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. by Brian Klems 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 (

Not your mother’s editing marks (

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.

Five Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference

Have you wondered whether attending a writers conference is worth the cost. The price can range from $200-$300 for a small local conference to $1200 for Thrillerfest in New York. And that’s just the registration fee. Including travel, hotel, and incidentals, the total could exceed $2000.

South Carolina Writers WorkshopI attended my first writers conference in October 2008, the South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference in Myrtle Beach. At the time the plot of Libido’s Twist was forming in my head and the words were appearing on the screen of my MacBook Pro. My creative writing education, however, was limited to reading a few books. At the conference I attended every session I could squeeze in. I was amazed at how much I learned. But there were also these slush fests, ten or thirty page agent critiques, and pitch sessions. All of it was foreign to me; and to be honest, I did not know enough to fully comprehend what any of them were. In contrast, this year I participated in the thriller slush fest, had a thirty page critique of my manuscript, pitched to a pitch coach, pitched to three agents, and had a query letter critique.

Hampton Road WritersI have now attended four SC Writers Workshop Conferences and one Hampton Roads Writers Conference. So, are writing conference worth the cost? What can I expect if I go?

1. A chance to meet and talk to fellow writers: I know this is a generalization, but I believe most writers would score on the “I” side of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. We are, by nature, introverts, quite happy to write in isolation. “I” time energizes us. On the other hand, we dread book signings, interviews, and self-promotion. When you attend a writers conference, you have the opportunity to meet and talk to people for all walks of life who, like you, also love to write. The vast majority of the attendees are not earning a living with their writing, although most all would love to do so. Learn from the experiences and mistakes of others.

2. Attend multiple sessions on the craft of writing, publishing and promotion: Writing conferences provide an incredible learning opportunity: You will be amazed by how much you learn attending the sessions taught by the conference faculty of authors, agents, and editors, covering a wide range of topics.

3. Meet and interact with agents, editors, authors, and publishers: Writing conferences provide an unique opportunity to meet and interact with these individuals during their presentations and at social events during the conference. But remember, it’s bad form to pitch your manuscript to an unsuspecting agent in the elevator—unless they ask—or leave your manuscript leaning against their hotel room door. That comes across as creepy.

4. Meet and hear from successful authors: The keynote speakers, depending on the conference, can be NYT bestselling authors. For example, I’ve heard and met Michael Connelly and Steve Berry. And at the 2011 SC conference, Andrew Gross, a bestselling author who co-wrote several books with James Patterson before going it alone, was behind me in line for a drink at the reception before the night before the start of the conference. My wife and I struck up a conversation and ended up talking to him for about fifteen minutes before others came up to meet him. And, even if you don’t meet the keynote speaker, other successful authors teach sessions during the conference.

5. Receive direct and immediate feedback: Be it a slush fest, critique, or pitch, the opportunity for feedback on your manuscript and writing is alone worth the price of the conference. Everyone I have interacted with has been helpful and constructive in their comments. Remember, they are they to help you and to discover new talent and clients.

ThrillerFest VIIIHave I convinced you to attend a conference in 2013? I will once again be attending the Hampton Roads Writers Conference and the SC Writers Workshop Conference. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’m also tempted to attend ThrillerFest VIII. I hear it’s well worth the cost for a thriller author, especially one hoping to find an agent.


Writing Conference Kickstarted My Writing

This is my first blog post. My emphasis in this and future posts will be on the craft of writing and what I have learned about the complex and difficult process of using twenty-six letters to create: words, sentences, paragraphs, characters, settings, and scenes. I am in awe of those who have mastered it, especially those who do so without an MFA degree hanging on their wall.

South Carolina Writers WorkshopFive years ago, I left behind my career in pharmaceutical research and development and began my second act writing life. I had a story to tell and a laptop. I began writing. I was wise enough to know I had much to learn but too inexperienced to realize how little I knew about creative writing and the publishing business. I read books on writing, absorbing the principles like a dry sponge. I discovered that the annual South Carolina Writers Workshop Conference is held in Myrtle Beach, where my wife and I had moved. I registered.

After completing my first manuscript, I quickly became frustrated and dejected by the agent query process, so I self-published my debut novel Libido’s Twist. The first copies arrived from Dog Ear Publishing a few weeks prior to the April deadline for the 19th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards Contest. I completed the entry form and submitted it with a copy of my novel. Months later—after almost forgetting about entering the contest—I received an e-mail informing me I had won an award in the genre fiction category. Although by then I had received many positive comments and e-mails from my readers, the award was the validation I needed.

Hampton Roads Writers ConferenceWe now live in Virginia Beach, Virginia. My shelves are overflowing with books on writing, and I have four South Carolina Writers Workshop Conferences and one Hampton Roads Writers Conference under my belt. I’ve attended Writer’s Digest webinars, had agents critique my work, and joined a local writers group. I’ve completed my second manuscript and am once again immersed in the query process. With advice from agents during one-one-one meetings at the SCWW Conference this past October, I refined my pitch and query letter. That has resulted in two agents requesting a full copy of my manuscript and one requesting the first hundred pages. I’ve since received rejections from two of them, but both were candid and supportive regarding my writing.  I will continue to pursue the traditional route for a while longer but, if unsuccessful, will self-publish and feel good about it. I’ll keep you informed of my progress.

In future blogs, I will share what I have learned and provide you with my opinion on a variety of topics. I hope you will find my posts interesting, informative, and maybe even a little entertaining.