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Beyond the Book Post and Giveway: MIDNIGHT RESCUE: The Editorial Process

At the beginning of the year, we featured a few posts by publishing “insiders”.  Elle Kennedy and her editor, Jesse Feldman, contacted me to see if I would be interested in posting about how Elle’s new Killer Instincts romantic suspense series was acquired.  I thought readers would like to follow a book from acquisition to publication based on why Jesse Feldman bought the book in the first place, why Elle Kennedy, a successful digitally published author and author of series romances, would go the route of traditional publishing when so many authors appear to be moving the opposite direction.  The following is the path of publication for Midnight Rescue, the first in the Killer Instinct series.  Jesse and Elle also indicated that they would pop in if you had a question.


Midnight-Rescue elle kennedyJF: To celebrate this month’s release of the first book, MIDNIGHT RESCUE, Elle and I are thrilled to be here answering questions about the book’s journey to publication. It’s been almost exactly a year since I acquired three books in a new romantic suspense series by Elle Kennedy for Signet Eclipse (part of Penguin).

Editors say this all the time, but I devoured this submission in one sitting. The heroine’s strength, emotionally and physically, hooked me within ten pages (in revisions, we dropped the prologue to emphasize her strength even more). This was not a romantic suspense where an alpha male swoops in to rescue the heroine; this was a book where the hero and heroine rescue each other.

Although I was excited about the potential of this series and author, the practical side of my brain knew this could be an uphill fight to acquisition. We were seeing very little romantic suspense published at the time—the popularity of sweet, small town contemporaries was really on the rise. MIDNIGHT RESCUE was actually almost the complete opposite of what I thought I was looking to acquire. But I fell in love with the manuscript’s darkness – and also how the romance and banter and friendships balance it out beautifully.

EK: For me, I knew the series would be a tough sell, but my agent and I thought it was worth it to put MIDNIGHT RESCUE in front of some editors to see what the response would be.  We received a several passes on the submission, most editors admitting they loved the book, but it was too dark for their list.  Either that, or the market for romantic suspense wasn’t as “in demand” as paranormal or sweet contemporaries. 

 So I was absolutely thrilled when Jesse acquired the book because of that darkness, and took a chance on a RS manuscript.

JF: Elle’s agent set up a phone call between us. I was hoping to get a sense of how well we could work together on revisions (whether my suggestions resonated with her), how eager Elle was to promote herself, and how active she was online (I’d also investigated this before the call – prepare to be googled, authors. Have a presence online already).

EK: I loved that initial call with Jesse.  Her enthusiasm about the story got me even more enthusiastic about it.  And her thoughts about promotion were eye opening.  At that point, I had somewhat of an online presence, but I realized I needed to do a lot more in terms of putting myself out there.

JF: Elle and I had a great talk, I loved the submission, and everyone who second read in my department agreed. Then we ran numbers and I made an offer for three books in the series.

EK: Best day ever? My agent calling with the news that Signet Eclipse made an offer.  I’m pretty sure I let out a girlish shriek—and people who know me well know that I’m super subdued and rarely girlishly shriek.

I’ve been asked why I chose to go the traditional route rather than self publish digitally or go with a strictly digital publisher, which a lot of authors are doing these days.  It all boils down to that childhood dream of wanting to see my name on the cover of a book, hold that book in my hands, flip through the pages, see it on actual shelves in an actual bookstore.  Bookstores are my favourite places on earth.  I read a lot of ebooks, of course, but for me, I just love having that hard copy of a story in my hands.  So I was so thrilled when Jesse called saying she wanted to publish MIDNIGHT RESCUE.

JF: Now the real fun began: edits! I read the manuscript several times before shooting an editorial letter and line edited manuscript off to Elle. We had a phone call a few days later. Elle jumped right into revisions with enthusiasm. I remember getting emails throughout the month like, “What if I add a dog?” (Authors: there’s ALWAYS room for a dog.)

I sent Elle four pages of notes, as well as a marked up manuscript file, for the first round of broad revisions. This is pretty average length of notes for me, plus or minus a few pages. As I mentioned above, we reworked the structure of the book a little bit, incorporating the prologue more into the story and streamlining character POVs. I also discussed with Elle how the hero and heroine weren’t as active in the climactic suspense plot as I’d hoped they would be. Both characters are strong and capable, but originally they were kept out of planning the rescue mission that is the focus of the book. During a brainstorming session on the phone, Elle came up with a twist that really pulls everything together at the end.

Elle and I had a lot of conversations about how to really be sure that Abby is completely empowered and active throughout the story, even as she learns that she needs to trust her teammates and the hero. This carries over to her sex scenes with the hero, where Elle really amped up Abby taking control of her sexuality, which I love and is an important part of her character’s growth. We also talked through different scenarios for ending the book that allowed Abby to not sacrifice any of her values (or skill set) in order to be with the hero romantically.

EK: I have a love/hate relationship with revisions.  It’s so incredibly difficult cutting or changing parts of a book that you worked on for so long and which has become a part of you.  But I’m lucky to have some wonderful editors who are able to look at that book objectively and tell me what it’ll take to make it even better.  Jesse is no exception.  Every single one of her suggestions made perfect sense to me, so making certain changes was no hardship.

Oh, and fun fact: I added my dog into the book.  Bear, the German shepherd mutt who belongs to one of my mercenaries, is actually my super awesome mutt.

JF: We also started brainstorming series names and cover concepts around this time. We look at what’s popular right now, and think about how to make the book stand out on shelves. This is Abby’s story, so we decided to take a little departure from traditional romantic suspense covers by depicting her alone on the cover. The difficulty was not making her seem like an urban fantasy heroine. As you can see, the designer did an amazing job.

EK:  I love, love, love this cover! When it showed up in my inbox, I was actually speechless (again, not characteristic—sadly, I am a babbler).  I couldn’t believe how fierce the heroine looked, and the colors were absolutely stunning.  After seeing the cover for MIDNIGHT RESCUE, I had no idea how the art department could possibly top it for Book 2.

JF: The art department actually is working on the cover for book #2, MIDNIGHT ALIAS, now. Sometimes photos of potential male cover models appear in my inbox. Designing covers is fun.

EK: Once the book had a cover, it felt even more “real” to me.  And around this time, Jesse had read the revisions and approved them, so the book was moving along on its journey to publication.

JF: We had done two rounds of revisions before turning it over to managing editorial for copyediting. When you’ve read something five or six times and it still resonates with you emotionally, you know it’s a gem!

EK: For me, once the book has been copy-edited, I start to freak out.  Because at this point, I can’t really make any more changes—and what if I suddenly decide that something needs to change?!  Standing by and letting the book get immortalized in print/digital form is like waving goodbye to your kids when they go to college.  You’ve got to let them stand on their own now, no matter how scary that is.

JF: Elle turned in revisions for book #2 in the series (out next Feb) and the outline for book #3 this month. And this whole cycle begins again!

We’re giving away 5 copies of MIDNIGHT RESCUE: A Killer Instincts Novel to randomly selected comments below. Leave a question or comment for Elle or myself—do you have a question about the editorial process we didn’t cover? We’ll try to reply and maybe you’ll win a book!

Visit Elle’s website for more information on MIDNIGHT RESCUE.


Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Danielle D
    May 22, 2012 @ 05:51:23

    I do not have a question I just want to congratute Elle on her new series and I can’t wait to read Midnight Rescue. I have your Heat series and I loved them all.

  2. TrishJ
    May 22, 2012 @ 06:43:06

    YAY! Congrats on the new series. Romantic suspense is my favorite genre. I need a HEA, but I love the action and darkness that a romantic suspense brings. My question … When you are so excited for your book to be in print, is it hard to fight to keep something in that you absolutely think NEEDS to be left in?? I think it would be like cutting off a finger. LOL. I would LOVE To win a copy of your book.

  3. Rita Oberlies
    May 22, 2012 @ 07:31:19

    Congrats on the new series! I’m a huge fan of Elle’s contemporary romances from Samhain. It’s been months since I’ve picked up a romantic suspense, I will definitely be downloading this on my Kindle.

  4. Angela
    May 22, 2012 @ 07:32:24

    I don’t really have a question either, but I am excited for this book. I’ve just been getting back into romantic suspense, so hearing there’s one with a heroine that does just as much saving as the hero is great! Plus, I greatly enjoyed the Heat series, so this sounds like a win-win.

  5. Jules
    May 22, 2012 @ 08:25:19

    Congrats on the new series! I’ve haven’t read any romantic suspense in awhile but this sounds like the perfect book to start back up again.

  6. Lisa J
    May 22, 2012 @ 08:27:49

    Is it difficult to work with different editors? Do you need to adjust your style/writing depending on the editor?

    I love your Samhain books and will definitely look for this in e-format.

  7. CrystalGB
    May 22, 2012 @ 08:32:35

    Congratulations on your new series. Sounds great. I love the cover of Midnight Rescue. Thanks for sharing the editorial process with us.

  8. Amy P.
    May 22, 2012 @ 09:05:09

    Congratulations on seeing your name “on the cover of a book” – what an accomplishment!!! I would probably just sit in a bookstore and stare at my name on the shelf. Of course, since I’m not an author . . . it would never happen . . . but I could just imagine the thrill!

    I love romantic suspense and this one sound perfect for me. Can’t wait to read it!

  9. KatieF
    May 22, 2012 @ 09:06:46


    Did you intend to write a series? If so, did you have other books in the series already written or at least planned in some way?

  10. Jesse Feldman
    May 22, 2012 @ 09:44:45

    @CrystalGB: Crystal, I’m so happy you like the cover. We really wanted to emphasize the strong heroine. Thanks for commenting!

  11. Rebe
    May 22, 2012 @ 10:37:23

    This is the second time in a matter of days that I’ve heard that publishers aren’t acquiring Romantic Suspense these days, which is a surprise to me. Any ideas about why?

  12. Elle Kennedy
    May 22, 2012 @ 11:02:19

    @TrishJ: A finger? It’s like cutting off my whole hand! But honestly? Usually when my editor suggests cutting something, the reasoning behind it makes such perfect sense that I end up doing it without complaint. Only a few times have I fought to keep a certain scene or moment in the book–and my editor ended up agreeing with me after I stated my case :)

  13. Elle Kennedy
    May 22, 2012 @ 11:11:03

    @Lisa J: I have 3 editors at the moment, and the process is very easy with each one of them. For category romantic suspense, I do have to adjust to the style of the publisher (in terms of length, no curse words, no overly dark subject matter), but my writing voice stays the same. I had one editor in the past who just didn’t “get” my voice, and there were constant attempts on her part to get me to change the fundamental way in which I write–my “voice”. Needless to say, that relationship wasn’t very successful. Not because she wasn’t a good editor and I wasn’t a good writer, but because our reading/writing tastes just didn’t mesh. Fortunately, I really lucked out with my current editors!

  14. susan
    May 22, 2012 @ 11:12:15

    This book sounds really good, and I love the insight into the process of getting there.

  15. Elle Kennedy
    May 22, 2012 @ 11:21:23

    @KatieF: Katie, I did intend to write a series, and I had stories in mind for many of the characters. I knew I wanted to do something with Jim Morgan, the boss of the mercenary group, and D, the mysterious kinda-jerk on the team, and Noelle the assassin. Ironically, books 2 and 3 of Killer Instincts are NOT about any of these characters! Morgan, D and Noelle do appear in the books, but not as main characters. I definitely have books in mind for them though :)

  16. Elle Kennedy
    May 22, 2012 @ 11:22:53

    @Rebe: Rebe, I’m really not sure why that is. Maybe Jesse has some thoughts? RS is my favourite genre, so I have no clue why it’s not as popular these days!

  17. Katherine
    May 22, 2012 @ 14:33:02

    That was a fascinating glimpse into the journey from acquisition to publication. I can see how difficult it would be as the author to change or remove sentences and paragraphs that you spent hours crafting!

    Elle – I really enjoyed your Out of Uniform series.

    Question for both Elle and Jesse: can you quantify how much of the original submitted manuscript remains in the published book? I expect that the amount varies for each author and manuscript, but I’d love hear what it was for this book.

  18. sarac
    May 22, 2012 @ 19:52:55

    The cover really is a great cover! All of it just pops!

  19. library addict
    May 22, 2012 @ 20:44:43

    Congrats on the new series. Romantic Suspense is my favorite subgenre, so I’m sad it’s not sought out more by editors. Glad that Jesse felt the need to take a chance on this one.

  20. Kaetrin
    May 22, 2012 @ 22:03:05

    Congratulations on the new release Elle. I enjoy a good RS. The journey to publishing story was interesting too. thx for sharing. :)

  21. Turophile
    May 22, 2012 @ 22:35:29

    Fascinated and intrigued by both the book and the discussion of the editing process. Congratulations Elle.

  22. Marc
    May 22, 2012 @ 22:57:39

    Congrats and this was a great little feature.

  23. Julie
    May 23, 2012 @ 03:59:03

    The rise and fall of “popular” genres is really fascinating to me. It’s a little bit like watching the stock market: unpredictable! Congratulations on being published, I can’t wait to see more in this series.

  24. Helen
    May 23, 2012 @ 08:30:37

    Congratulations! Can’t wait to start reading this series. Thanks for the opportunity.

  25. Jesse Feldman
    May 23, 2012 @ 09:53:26

    @Katherine: Thanks for stopping by, Katherine! That’s a tricky question because it definitely varies by title, but for MIDNIGHT RESCUE, a lot of what we worked on beefed up scenes and added more layers of development. So I’d say 94.3% of the original sub, with scenes added — or, when we decided a section didn’t fit into the narrative cleanly (like I mentioned with multiple POVs), Elle figured out ways to layer that information into a different section, so it wasn’t strictly cutting. It’s pretty rare to just have a chapter that adds nothing to the overall experience.

  26. Heather Greye
    May 23, 2012 @ 10:54:58


    I hate it when I hear that the market for romantic suspense just isn’t … it’s one of my favorites genres.

    Does the trilogy follow the same characters?

  27. Sandy D.
    May 23, 2012 @ 17:08:47

    Great cover – it definitely caught my interest.

  28. Elle Kennedy
    May 25, 2012 @ 13:22:13

    @Heather Greye: Heather, the series does follow the same characters. Book 2’s hero is another member of the mercenary team, and Book 3’s hero and heroine are also main characters. It’s been fun focusing on all these fun, badass characters!

  29. Jennifer U
    May 27, 2012 @ 09:44:04

    So excited to read your book!

  30. Heather Greye
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 12:15:18

    I was at B&N this weekend looking for a book and when I saw the cover, remembered this post and bought.

    I enjoyed it a lot and am excited that there’s a new romantic suspense author out there to enjoy.

    Keep those book coming! :)

  31. Jesse Feldman
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 16:06:09

    @Heather Greye: Thanks so much, Heather! I love hearing that :-)

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