A developmental editor works with an author to shape the work and make sure that it’s organized in a reader-friendly way. The editor might suggest that information be pulled from chapter text and used in sidebars (or the other way around) or might encourage the writer to flesh out less-than-fully-formed ideas. When working with cookbooks, the editor helps to ensure that the recipes are suited to the intended readership and that the recipe selection is well balanced.
A copy editor ensures that the text adheres to the chosen style and that author’s thoughts are conveyed clearly. The copy editor also corrects spelling, punctuation, and grammar and checks for factual errors and inconsistencies. Copyediting cookbooks involves making sure that ingredient lists are treated in a consistent way from recipe to recipe; for instance, are amounts listed by volume, weight, or piece (or a combination)? The ingredient lists and recipe steps must also be in synch; is everything in the list used in the steps, and in the same order? Directions must be clear and must all use the same level of detail. In addition to consulting existing style guides, a book copy editor typically creates a style sheet to record points of style that are unique to the project at hand.
There’s some overlap between copyediting and proofreading; both involve checking spelling, punctuation, grammar, and adherence to the chosen style. The proofreader generally works on hard copy, rather than in an electronic file, and also checks for correct typeface and spacing. The proofreader focuses on consistency and relies on the copy editor’s style sheet as well as general style guides to resolve questions. Proofreading cookbooks includes cross-checking recipe titles in the body of the text, the table of contents, and the index.
Providing nutrient information for recipes is a great reader service. Depending on the intended readership, some recipes just list the basics—calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium—while others may include saturated fat, cholesterol, fiber, and calcium. Online nutrient calculators abound but the tool is only as good as the person using it. It’s best to hire someone who knows about food and cooking and who can suggest appropriate adjustments to a recipe if necessary to give it a better nutritional profile.
Style Guide Development
Most publishers rely on The Chicago Manual of Style and/or The Associated Press Stylebook. Cookbook publishers also refer to Recipes into Type and The Food Lover’s Companion. Along with a good dictionary, these resources cover most style questions, but not all. An in-house style guide fills in important gaps and provides freelancers and staff alike with a reassuring final word. Custom style guides are particularly useful for cookbooks, which may use different styles for different elements—recipes, headnotes, sidebars, and general text.
Writing and Recipe Development
A good freelance writer is able not only to deliver the right message but also to use the right voice. This requires an understanding of who the message is coming from (the magazine, book publisher, or other entity) and who the readers are.
I honed my writing skills during my years as associate food editor at Natural Health magazine, where writing was a large part of my job. My areas of expertise include the fields of health, cooking, and nutrition. I have a degree in pastry arts and ten years’ experience cooking in commercial kitchens. The recipes I develop are appealing and easy to follow, and they actually work. Here's an article I wrote for Body and Soul magazine (Whole Living) about calories. And here’s a recipe makeover article I wrote, also for Body and Soul, along with a recipe for stuffing.