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.