Meet the book editor who polishes the words of Charlotte writers

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If you don’t have any books by Charlotte authors on your night stand, there is plenty of literary talent to discover in our city. And Betsy Thorpe has helped notable local writers get their work on bookstore shelves.

A friend recommended Betsy when I needed advice on a writing project, and I was thrilled to find someone with her expertise close to home. After years working as an editor for New York City publishers such as HarperCollins, Betsy moved to the Queen City in 2006. She helps writers across the country edit their work and navigate the publishing world, whether they are self-publishing or hoping to score a book deal. Also a ghostwriter, Betsy co-wrote the 2008 book 365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy, with Charla Muller of Charlotte. The book made local news, and received national media attention including a segment on the Oprah show.

Betsy’s client list includes both first-time novelists and those writing memoirs, as well as professionals like doctors, athletes and industry experts interested in non-fiction. Michelle Icard, a parenting expert and the author of Middle School Makeover, is one of Betsy’s clients you may have seen in the news. The Charlotte mom went viral last year, after overhearing a group of teenage girls at a local Starbucks and penning them a note about kindness.

After the success of Middle School Makeover, a guide with advice for parents and kids navigating the tween years, Betsy recently helped Michelle get her new book ready to send to publishers.

Betsy also works with a Charlotte physician who happens to be a novelist. Kimmery Martin, M.D., an emergency room doctor, sold her first novel to Berkley Books this past spring. Kimmery had queried numerous literary agents with no success, so she reworked her book with Betsy’s guidance.

Betsy said, “She landed one of my very favorite agents to represent her, and her agent got her a book deal within a week. I can’t wait for people to read her book, The Queen of Hearts, set in our fair city, coming out next year. Her writing is beautiful, funny and touching.”

Though landing a big-time agent is the dream for many writers, a lucrative contract is no longer a must-have for a successful book.

Betsy said, “Now the world is a bit more flat as far as book publishing is concerned. If you are interested in self-publishing there are many avenues available to you, and since the majority (of options) are print-on-demand, once you upload the book there are no fees to you except the book’s cost.”

David Oakley, creative director of BooneOakley advertising, opted to publish his book independently. Oakley, an advertising legend in the Queen City and beyond, wrote a collection of humorous essays about his life in the industry. He turned to Betsy for help with publishing, and scored a literary agent and interest from two publishers. But they were interested in changing the format to a “how-to” business book. Oakley stuck with his vision to share comical stories from his career, and collaborated with Betsy to self-publish Why Is Your Name Upside Down?

If you haven’t attended an author reading or book event, Betsy encourages people in Charlotte to connect with the local literary scene.

“I’m continually excited by the depth of talent here in this city, and the greater Carolinas,” she said. “You may think this is a banking and healthcare town, but there is a great community of talented authors, up-and-coming writers and dedicated readers.”

Betsy’s tips on discovering local authors (and perhaps cultivating your inner novelist)

– We have an outstanding independent bookstore that gets a ton of impressive authors:Park Road Books. Get on their newsletter list and ask around at the store for advice on books and events.

– Dannye Romine Powell’s Reading Matters book column in the Observer always has news about local authors and national authors coming to town.

– Charlotte Talks on WFAE often has very good authors on the show, and I’m proud some of my clients have been on!

– The Women’s National Book Association chapter here in Charlotte (men are welcome!) has a book club and a writers’ group. Charlotte Writer’s Club is here, and the North Carolina Writer’s Network has three conferences every year.

Photo: Jessica Milligan

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