Working with a Publisher’s Editors

I mentioned in an earlier post that my book, The Drone Enigma, will be published by Koehler Books in January 2014. I’m in final stages leading up to publication and have recently completed the edit process with the publisher.

www.writersdigest.com by Brian Klems

www.writersdigest.com by Brian Klems

No one enjoys the self-editing and revision cycles, but it is a means to an end. However, when the publisher’s editors go to work, the experience is quite different. Someone else is messing with your words, telling you to slash narrative, attribute dialogue, and rewrite or delete scenes. At times, it’s difficult not to get defensive.

During the past few weeks, I’ve worked with both Koehler’s senior editor and copy editor to edit my manuscript. The senior editor took a 40,000 foot view, realigning chapters or portions of chapters, deleting narrative passages that slowed the pace of the story, and asking me to justify the need for some characters to be named because having too many named characters can confuse the reader. The copy editor, on the other hand, took a mid and low level view, editing for consistency, repetition, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

In the first two rounds with the senior editor, we worked in a Word document, using the Track Changes function. I was familiar with that, having used it for years in the corporate world. After two rounds of editing, he sent the Word document to the publisher. He sent me a copy of what he sent. I went through the document and found I didn’t agree with some of the changes. He assured me that I would have other chances to review it.

Not your mother's editing marks (mightyredpen.wordpress.com

Not your mother’s editing marks (mightyredpen.wordpress.com

A few days later, I had a long telephone conversation with the copy editor, during which she discussed areas where she had questions or needed clarification. After that, I received a revised version in Adobe Acrobat Reader. From that point on, we used the Sticky Note function of Reader, commenting on changes using sticky notes until we reached agreement. There were three or four rounds of this before it again went to the publisher and came back to us. The copy editor and I reviewed it, and found a few additional changes that needed to be made. For the most part, they were errors made in making the requested changes or errors we made in describing the changes. We also found two or three new changes. After two quick rounds with the publisher, we were done and the digital Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) was produced.

Overall, I found the process was not perfect, but it was effective. Sure, I hated to see some of my words struck from the pages. And after writing and editing the manuscript too many times to count before the publisher first received it, the last thing I wanted to do was go back through it. It was a time consuming, detailed, and thorough process. But in the end, I am pleased with the final version and believe it is an improvement over the original.

With the editing finished, it is time to solicit endorsements to be used on the front cover or back cover or inside the cover. I’ll describe that process in my next blog.

My Welcome Meeting with the Publisher

Mystery CartoonWhat happens after signing with a publisher has been a mystery to me. I signed with Koehler Books earlier this month, and over the next several months, I will be posting my experiences and opinions regarding the process leading up to book launch.

Although I’ve had two informal meetings with John Koehler of Koehler Books, I had the official welcome meeting on Monday, March 18th. Margo Toulouse, author representative, of Koehler Books joined us on the call. The purpose of the meeting was two-fold: to review the timeline to publication and to review the author questionnaire I had completed and submitted.

Project Management CartoonThe first task was to review the timeline to publication. Publication is slated for January 2014 with advance reader copies of my book and the electronic version available well in advance of that date. If “well in advance” sounds vague, the milestones on the timeline are also vague. Before the call I checked with colleagues, who confirmed that publishing timelines are stated in terms of tasks and the approximate time each task should take. For example, creative development, which includes copy editing, should take 3-4 months. As a former vice president in pharmaceutical R&D, I know that a timeline like this for a drug development project would get you fired. For book publishing, from what I understand, it’s the norm. I’m getting the impression it will be a hurry-up-and-wait process.

Social MediaOne item that has been stressed over and over is that the author—me—has primary responsibility for promotion of the book, including hiring a publicist to train me on the use of social media. I’ve already retained one of the best, in my opinion, Shari Stauch, CEO of Where Writers Win. I have a web site with a good Alexa ranking, as well as a presence and following on the Big Three—Twitter, Google+, and Facebook—as well as a presence on Goodreads, Shelfari, AuthorsDen, RedRoom, and other high traffic reader/writer sites. Because I’ve been working with Shari and her team for a while now, I’m doing pretty well. That doesn’t guarantee results, but it’s a start. Being present and being engaged with the community are two quite different things. I’m still working on the latter while trying not to let it eat away at my writing time. This can become a rabbit hole from which you never emerge, if you allow it to be.

With the timeline reviewed and agreed, we moved on to the author questionnaire. This was a useful exercise to review the information related to the book and my background and experience. Included in the discussion were a possible title change, initial thoughts on the cover design, and other information that will be used to prepare a tip-sheet for the book.

The above took about an hour. There were a few a action items, which completed the next day. The next step will be the cover design. I’ll be receiving two or three draft covers for review and discussion with John. John’s plan is to post the top two on the Koehler Books web site, where anyone can vote for his or her favorite. I’ll let you know when it is posted.