HomeWritersLiterary AgentsEditorsPublishersResourcesDiscussion
Forum Login | Join the discussion
+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. #1
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    "Post" Review of Doctored Book

    Some of those still on the discussion board were aware that I was doctoring a huge book during the spring on Osama bin Laden's background and the intentions/capabilities of Al Qaeda. I note that the book, "Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America," by "Anonymous" (a senior U.S. intelligence official--released by Brassey's at a "modest" $29.95), has received a review (favorable, I'm happy to say) in today's "Washington Post." The review, entitled "Portrait of the Enemy: Two Books Lay Bare the Belief Systems behind Last Year's Day of Terror" by Peter L. Bergen can be found on page 3 of the "Book World" section.

    I'm posting this because more than one poster asked me to let them know when the book was available. (I have no financial stake in the book; my fee was paid up front :-) ) However, I can say that the book gives unique insider's information on the subject (and was not released at the instigation or with the approval of the intelligence community).

    The last paragraph of the review reads: "Anonymous's examination of al Qaeda is a bracing corrective to much that has passed as analysis about the group--and that is why one of his principal themes is particularly to be noted: 'A simple unalterable fact is that bin Laden and his compatriots are patient and Americans are not.'"



  2. #2
    Bobbi Hogan
    Guest

    Re: "Post" Review of Doctored Book

    Way to go, Gary. Just out of curiosity, what is it you like about editing? It would turn me into a raging bitch, I think. Sounds like it pays pretty well, from what you said on another thread somewhere. That's a more than my real job pays for writing original copy. I'm just wondering why someone who's a writer in his own right would want to edit someone else's gobbledygook. What makes you want to do it?

  3. #3
    Mary M.
    Guest

    For Gary

    Thanks for the partial review and I can imagine the pride you feel in having edited such a critical and timely book.

    I cannot recall where I heard/read a similar comment about the impatience of Americans and the calculating calm of "the enemy," but am not surprised to learn the comment is slowly becoming a reality our military leaders must accept.

    Question: Was the release of this book always scheduled for as close as possible to September 11, 2002?

  4. #4
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: For Mary/Bobbi

    Mary: The release date on this book mystifies me. I was paid extra to have this book done "yesterday" when it was given to me at the turn of the year. that was no small task, because I had to cut it from 250,000 words to 120,000 (allowing for no more than 30,000 in author's updates to be thrown back in based on where I indicated the material should be updated), I had to restructure some of the material, I had to get rid of one main theme and introduce another one, and I had to recast all of the mentions of Bin Laden to acknowledge that he might be proved to be dead before the book was published--the author believes he is still very much alive and in charge. (These changes indicate why it crossed from "copyedit" to "book doctoring"--the original manuscript as sold to the publisher (actually resold, as the original publisher was scared off by those who didn't want to see it it print) predated 9/11, and I had to get all of that sandwiched in).

    I expected to see the book out by May at the latest--and it would have done better then rather than now, because it wouldn't have had to compete with those 150 other books coming out now. I have a theory on what it's late--that I can't share on this open board.

    Bobbi: I was an editor (for the U.S. government's foreign media monitoring agency) for some time before becoming a writer. My first writing experiences were with tightly formatted government analysis for two classified journals. This moved to the addition of writing columns for newspapers (because I also have a drama, music, and art background--and became a critic in these areas and an entertainment columnist). Then I added writing novels, because these freed me from the very restrictive writing I had to do for the government. But first I was an editor. This was satisfying when my office was still publishing hard copy (eight books--essentially an anthology of news articles worldwide--every working day, plus an occasional special translation of a foreign book. E.g., we were the first to translate "Khruschev Remembers"). When they went to electronic publishing only, I found I missed not working on a volume that I could hold in my hands when it was finished.

    I knew I wanted to retire from the government early (which I did--at 51) and that I wanted to write books of my own. But, although my annuity is generous, the stock market isn't, and I have to do something that brings in some money to maintain something close to the diplomat's life style I grew up with. As I was retiring I went back to the university to get degrees in editing and publishing--I thought just to inform myself on the process to help get my own books published but also because I harbored in the back of my mind the possibility of becoming a publisher. (My mother owned a regional literary fiction publishing house in the 1940's and 1950's while my dad was off fighting wars.)

    My editing/publishing classes taught me that only two people could count on getting paid in the publishing process: the printer and the copyeditor. So, to augment income from my own writing without having to work full time (although I have done full-time temporary stints in both a trade and an academic press to fill in for emergencies) I've become a book copyeditor. If my writing ever turned a steady profit, I'd probably let that take more of my time. No I don't enjoy editing more than I do writing (although my time is more disciplined when I am editing). No, editing doesn't pay wel (but it pays better than 90 percent of the writers make)l--but I only use it as a "pocket change" and "keeping busy" supplement.

  5. #5
    Lura
    Guest

    Fascinating subject

    Gary, this thread is fascinating, both for the content of the book about Al Qaeda and for the insight into the publishing business. I had a friend ask me about 6 months ago how they get books out so quickly -- I guessed that many of them had been written previous to Sept. 11 and that they had gone thru some of the process that you describe.

    When you do such a huge revision on a book, who actually does the re-writing? Do you re-write, or do you make suggestions to the author and have him or her re-write?

  6. #6
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: Fascinating subject

    I do what rewriting I can based on the material that's there (with "Fix OK?" author's queries wherever I've rewritten) and then just mark where the holes of missing data and discussion are for the author to fill in himself/herself. For something this complicated, it should be noted that I knew about as much of what was going on with this topic as the author did--otherwise I couldn't have done the massive rewrite without close work with the author. (The author is still "anonymous" to me as well.) Most of the material used as a base for this book was actually found, translated, and filed by my own folks when I was Middle East bureau chief for the government's foreign media news agency during the 1990s. I do sort of wonder who got away with writing this--because my agreements with my former employers would preclude my doing so.

    The thematic problem of this book was that it was written as a "wake up, America, something is going to happen" book (including a discussion on how the Al Qaeda terrorists who blew up the Cole trained for this scheme in the United States while on student visas--just the same way they subsequently did in the airplane attacks), and that "something" happened before the book could be published. No one really needs to "wake up" on this issue anymore--although it's still useful to learn that it shouldn't have been a surprise (to the public--the agencies involved had been screaming that it would happen for several years--and it certainly turned my hair gray a long time ago) and, more important, that it's wider and deeper than most realize. So, this particular book had to be recast and updated. I don't really think very many of the other books were already well on their way as this one was before 9/11.

  7. #7
    Pamela Taylor
    Guest

    Re: Fascinating subject

    Gary,

    I too was interested (read amazed) by the concept that you would be asked to edit out half a book! Do you edit much fiction, or only non-fiction? Would a publisher ask an editor to edit out half a work of fiction? That would blow my mind. You hear about authors being asked to cut 100 pages out of their book, which is bad enough, but to have someone else edit it out for you. Yikes!

    Just curious. (And praying no one does this to me!)

    Pamela

  8. #8
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: Fascinating subject

    Pamela: The only time I know of a publisher accepting a novel knowing they wanted/needed to edit out a big chunk was when "Journey" was cut out Michener's "Alaska" and published separately as a novel--because the original was deemed to be just too long.

    A good editor normally won't cut anything out of (or do more than simple grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style changes to) either nonfiction or fiction. They will mark the manuscript for suggestions of cuts and restructuring. Then if the author won't do it and the publisher agrees with the copyeditor that it needs to be done (and more often the acquisitions editor has marked the need for major changes already), the publisher might just drop the book and not publish it. I've know this to happen; when publishers are putting up all the risk money, they aren't real anxious to take a lot of attitude from an author--unless the author is a celeb or best-seller.

    I've only twice made massive changes to a book manuscript without working directly with the author. I edited the "tell all" memoir of Stalin's bodyguard--brought forth for publication after the author was dead (he wanted to die naturally was the explanation) and then with this book, where the identity of the author is so sensitive they didn't want even me to know who it is (I undoubtedly would know the person, if identified to me).

    Nonfiction that is too long is often identified for cutting (usually by taking out whole lines of argument or sections of inquiry). Fiction, especially by first-time novelists, is often cut by suggesting the first several chapters just be lopped off and start from where the story is getting good. Much more work on cutting will be done by the publisher with nonfiction than fiction, though. Fiction that is considered too long is more likely just not adopted for publishing and it's left up the author to decide whether he/she will rewrite and trim and try to find another publisher.

  9. #9
    Pamela Taylor
    Guest

    Re: Fascinating subject

    Thanks Gary, very informative.

    Pamela

  10. #10
    Mary M.
    Guest

    For Gary

    Very, very interesting. And thanks for the answer to my question about the timing of the release of the book. I have no doubt sinister politics determined its release.

    I, too, am dumbfounded with the array of 9/11 books. They're coming out of the woodwork and, in my opinion, beginning to reflect America's need to scream "Remember me, too!" Sadly, though, I doubt many will be considered historical reading.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts