After several weeks of time off for a much needed period of “rejuvenation” (translation: a two week 186-mile hike around the Pembrokeshire Coast of Wales!!), I returned to put the finishing touches on Diving for Pearls: A Thinking Journey with Hannah Arendt. In hand were the final recommendations from my excellent editor, Louise Bernikow. Louise had read the entire manuscript and provided insight into how to strengthen the form and sharpen the writing. I edited the manuscript and then she read my updated version, offering key ways to put finishing touches on it, making the prose really “sing.” I credit Louise not only with making the book better, but also for keeping me focused and motivated. It’s not easy to return to a manuscript you thought you’d completed and find you have two major sections to rework. But, with the help of Louise’s “sharp pencil,” I found my way to completion!
Two things became obvious through my work with Louise: 1) in the words of Robert Lipsyte, (found on Jon Winokur’s website via his Twitter feed: @AdviceToWriters): “there's too much satisfaction with the first draft, which is never as good as it could be.” I would say that can be true of the second, third, and fourth drafts too, because 2) using the services of a professional editor is essential to insuring your manuscript is as polished as it can be.
When searching for an editor, let me underscore how critical it is to find someone who “gets” your book. This means you want someone who not only has the technical skills of an editor, but who also knows how to “read like a writer,” to use Francine Prose’s lovely phrase (I recommend you read Prose’s book of the same title, by the way. It’s an excellent resource for writers.)
Having started a conversation with Louise through Facebook, where I had learned about her writing workshops, I continued my research into whether she was a “good fit” for my project by reading some of her writing (her Among Women, in particular, had a very similar feel in style and focus to what I was trying to do in Diving for Pearls). And I asked others who knew her and me for their opinions.
The collaboration between us worked like magic! Louise was thorough, unafraid to point out both the strengths and weaknesses of my prose, and absolutely “spot on,” as they say in this part of the world, with her insights. And, equally important, she was a reliable communicator; despite the time zone differences we were dealing with, I knew I could count on her to keep to schedule.
Now the book is ready to be “thrown into the world.” For the last week I have been working on the production side of the independent publishing process—getting my micro-publishing imprint’s web site operational (ThinkingWomenBooks), formatting the book for uploading to Lightning Source, finalizing the front cover design, and collecting “blurbs” for the back cover.
Micro-publishing? I chose that category for my press because it fits the mission of Thinking Women Books—“a small imprint with a big mission.” Micro-publishers aim for a niche audience with books that the “big” commercial presses aren’t likely to pick up. As Christina Katz put it, micro-publishing aims to “serve specific types of readers rather than focusing on pleasing the masses” and to cover topics traditional publishers might not want to cover. “Micro-publishing serves authors and readers across every increment of the content spectrum instead of merely serving readers of bestsellers.”
I’m in the process of soliciting writers and others with publishing experience to join the production team of Thinking Women Books. Once my own book is in final production, I will turn my attention to soliciting additional manuscripts.