Killer Year–The Class of 2007

A Head-Smacking Good Time
August 14, 2006, 12:00 am
Filed under: Jason Pinter, Killer Year Members

I’ve been here before. Well, ok, I haven’t been here before, but I’ve been on the other side and lived vicariously through my authors. Yet I never sipped the nectar myself. Wait, did I say nectar? I meant absinthe. Jaegermeister maybe?

I know how these things usually go. Editors buys a book from an author and author’s agent. Editor edits the book, which means either they craft a long, detailed letter on pretty company stationary, or they take a red pencil and turn the manuscript into a casualty from Nip/Tuck. Sometimes they do a bit of both. Depending on how much work the book needs, I prefer the latter.  I bludgeon the manuscript with red pencil (though my pencil tips always seem to break right after I sharpen them), then write a ledit etter outlining some of the bigger issues that couldn’t be explained on the page (i.e. where I don’t trust my third-grader handwriting to accurately convey some specific points and end up with the author misunderstanding me and setting the whole thing on fire).

So after we sold THE MARK, my editor, Linda, took pencil to manuscript. She did a terrific job. She did such a good job, in fact, that I encountered that writerly feeling, that feeling I’m pretty sure all published writers get at some point, where they look at the red carvings and think, “my god look at all these corrections, are you sure you want to publish my book?”

So I incorporated 95% of her changes. There were a few I had issues with, and I explained them. I won. Bwahaha. So I rearranged a few sections, even cut out a few whole chapters, shortened the book by about 6,000 words, and turned in a lean, mean 86,000 word draft (about 12k shorter than the first draft).

And on another issue, about two weeks ago I get that awesome email from Linda, saying the art department has come up with a cover concept, and they want to know what my agent and I think. Needless to say I’m psyched beyond belief. I wonder if people will assume I’m related to Harold Pinter. Or maybe Duane Swierczynski. Anyway, I get the email with a jpeg attached. I open the jpeg which reveals the cover design. And my reaction to the first cover concept could have been conveyed by one word.


It wasn’t terrible, it was just “meh.” It looked like a thriller cover, that’s for sure, but it had as much personality as Orlando Bloom. I know there are only so many ways you can publish a thriller, but this cover didn’t do it for me. I talked with my agent. He agreed with me (way to earn that 15%, baby!). So I sent my editor a note offering some specific suggestions (i.e. “More personality.”) She wrote back saying she didn’t love the cover either, and would forward our thoughts to the art department. Sounded good.

In the meantime, she was going over my new lean, mean draft of THE  MARK. And this Friday she sent me another round of edits. Pretty standard. Dr. Christian Troy didn’t have quite as many cuts to make. So I spent Saturday and Sunday going over her red-penciled surgery. My fiancee was also kind enough to send me a mini book report with her constructive criticism. Yet another round of head-smacking on my part. Sunday night I finished up the new round of edits, which was, I believe, my 8th draft of the book since I started writing it. It clocked in at 87,000 words and change.

Oh yeah, and earlier in the week the awesomeness that is Linda sent me another jpeg. New concepts from the art department. I expected to open the attachment and find one more go at the cover. But to my surprise, I opened it to find EIGHT new cover concepts. EIGHT. All completely different treatments and designs, all for the most part better than the original (except for one which looked like a blurry guy going the wrong way on a Slip-N-Slide, but that’s besides the point).  I downloaded the covers to my cell phone. I’m a huge dork. 

One cover jumped out at me. It’s VERY cool. Great colors, good imagery, kind of old-school and nu wave at the same time, like that wonderful feeling the first time you heard Ace of Base. Ok, maybe not. My agent liked the cover too (that 15% is a bargain!), so we let the goddess that is Linda know. The art department is going to spruce it up, and make the colors more rich. I’m wondering if I can pay my editor and cover designer a commission too.

Plus I turned in my outline for book #2, tentatively titled THE REGULATOR, which will be published in January 2008. My agent liked it (I’m thinking of doubling his commission). I’ve never outlined before. I don’t like outlining. When I started writing THE MARK, I knew exactly three scenes ahead of time. None of them made it to the final draft. So when I sent the outline of THE REGULATOR to my editor, I stressed 3,481 times that things “might” change (i.e. don’t expect the first chapter to stay the same). Did I mentioned my agent liked it?

So now THE MARK is just about ready to go into production, whereupon a copyeditor will eviscerate it like a minor character from “Saw III,” and I’ll have to put it back together again. But my editor has done a fantastic job, we’re on the right track with the cover, and by the end of my contract I might end up owing my agent money.

All in all a pretty good week. And my agent liked it too.

Jason Pinter

author of THE MARK

coming July 2007 from MIRA books

9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Why do I want to laugh? LOL. I’m just finishing up that second round of minor revisions (my editor doesn’t use red, so they don’t feel as, I don’t know, violent.)

EIGHT cover concepts? Wow. I got one. Fortunately, it rocks. (well, it’s one concept for three covers because they have to go together.) I can’t wait to play cover show and tell!


Comment by Allison Brennan

You’re in it neck deep now! How cool to get 8 cover possibilities. Hoping to see a cover pretty soon myself. Spent the weekend working on synopsis for book 2 and proofing the galleys of THE CLEANER.

Sounds like things are going great, Jason. Way to go!

Comment by Brett Battles

I was lucky on my cover. Loved my little JPEG from the very moment it arrived. Still haven’t seen edits yet. Got my fingers crossed on those.

Comment by Bill Cameron

I’m so scared of looking at the cover and not liking it, so I’m really glad it worked out for you.

Comment by Sandra Ruttan

Hey, how come Sandra never calls me a goddess?

Comment by Kat

One cover concept for me. And my initial reaction was hmmm. I didn’t know if I loved it or hated it. But it started growing on me. And growing. And then everyone else told me how much THEY love it and suddenly I’m thinking — hey — this cover is pretty friggin’ cool. Certainly one that people will pick up if they see it in the bookstores — and that’s all we want, right?

I think my intial problem was that the cover was mainstream. And I tend to lean toward offbeat. But my book doesn’t require offbeat and offbeat would probably scare a lot of people away.

So, in the end, I’ve learned an important lesson: trust your editor and your art department. They’ve done this MANY times before.

As for the editing process — I got the letter. That’s it. And not a very long one. So I feel VERY fortunate. Red pencil would have killed me.

Comment by Robert Gregory Browne

I can’t wait to write this column myself. Thank you so much for sharing the process, inquiring minds always want to know…:)

Comment by JT Ellison

I’ve been trying to get out of the habit of referring to people as deities, Kat. Hence ‘The Author Formerly Known as God’…

Comment by Sandra Ruttan

(sigh) I don’t think I’m going to see a cover until late fall. But I did just get my first bound ms. copy! With my name on it, spelled correctly and everything! Woo!

Comment by toni mcgee causey

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