Bill's Editing Record: The Authors
Stephen King & John Grisham talk about Bill Thompson.
Carrie, The Shining, & many others
Who Buried Achilles
The Rev. Canon John H.Taylor: Patterns of Abuse
"My wife read me a telegram [while I was at work]. Bill Thompson (who would later go on to discover a Mississippi scribbler named John Grisham) had sent it after trying to call, and discovering the Kings no longer had a phone. 'Congratulations,' it read. 'Carrie officially a Doubleday book. Is $2,500 advance okay? The future lies head. Love, Bill.'"
"Bill has been gracious, direct and supportive. He gave me insightful notes that I readily incorporated into my novel.”
"No one knows writing—the arc of a story, the texture of a description, the heartbeat of character—and nobody knows the publishing industry like Bill Thompson. If you have a book in you, he's the one to help you bring it to life."
A Time To Kill
I Heard You Paint Houses: The Biggest Hit in Mob History
Mary and Jacqui: Bombs, Love and Hemingway's Shadow
"Bill Thompson—The man who started it all.”
"I began learning writing from Bill thirty years ago and continue to follow his instruction today. My success with I Heard You Paint Houses is due in great part to the influence of his instruction over the years. I owe this fine man a great deal."
"Bill is the perfect kind of editor who can be critical, discerning, precise and, most important of all, encouraging. You can trust him to know what needs to be done to get your manuscript in the best possible shape to snag an agent and publisher."
"The toughest editor I've ever worked with..."
- Stephen King
Bill Thompson began his long and successful publishing career carrying the bag, as a Doubleday book salesman in New Orleans and Memphis.
Moving to the home office as an editor, he read through a number of submissions from a talented guy in Maine, Stephen King, before accepting the one he knew could be a breakout novel...Carrie.
Thompson went on to stints at Everest House, G. P. Putnam, and as editor-in-chief of the now defunct Wynwood Press, where he published a book A Time to Kill, by a then-unknown writer named John Grisham.
Today, Thompson works as an independent editorial consultant in New York, helping novice writers of both fiction and non-fiction shape their material into a finished product.
"If a fiction author knows how to tell a story, I can help him nail down what the story is help him flesh it out and give dimension to the characters without losing track of the story. With many manuscripts, I also try to bring a cinematic sense, thinking of how it would play as a movie."
"A lot of new writers make the mistake of sending a manuscript to an agent or publisher before it's actually ready. You may have an interesting story line, but it doesn't translate into potential sales until it's wrapped up in a full-size, polished, marketable manuscript. Then you have something to offer."
Q: How long does your book doctoring take?
Not nearly as long as it took you to write the book. I read the script twice at least, once for story sense, then for soft spots or the areas that might benefit from positive constructive advice. I'm looking at issues of plot, characterization, dialogue, description, pacing. Editorial notes from the second reading are detailed in an edit blueprint I send to you. We can then set up a series of phone conversations discussing the changes. The first part of the process, i.e., the reading of the script for story sense and draft of edit notes, will take approximately four weeks. We then move into the second phase, weekly phone conversations. These sessions might last another four weeks, more or less, depending on the extent of changes under discussion. You should figure on two months for my editing process.
Q: Do you work on non-fiction?
It all comes down to words, whether fiction or non-fiction. Author and editor are after the same thing, a flow of clear writing. In a novel, the book should include a seamless story line, visual description, and dialogue true to the characters. The format of non-fiction needs a narrative drive and a concluding final chapter. Content might differ between fiction and non-fiction, but a good editor is comfortable with either.
For the record, I've done serious works on child pornography, a JFK conspiracy book on the murder of Jack Ruby, and dozens of biographies and how-to's, ranging from baseball to award-winning cookbooks to growing carnivorous plants. My favorite non-fiction book was Stephen King’s first attempt, DANSE MACABRE, a mini-memoir that served as a fascinating introduction to the man who would go on to polarize decades of popular fiction. Once, when our editorial process included watching the All-Star game in a high-traffic bar across the street from my office, he asked the bartender who made up his clientele and was told, "College boys like you."
But fiction remains my first love.
Q: Can you help me get an agent?
These days, getting an agent to take you on can be harder than finding a publisher, unless you happen to be a rock star, a pro athlete, or even better, the wife or ex-wife. Authors are caught in a Catch 22. It seems publishers won't acknowledge or accept un-agented proposals, and agents won't accept new clients unless they are reasonably sure of landing an easy contract to publish. Recommending an agent is a shadowy ethical area, but I supply recommendations with agents I feel might be interested in your type of work
Q: I might decide to self-publish. Is that a good idea?
Self-publishing at one time was looked down upon as vanity publishing, and authors often ended up with a garage full of books and a sizable printing bill. But as traditional publishing has imploded on itself, the stigma has been removed. Today, a number of respectable self-publishers offer professional help in delivering a quality book. The burden, however, of publicizing and selling the book, as perhaps it's always been, lies with the author, whose energy and creativity must now switch to promoting it. Many writers I've worked with have gone on to self-publish, with mixed results. For one thing, all recommend not getting so carried away with the dream of a finished book in your hand that you won't read or have not read the publishing contract fine print. I do have some feedback about this very popular option these days, and I am delighted to share it with you.
Q: What if I don't agree with changes you suggest? I've been working on this for a long time, I know what I want to do.
I tell everyone I work with, first and foremost it's your book. While I believe this, I don't always act on it. I can get too pushy about changes I think should be done. But even then, my comments, based on my years of experience, are always trumped by the fact that this is your baby, your creativity. If I get too muscular in my criticism, you can tell me.
Q: Can I send my manuscript electronically?
For me, there is no substitute to handling the printed word. I've found I do not do my best work editing on screen. For that reason, I ask new authors to send hard copy.