Bill Arnott’s Beat: Editors and Publishing

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] fired two editors before I even began. One was hurt. The other relieved. The former sent me a gushing email as though we’d broken up after years of union, shared offspring and pets rather than the brief intro we’d had over coffee. The latter wished me well in a way that made it clear she knew she’d dodged a horrific client. This dawned on me as she skipped away humming Katrina and the Waves.

The unsuspecting winner behind door number three became my editor, working with me for the next few months to thresh out my nonfiction – part memoir, part life-instruction manual. She did the things most editors do – correcting punctuation, tidying structure, coaxing improved writing and a better overall flow to the work. This killed a lot of my jokes. Euthanized may be more accurate. But the result was good. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#606060″ class=”” size=”26″]”[I] have to admit, having a beautiful woman read dirty books to you is a fine way to spend an afternoon.”[/perfectpullquote] We met up sometime later at a writers’ conference. Our book was doing well. I was pleased, planning a follow-up. She felt I needed a new genre, insisting I start writing erotic fiction. Maybe she was prescient. Fifty Shades hadn’t yet hit the shelves.

I’d just heard Diana Gabaldon reading erotica to a small group of us in a breakout room. I was playing hooky from my day job (the one paying the bills) and have to admit, having a beautiful woman read dirty books to you is a fine way to spend an afternoon. Gabaldon’s work is well researched and engaging. She delivers it brilliantly. But it’s assuredly not my voice. Knowing this makes my writing better. Despite my editor’s capabilities, I don’t believe she could ever find me an erotic muse. I’d only giggle, possibly showing her the formula to spell BOOBS on a calculator.

So instead we worked with what we had – a popular self-published book. And began to look for traditional publishers. No one was interested. It didn’t fit, we were told. Feeling she’d put in enough time, my editor wished me well and disappeared, vanishing in a cloud of red proofreading marks – poof!

Now, traditional publishers don’t only acknowledge successful self-published books but seek them out, welcoming work with established readerships and marketability. I rather liked the fact my first book didn’t fit, confirming its uniqueness. Since then I’ve had subsequent self-published stuff picked up by traditional publishers. It makes me proud – a sense of acceptance and approval. But despite originality, the more recent work does in fact fit. The human paradox – wanting to belong while wanting individuality. So rather than fence-sitting I’ve chosen facets of it all – working with and without an editor, self-publishing work I want to say in a manner I don’t want to be changed and still carrying on with submissions, rejections and the occasional acceptance from traditional publishers and their machete-wielding editorial staff. It’s a fine balance. And it works. I like the collaborative. But at times the rugged individual in me needs a frontiersman approach to creating – writing what only I know, my voice singular. The same, I suspect, as every one of us.

Originally published by the Federation of BC Writers.


Author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Dromomania, and Allan’s Wishes. His Indie Folk album is Studio 6. Bill’s work is published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. He’s been awarded songwriting and poetry prizes and is a Whistler Independent Book Awards Finalist with Gone Viking: A Travel Saga. Find Bill on Amazon, social media @billarnott_aps, or

Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, the Gone Viking travelogues, and A Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot (Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land. 

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