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The scoop on editing with Amazon Publishing

By Carol / May 5, 2015 / 16 Comments

“What was it like working with Amazon Publishing?” “Did it bother you to lose control?” “Is it still the same story?” 

These are some of the questions I’ve received since my novel Go Away Home was acquired by Lake Union Publishing, an imprint of Amazon Publishing. Since the editing process is complete, this is a good time to report on how it went.

When I published Go Away Home last July, it was as good as I could make it. I’d hired a professional for cover design, copyediting and proof reading. I felt good about my debut effort.

Editing to make it shine.

Editing to make it shine.

Even so, when Jodi Warshaw, senior acquisition editor at Lake Union Publishing approached me, she talked about how another round of editing could make my story really shine.

I was not offended by the implication that the novel didn’t already shine. It attracted her attention, that was good enough for me. In fact, I was excited to to see what new eyes and additional professional editors would suggest. From my perspective, good can always be better. Warsaw assured me I’d be involved every step of the way and I was. Here’s how it worked.

Developmental Edit: “Trim” is such a gentle word. Much kinder, much easier to hear than “Cut,” “Slash” “Eviscerate.” My developmental editor Amara Holstein suggested “trimming” so often I found myself laughing. She suggested changes that tightened the writing in ways I’d never imagined possible. She challenged me when characters acted out of character, when I over-explained, when I didn’t give readers enough credit.

Amara and I spoke on the phone before she began her work. After she sent her comments to me, she remained available by phone and email to clarify, respond to my probes, and react to approaches I took in rewriting sections. She was encouraging, helpful, professional. I learned a ton that made this novel better and will improve my future writing.

Copyedit: While not near as intense or time-consuming as the developmental edit, the copyedit was equally valuable. Where the developmental edit looked at the big picture, my copy editor Kirsten Colton delved into details. Colloquial word use. Consistency of use. Transitions in and out of flashbacks. Use of em dashes. She discovered several words that were out of historical context – some by only a couple of years – words I never thought to question. This was a tad embarrassing since I thought I’d been so careful about being historically accurate. Again the importance of another set of eyes.

An amusing thing happened in the copyedit: where Amara trimmed with vigor, Kirsten encouraged fleshing out – more historical detail, more character description. Their suggestions were not inconsistent, simply focused on different things. Reviewers who mentioned wanting more historical detail will be happy with these additions.

Proofreading: This is the step of the process I’m most clear about since I’ve done proofreading myself as a magazine editor. A set of eyes looking at copy with a magnifying glass. Is everything absolutely perfect – spelling, grammar, punctuation, page layout.

Each of the editors had plenty to say, and I seldom disagreed with their suggestions. The editing process was not easy. At each stage, I had two weeks to make changes, write, re-write and return the manuscript for the next phase. I believe it was worth every minute of effort.

I was impressed with the team of editors that worked with me to ready Go Away Home for re-launch in July. Going in, I thought I would get push back from the developmental and copy editors on changes I made or didn’t make based on their comments. Quite the contrary. When I asked Warshaw if this was common, she said: “We want the author to be in favor of all changes and don’t want to change their vision or voice.” Errors excepted, of course.

The whole process made me think of a dedicated effort to get in shape physically. Trainers look at the big picture and what you want to accomplish. They recommend exercises to strengthen here, reduce there, tighten, trim. The person getting in shape is involved every step of the way and must do hard work to recognize the benefit. When you stick at it in the gym, you come out a better you.

Having been through the entire editing process, Go Away Home is stronger, tighter, a little shorter here, a little longer there. Is it the same story? Yes, only now it shines a little more.

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Carol

16 Comments

  1. Elfrieda Schroeder on May 6, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Wow, Carol, that is quite an involved process. Good for you to have the stamina to go through it. And good for your readers too. I will want a copy of this new edition.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 6, 2015 at 10:35 am

      It was intense, Elfrieda. I was glad I cleared my schedule for the weeks this took. I look forward to hearing what you think after reading.

  2. Kathleen Pooler on May 6, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Carol, what a great position to be in–making a great book even better. You have spelled out the rigors of the editing process very well here. Congratulations on reaching this momentous milestone. I wish you the best with your re-published book.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 6, 2015 at 11:34 am

      Thanks, Kathy. As I’ve said on other occasions, this is a position in which I never expected to find myself. The whole writing, publishing, re-publishing experience has been and continues to be a big adventure. More escapades to come.

  3. Shirley Hershey Showalter on May 6, 2015 at 11:47 am

    I’m very proud of you, Carol. And I imagine your editors are saying, “what a dream author to work with!”

    Can’t wait to see the finished product on my shelf. Thanks for keeping us part of your journey. We all learn with and from you.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 6, 2015 at 11:54 am

      Thank you, Shirley. We all learn from each other, and this journey has been too fun not to share.

  4. Boyd Lemon on May 6, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Congratulations Carol. I’m very happy for you. Your success is well deserved.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks for your kind words, Boyd.

  5. Joan Z. Rough on May 6, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Congratulations, Carol. Intense as it may have been, I’m sure it was worth every minute and drop of sweat. Not everyone has the chance to make an already published book, even better than it was the first time around.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 6, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      I consider myself very fortunate, Joan. No question the effort was worth it. As I’ve said, the book was as good I could make it last year. With the help of these editors and a chance to re-work some sections, I know it’s better. I’m excited to hear what readers think.

  6. Sharon Lippincott on May 6, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks for filling us in on this process. It sounds just like what I’ve heard from authors who worked years ago with NYC publishers. Congratulations. I can’t wait to read the new version!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 7, 2015 at 6:48 am

      Just like the traditional big publishers, Sharon, at least as I read interviews with people like Amy Tan and others. It won’t be long now. July 7 is the re-launch.

  7. David Lawlor on May 7, 2015 at 5:36 am

    That’s great to hear, Carol. It’s nice to know that all your hard work paid off – and was enhanced by these dedicated professionals.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 7, 2015 at 6:50 am

      I had worked with a really good copy editor – Jenny Quinlan – the first time around. This experience showed the cumulative benefit of working with all three types of editors.

  8. Chuck Robertson on May 15, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    I’m sure it was a difficult process, but anything that makes the novel better is worth it.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on May 20, 2015 at 9:07 am

      So true, Chuck. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m a stronger writer and Go Away Home is a stronger book for going through the editing process.

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