Friday, June 29, 2007

Kimberly Dean Talks about Flexibility

Kimberly Dean
High School Reunion
Publisher: Cheek
Pub date: May 2007
Agent: Jessica Faust

(Click to Buy)

Author Web site:

High School Reunion: Roma's high school reunion is approaching fast—and she's not ready. She has a good job, but she needs the whole package if she's going to make that killer entrance. A toned body, great outfit, and hunky escort are crucial. Fortunately, personal trainer Jake might be the eye candy she needs.

A Case Study in Being Flexible

In a recent post, Kim discussed the importance of remaining flexible when it comes to your work—particularly in regards to the story title. I thought I’d give you a behind-the-scenes look at what happened during the evolution of my story, High School Reunion, because you may be asked to compromise on more than just the title. As an author, the trick is knowing just how much you can bend, yet still feel comfortable.

• Be flexible on timing (aka having patience). This is the hardest one for me. I submitted the manuscript for High School Reunion under an option clause I’d committed to with Black Lace Publishing, but I waited a year to hear back from them. When I finally decided to pull my submission, my editor latched on to the story and wouldn’t let go. They’d just started a new line of erotic romance called Cheek, and they thought this story would be perfect for it. Would I be interested in changing lines? Um, let me think about it. . . . Yeah.

• Be flexible on unimportant content. My editor was concerned because my lead female character was named Rory, which is primarily a man’s name in England. (Cheek is a British publishing house.) Would I mind changing it to Roma? No big deal. That’s a cute name, too, and Word has this nifty little feature called “replace all.”

• Be flexible on titles. High School Reunion was initially titled Body Heat. My editor thought this had been overdone. She wanted something catchy, sexy, and current. Yet when she proposed High School Reunion, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. I don’t see that as being catchy, sexy, or current in any way. However, she thought that readers could relate. I conceded on this point, but it’s still my least favorite title of anything I’ve published. I bowed to her marketing sense on this one. Would I do it again? I don’t know.

• Be flexible on edits. When edits came back, my editor wanted a significant addition. She requested that more conflict be added by making one of the villains also Roma’s rival for Jake’s attention. I thought this was a great idea. What I didn’t consider great was that I was asked to do this in a week. I absolutely drew the line at that. I can not take apart a puzzle, add more pieces, and put it back together with any semblance of order in a week. I negotiated for more time. Know when being flexible might break you.

In the end, my editor was very happy with the finished product. So was I. While there had been many changes, the story was still mine—and the changes were mostly for the better. High School Reunion has received some of my best reviews to date, and now it’s being re-released in mass market format. Yay!

Feel free to ask Kimberly questions in the comments section. She'll pop in during the day to answer them.

To learn more about Kimberly Dean, see Our Books at


Anonymous said...

Interesting post! I think it's very important to know when to adapt... and when not to. Is there anything in particular you know you would have refused to change?


Kimber Li said...

I liked your editor's advice on the title, especially. As a reader, I step into the Romance aisle and am hit with similar titles and similar covers. Anything that can set your book apart is a good thing. Otherwise, the only way we know how to find something special is through personal recommendation. Some readers buy off the shelf and on impulse, but none of the readers I know do. This is one reason why. The title, High School Reunion, immediately gives us a clue what it's about. Body Heat would just tell us there's sex in it, but almost all romance novels have that too.

Anonymous said...

Maybe shelf placement is everything here, but I immediately think Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion with your editor's title and character name choices. Especially when the synopsis starts, "Roma's high school reunion..." And I didn't even see the movie.

How much did you feel you had the power to say 'no' on any of the things the editor (or even Jessica) asked for, if you wanted? Which would be hard, hard, hard for an author to do for any debut or even first 3 or 4 novels, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Hi anonymous,

I guess I would have balked at any request to change the relationship between the two supporting characters. Their relationship is much more raw than the leads, and I wanted that contrast. Roma is also very klutzy and funny. I liked that about her and wouldn't have wanted her polished and perfect.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kimber an and Anonymous 8:44,

Kimber, I'm so glad you said that, because it supports her claim. It makes me feel like I made the right decision.

However, Anonymous!!! I've been waiting for someone to notice that for a long, long time. My editor was concerned about Body Heat's connection to a movie. Yet, this title did precisely the same thing. To make it even more ironic, the supporting female character is named Missy. Yup. You got it. Roma and Missy's High School Reunion.

Anonymous said...

Funny that the publisher hung onto your manuscript for a year . . . and then wanted you to make some pretty significant revisions in a week! Yikes. Glad you were able to get the time you needed.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:44,

Sorry, I missed your second question. I think you have to have the confidence to talk with your editor and agent as an equal. That doesn't so much mean taking a hard stance of "no" as it does discussing "why". I'm not one of those authors who sees her work as her baby. I see it as a product I'm producing, and I want to make it the best I can. I stand up for things like continuity, character development, and pacing.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:42,

That time discrepancy did not escape my attention. LOL. Editors are funny.

Mechele Armstrong said...

How long did you get to make that revision on conflict?

What would you consider a revision that you couldn't be flexible on?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mechele,

I think I negotiated for 3 weeks, which still made it kind of tight.

What revision wouldn't I be flexible on? Anything that made a hero or heroine too stupid to live.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kimberly Dean. Nice of you to let us ask you questions.

When receiving edits from your agent, and then an editor, do you ever find their requests are opposite of each other?

First, the agent says, "Get rid of this scene, you don't need it. And later, an editor says, "There's a big hole here, can you try a scene like this?"

Obviously an editor is BUYING the book, so maybe her comments hold more weight, but overall, whose comments do you agree with more?

You might not want to get specific, but in general, who helps you shape the book the most, agent or editor? Or does it depend on the book?

--YA writer

Anonymous said...

Hi YA writer,

I'm actually finding this to be fun. It's making me think!

As to your question, timing really comes into play. I work with Jessica first. She's concentrating on the points that will make it attractive to the editors. We need to make that sale to the publishing house first. Once the manuscript is sold, I work with the editor. She's concentrating on the points that will make it attractive to the readers/buyers. Obviously, there's some overlap, but I've found it to be a natural progression. I've never had an agent who got too heavily involved in the editing process once the sale has been made. Maybe others have???

And here's a trick I've found helpful. If I do need to make a major cut, I don't throw that section away. I save the cuts into another file. That way I can add them back in if they're needed, move them to another place, use the scene in an entirely different book, or just let them sit for posterity.

Leiha said...

Hi Kimberly,

I dont know if you'll see this but I was wondering if you will be at RWA this year? Can you believe the pic I took with you last year didn't turn out and I need one.

I have to say neither title blows me away but I am someone who buys a book because of the author and I really enjoy your work, no matter the title. That being said, I thought the title Tiger Lily was wonderful and suited the story perfectly.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leiha!

Yes, I will be at the RWA National conference in Dallas. You probably wore your poor camera out with all the pictures you took last year.

I didn't think Body Heat was the perfect title, either. However, I never came up with anything better and High School Reunion did tap into those feelings of excitement and dread we all get. Tiger Lily simply couldn't have been anything else.

Leiha said...

Yay! I'll be on the lookout for you. I have a new camera this year, EG!