Providing editing services to academic writers can be a great source of income and even a full-time career, but there's little guidance out there about how to get started.

Scholars who edit journals, anthologies, and book series want to help authors improve their submissions, but have never learned effective techniques for offering this kind of support.

Many scholars offer writing feedback to colleagues and students, but receive no formal training on how to do that well.

This course fills all of these training gaps to help you edit more effectively and feel more confident in your work with scholarly authors and texts.

This course will teach you the practice of developmental editing for academic texts, explain how to work with academic authors as a supportive professional editor, and outline the nuts and bolts of setting up a successful academic editing business.

The course includes video and audio lectures, lecture transcripts, a library of sample documents, live office hours, and practical assignments with instructor feedback.

Who is this course for?

This course is for anyone who wants to learn how to improve academic texts and support the authors who write them.

The curriculum is explicitly addressed to:

People who want to launch a freelance developmental editing business serving academic authors

People who are already freelancing and want to sharpen their developmental editing skills or learn more about the needs of academic authors

In-house acquisitions editors, series editors, and journal editors at scholarly publishers seeking to hone their developmental editing skills

Full-time academics who work with writers, whether they be advisees, mentees, colleagues, or friends

The course also welcomes academic writers who want more insight into their own texts and a framework for self-editing.

This course is not designed for fiction editors or those who are looking for training in line editing, copyediting, or proofreading. The focus is developmental editing of scholarly texts.

What's in this course?

The core curriculum is a series of lectures in video, audio, and written formats. Each lecture module includes a practical assignment that participants can submit for instructor feedback.

Participants will join as a live cohort starting February 1 and will have the opportunity to interact in the online forum and during three live Zoom "office hours" sessions.

To supplement the curriculum, you will get access to a library of sample documents, including real editorial letters and edited texts.


The modules will be released on the following schedule:

February 1: Module 1: The Why, When, and What of Developmental Editing for Academics

February 8: Module 2: Approaching the Text

February 15: Module 3: Assessing the Text

February 22: Module 4: Editorial Letters and In-text Edits

March 1: Catch-up week

March 8: Module 5: Working with Authors

March 15: Module 6: Running an Editorial Business

March 22: Catch-up week

Live Zoom office hours sessions will be held from 10–11am Pacific on February 1, March 1, and March 22.


All assignments and live sessions are completely optional. You may participate actively with the group or work entirely on your own.

Your Guide

Hi, I'm Laura Portwood-Stacer, developmental editor and publishing consultant for academic authors. I've run my own business, Manuscript Works, since 2015, and have served thousands of scholarly authors through my 1-1 editing services, workshops, and group programs.

This course on academic developmental editing originated in 2019 as an offering through the Editorial Freelancers Association; I have offered it independently since 2021. The curriculum has already helped over 100 emerging and established editors build their skills and launch their freelance editing practices.

I've completely updated the course for 2023 to make it more inclusive for not just aspiring freelance editors but also in-house editors, academics who want to give more effective feedback to colleagues and mentees, and scholarly writers who want to up their self-editing game.

What is the expected time commitment for this course?

There will be three optional Zoom meetings throughout the course each lasting one hour. You can come and go as your schedule permits. These will be held from 10–11am PST on:

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Each week during the course you will get access to a set of lectures and an optional assignment to complete. It may take you an hour or less to watch, listen to, or read the lectures each week.

The assignments will vary in intensity. Some of them will give you opportunities to practice the skills explained in the lectures on real academic texts. So the amount of work involved will depend on the manuscript you're working with and how much time you choose to spend.

You will be responsible for obtaining a manuscript to practice on for the assignments. It can be a journal article, book manuscript, or any other type of document you would like to practice developmental editing on. You may want to ask a friend, colleague, or client for a manuscript in progress or use one of your own. You can also choose any published text to practice on (most could benefit from further developmental editing). The manuscript may be from any scholarly field.

You might spend just an hour or two per assignment or you might decide to devote several hours to the more involved assignments. There will be two catch-up weeks built into the course to give you extra time to complete the longer assignments if you choose to.

If you have done previous developmental editing work, you can submit that work for feedback in lieu of undertaking the assignments from scratch.

All assignments are optional and you are welcome to turn in partially completed work or not to submit your assignments for feedback at all.

There are no specific due dates for the assignments, so you can complete them at your own pace, however, the last day to submit work for instructor feedback will be Wednesday, March 29, 2023. You may opt to extend your assignment feedback period until August 31, 2023 (the extended feedback option carries a higher enrollment fee).

You will have lifetime access to the course materials, so you can complete any modules and assignments on your own, even after the live course and feedback period end.

Participants may also opt to form small groups for post-course peer feedback and professional networking.

What past participants have said

"The whole course was excellent. I was finally able to articulate what services I wanted to offer in addition to coaching in a way that makes sense. Developmental editing is part of my business that I'd like to grow and now I have a much clearer way to pitch myself. The notes from the course will be extremely helpful to me for a long time."

--Career coach for academics, Canada

“I learned so much not only about academic developmental editing (which I had already been doing, but not with confidence) but also about marketing and pricing my services appropriately. I was able to apply this course to my next job just a few weeks later, and *I* was just as impressed as the author.”

--Academic editor and proofreader, United States

"I took Laura's course during my first year working full-time as a DE and found it to be extremely helpful. I appreciated Laura’s smart, accessible overviews of various topics, and I found the material on practical aspects of running an editing business to be invaluable. The course left me feeling empowered to figure out models for writing manuscript assessments and for pricing my services that truly worked for me."

--Developmental editor and book proposal consultant, United States

"This course is perfect for academic copyeditors and former academics seeking to offer developmental editing as a new service. I took the course alongside completing my first developmental editing jobs. I'm so glad I did – I now have several satisfied customers and the first book project I completed sailed through peer review!

The course materials offered me a map through this new terrain. I particularly liked:

1) the focus on accessibility – having the option to listen to the materials really helped the concepts sink in.

2) the sample editorial letters – these helped me 'level up' and shift from a more distanced writing style to one that engages more directly with the client.

3) Laura's open approach, including discussing thorny issues such as rates and what emotions come up when you send your editorial letters to clients."

--Social science editor, Europe

"As someone finishing up a PhD, the DE for academics course gave me the resources and confidence to launch a career in academic editing.

The course expertly breaks down each aspect of academic developmental editing, providing supplemental readings and samples that guide you through each stage of the process. Laura has a particular talent for explaining the most important things in a lucid and concise manner so that you feel you have a grasp on the often mysterious world of academic publishing.

As far as I am aware, it is the only course of its nature out there, so it is truly a rare insight into the field, especially into the workings of an expert like Laura. If you take advantage of all it has to offer, you’ll obtain the necessary tools and knowledge to confidently approach your first developmental editing job and learn a thing or two about academic presses and the business of freelancing along the way. I wholeheartedly recommend the course to all of those interested in learning more about DE or debating adding developmental editing to their services."

--Humanities scholar, United States

Enrollment for this course has reached capacity.

I don't know if or when I will offer the course again, but if you would like to be informed of future offerings, please subscribe to the Manuscript Works Newsletter.

This course is closed for enrollment.