventually was released as DYING FOR A TASTE, and her advice–and encouragement–was invaluable! Thank you Kristen! And thank you for visiting the Chicks today–hooray!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Welcome, Kristen! I’m so happy to see you here!!

    I hired Kristen when I was a wee baby author and needed developmental edits for what would become my debut mystery, PROTOCOL. (Leslie, we’re client twins!) Her insights, comments and suggestions not only improved the book, but also helped me become a better novelist. In fact, Kristen, I often imagine YOU reading while I write. “What would Kristen say?” is never far from my mind!

    Thanks so much for hanging out with us!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m glad you explained the difference between developmental edits and copyedits because newbies often don’t understand the difference, and that they’re entirely different beasts. I know I didn’t! And when you’re expecting one and getting the other, well … that can cause one’s head to explode!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes! I can’t even imagine getting one and expecting the other. I always try to make sure my clients understand exactly what they are getting.

      Like

  5. Great post, Kristen! Good developmental editors are priceless. I have to say though, while I typically enjoy the editing process, I’m pretty sure I would rather chuck a manuscript in the trash than print it out and reorder it page by page. I hope you were paid by the hour for that project!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. What a terrific post, Kristen. As a fellow developmental (and line) editor, I agree 100% with everything you said. I also spent a short time in sub rights (at S&S), as well as in a crazy mass market sales dept., but I always ended up back in editorial. The different perspectives were invaluable, though–especially now, when I’m wearing an author’s hat, too!

    Liked by 2 people

      • Nice to meet you! That mass market house was intense but invaluable. They published tons of books, which gave me a chance
        to work on everything from paranormal romance to true crime and even westerns! Such a great experience!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This is such a great post! Fascinating glimpse behind the scenes…love the image of the book plastered all over the walls. 🙂

    And love Sue Grafton too.

    Thank you for visiting us, Kristen.

    Like

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