Monday, August 24, 2009

Kristen Weber, book editor extraordinaire

Patty here...

I am delighted to have as my guest, Kristen Weber, my former editor at Mysterious Press and NAL/Penguin.

Kristen Weber—L.A.'s top new freelance editor

Kristen has worked as an in-house editor for her entire book-publishing career (except for a brief stint as a subsidiary rights assistant). For the uninitiated, an editor not only edits an author's manuscript but she also supervises every aspect of the book from cover art to catalog copy. If that weren't enough, she functions as the author's sounding board and cheerleader. With insight and aplomb Kristen guided me (and all four of my novels) through the perilous waters of the publishing world.

Just a few of the other authors she has edited: Louise Ure, Cornelia Read, Karen E. Olson,
M.C. Beaton, Elizabeth Bloom, Beverly Connor, Tim Green, Victoria Laurie, Mary Kennedy, Margaret Maron, Marcia Muller, Gail Oust, David Rosenfelt, Beth Saulnier, Kate White, and Wendy Watson.

She recently relocated to Los Angeles for her husband’s job and is currently freelance editing in between relearning to drive and hanging out with her pug (we’re happy to share a pic of him as well).

Samson Weber—L.A.'s new top dog

You can learn more about her editing services here:

Diary of a Mystery Lover

by Kristen Weber

Bred on a steady diet of Nancy Drew novels, it was no surprise all I ever wanted to be was someone that solved crimes…an FBI agent to be exact.

I decided to go the law school to FBI path. But just as I was about to sign my life away to hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans, I decided to take a step back and make sure law school was really the right path for me.

I decided to do something with my very first love – books – and found an assistant position at a major publishing house. A few years later the head of their mystery line realized what a rabid fan I was of all things mystery and she invited me to be her assistant. I’ve never looked back.

As a mystery fan, I know I had the perfect job – and it worked for my family too. It was a lot safer to be solving crimes inside books than on the streets.

But even if I wasn’t working specifically on mysteries and thrillers, I’m happy to report that working on any type of book as an editor is very similar to solving a mystery.

First, as an editor working in house, we read a manuscript we have on submission and “something” makes us fall in love with it. You just know that the book has something special and you feel it in your gut – kind of like meeting the man of your dreams - but you need to figure out what exactly that something special is so you can sell it to the rest of your editorial team, and eventually sales, art, publicity, marketing, etc. so everyone can get as excited about the book as you are. That’s the first mystery we as editors need to solve…there are a lot of books that are perfectly publishable but we’re looking for the one with that indefinable “it” quality that pushes it to the front of the pack. This “it” quality is subjective, which is why I always tell authors I’m working with to just keep pushing on…one day you’ll find the right agent and editor who see your work as you do.

And then, once an editor actually starts the editing process – either in-house as I used to be or now on a freelance basis, there are a lot of mysteries to solve. Like a doctor diagnosing a patient, we need to figure out how to help the author and the manuscript reach their full potential, while keeping their own voice and vision intact. It’s a delicate balance…and a mystery I love helping an author solve.

Of course, as a mystery or thriller editor there are even more mysteries to solve….
And even though I’ve gone freelance, I am finding plenty to investigate as I work on manuscripts by the pool…and I also have a few suspicious looking neighbors I might look into as well.

Happy Monday!


  1. Hi Kristen,
    great to read about how you got into the business :) and I loooove your dog!

  2. Welcome Kristen,

    Great to have you in L.A. On average, how many new manuscripts did you review in a week?

  3. Kristen Weber8/24/2009 7:29 AM

    Hi everyone!
    It is great to be visiting Naked Authors. Patty, I usually received 2-6 agent submissions a day as an editor in-house. I'm not sure exactly how many I reviewed a week (and it varied, depending on what I was editing of the books I'd already acquired) but I also had an editorial assistant to help me review manuscripts as they came in.

  4. from Jacqueline

    Thanks for the column, Kristen. The "2-6 manuscripts per day" makes me even more surprised and grateful to ever have been published (I am in this state all the time, but your words have amped it it a bit). All the very best to you in sunny LA!

  5. Craig Faustus Buck8/24/2009 8:30 AM

    Hi Kristen,

    I'm still working on the rewrite per your insightful notes. Thanks again. Good to see you posting and puppyful.



  6. Hey, Kristen! Long time no see. California looks good on you, girl. And Samson is just too cute.

    Writers, if you're looking for someone with insight, a razor-sharp mind and a great appreciation of the crime fiction genre to help you pull your manuscript together, you could do no better than to work with Kristen. I'm living proof.

  7. Are we soon to see a book authored by Samson? A puppy guide to L.A. perhaps?

  8. Kristen,

    I'm so glad I stumbled across your post ... Your NAL family certainly misses you. Best of luck in LA, and don't be a stranger. :)


  9. Welcome. Us Left Coast storytellers knows our grammer and sintax, so our manuscripts (and womanuscripts) don't need no fancy New York City brushups. Good luck anyhows.

  10. Kristin,
    Great to know you've landed on your feet. What do you think of L.A.?

    Any chance you'll come visit NM some time soon?

  11. James O. Born8/24/2009 11:50 AM

    Hey Kristen,
    I didn't realize you left NAL. Their loss.

    Good luck in the new venture.

    Jim Born

  12. Kristen Weber8/24/2009 12:00 PM

    It's so nice to see so many old friends chiming in! I'm happy to report that Louise's FORCING AMARYLLIS was one of the very first books I ever acquired as an editor. We were both new to the game...and yet it was an amazing way to start for both of us!! And Wendy's I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM (Obsidian, 10/09) was one of the last books I worked on at cream AND a mystery is pretty much the best way to go out with a bang.

  13. Ah, those good ole days with Louise and the freshman
    class at Mysterious Press...fond memories indeed.

  14. You were a super editor, Kristen, and with apologies for the cliche, you left tough shoes to fill. I think all your L.A. authors should get together and take you to lunch :)

  15. Kristen Weber8/24/2009 4:18 PM

    As long as that lunch is followed by dessert, I am in :)

  16. Don't you mean "as long as dessert is followed by lunch?"

  17. Kristen Weber8/24/2009 4:33 PM

    Patty, exactly! Or we could just skip straight to dessert!

  18. There will definitely be chocolate!

  19. The chocolate comment was from me. I just don't know what I'm doing...

  20. oh you folks crack me up!!!!!