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Should you use a Professional Editor? An Interview with Todd Barselow

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With the proliferation of self-publishing and the rise of the independent author comes the question every writer trying to break into the field must ask themselves; Should I hire a professional editor?

In an effort to help authors make this difficult decision, the Tampa Bay Books Examiner has gone to someone who might be able to make that choice easier.

Todd Barselow is the Senior Editor at Imajin Books, a small Canadian publishing house and has worked with a rising number of writers (both independent and through his company) at perfecting their work and getting it ready for public consumption and review.

In the following interview, Mr. Barselow discusses what he, specifically, does for authors, the different types of editing he offers and what he thinks about the growing number of independent authors and their effect on the publishing world.

We hope his answers will help you make an informed decision as you begin your journey on the brand new path to self-publishing.

Enjoy!

1 – As a professional editor, exactly what do you do for your clients?

My main task is to ensure that every manuscript I work on is cleaned up and publication ready. That entails correcting grammar and tense issues, spelling and punctuation problems, as well as any narrative inconsistencies that may be present. As a reader first and foremost, it’s always my intention to ensure that the reader has the best experience possible when reading a book that I’ve worked on.
I offer developmental editing, line editing, and proofreading. All three of these are included in the quoted price, unless the author doesn’t wish me to do any developmental editing. I also utilize a secondary proofreader to ensure the highest standard of quality.
I always follow the author’s lead as far as the level of edit requested. If I feel a more thorough edit than was requested is required, I’ll make that case to the author with a detailed explanation.

2 – Many “newbie” writers, I believe, worry that an editor will change their voice or inhibit what they’re trying to say. What is your response to that?

It is never my intention to change the author’s voice or vision when I’m editing a manuscript. I don’t feel that it’s my job as an editor to do that unless it’s requested in the form of developmental editing, which I’m more than happy to do. I will almost always make suggestions that I think will improve the story, whether it be adding to dialogue or shifting sentence structure so that it reads better, offering alternate word choices, or what have you. And these are only suggestions. The author is free to accept or reject them as they see fit. After all, it’s not my book. I don’t have the right to say what has to be done or not. Usually, though, my suggestions are sound and even if they aren’t always accepted, they tend to jog the author’s mind into making their own improvements. All I ask is that my suggestions be taken into consideration. I wouldn’t be making them if I didn’t believe they would enhance the story and make the book better. Ultimately, the final say rests with the author, and therein lies one of the biggest motivators for self-publishing—complete and total control of the work being published.

3 – Do you ever offer constructive criticism or are your services specifically geared to the correct use of the English language as it pertains to grammar and correct sentence structure?

I will offer constructive criticism where I think it’s necessary to improve the book or to help the writer improve their craft. That sort of goes in line with my answer above. I almost always have developmental editing in my mind when I’m working on a manuscript. That often ends up with me making suggestions that I feel will enhance the work. Some people take constructive criticism better than others. All I can say about that is that I don’t sugarcoat things when it comes to my work. I take my job and what I do very seriously. If I have something critical to say about the manuscript, it’s for a good reason, not because I didn’t like the writing or didn’t like the story. It’s never meant as a slight to the author or to their talent.

4 – What are some of the benefits a fledgling writer can gain from having their work edited by a professional?

The biggest benefit is going to be having an overall better reception to the published book. Books that are self-published without editing tend to have harsher criticism than those that were professionally edited. If someone reads an unedited book and finds it bad, chances are they’ll never pick up another book by that author. It’s all about that first impression. That’s not to say that professionally edited books don’t receive criticism, because they do. But what needs to be kept in mind there is that not every book is for every reader. Take the bad reviews and criticism with a grain of salt and move on. Anne Rice gave me some great advice about bad reviews once. Here’s a link to that post on her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/annericefanpage/posts/10151501524460452.
In self-publishing, promotion is everything. It can mean the difference between five people reading a book and five thousand. If readers know that a book has been professionally edited, they are more likely to take a chance on an author that is brand new. This can be especially true if the editor is known and has worked on a number of books that have had a good reception. I know that I always try to help with promotion of the books that I’ve edited. Whether or not that helps in the long run, I couldn’t say. I do know that there are a number of people who read nearly every book that I post, so I guess it does help a little.
Another benefit from having professional editing is learning what mistakes are commonly made and then being able to work at not making those same mistakes over and over again. It can be a very positive learning experience that can really enhance an author’s writing ability and help them to grow. I’ve had a number of authors thank me for helping them grow and improve the way they write. Is that going to be the case for everyone? Probably not, but if one goes into the process with an open mind there can be real benefit seen throughout the process.

5 – What do you think about the proliferation of the independent author and their future place in mass market publishing?

Obviously, self-publishing is on the rise thanks to Amazon and CreateSpace and the other platforms that are out there. I only mention Amazon because as far as I’m concerned, they’re pretty much king of the hill in the self-publishing game. They’ve made it so easy to see one’s work in print and in eBook format. You can literally publish an eBook in a matter of hours these days. Is that good or bad? The way I see it, it’s good. There’s no more having to wait weeks or months to hear back from an agent or a publisher concerning the fate of a book. I hear people rumbling about oversaturation and this and that, but I don’t buy that. For as many books as are published, there are readers who will read them—if the author makes a genuine effort to reach the intended audience. Just because it’s easy to self-publish, doesn’t mean that there’s no work involved. People get out of it what they’re willing and able to put in to it.
Self-publishing has already changed the way people view the publishing industry. It’s already changed the way millions of people read. With e-readers like Kindle and Nook, and apps to read books on cell phones and tablet devices, I’d be willing to bet that there are more people reading more books today than at any one point in history. That has to be a good thing any way you look at it. Traditional publishing is learning to adapt, and I think that they will continue to do so in order to survive. New York publishing houses aren’t going to go away like some people fear. They will always be here, giving us books from the biggest name authors. But, I think that they’ve come to realize that instead of ignoring or trying to block out self-publishing, they can embrace it and take advantage of it to reach new readers and new markets. How they’ll continue to do that is anybody’s guess.

6 – Do you have any advice, writing or otherwise, for writers who are trying to break into the business of writing?

The best advice that I can give to someone who is writing a book or who is even contemplating writing a book is simply this: write. Every single day. Put words to the page every day. Even if those words end up deleted, at least get them down. The simple act of writing helps one to improve and hone the craft. If you don’t write, you’ll never finish a book. Go word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, and chapter by chapter until it’s done. Then edit. Then revise. Then rewrite.
Another key piece of advice I would give is to read. Read as much as possible. Not to imitate those that are being read, but simply to see and feel how it’s done. Stephen King once said, ‘If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have the time—or the tools—to write. Simple as that.’
I know this will sound self-serving, but I would also advise that an author pay for editing. It’s great and it’s wonderful to use beta readers—and I do encourage that—or some of the extremely low cost or free editing services floating around out there, but there is absolutely no substitute for professional, experienced editing. It’s worth every dime you pay for it. If you can’t afford an editor, wait until you can before you publish. You’ll save yourself the hassle, headache, and heartache of publishing a book that wasn’t ready to be published. There are so many ‘trolls’ out there who are ready and waiting to pounce on newly self-published authors just so that they can tear them down. Having a professionally edited book takes away the biggest piece of ammunition that these detractors have.

7 – Who are some of the authors that you’ve worked with?

In my time as an editor, I’ve worked on nearly sixty books. A handful of authors I’ve worked with on multiple books. M.L. Stephens is one such author. I have worked with her on six of her novels. Another is Dana Roquet, with four novels. Then you have Greg Wilkey, who I met through Anne Rice. Greg initially self-published several of his Mortimer Drake series without editing and received some harsh criticism as a result. I worked with him to clean up the four books in that series and they have been doing extremely well. I’m quite proud of the work I did with Greg. I’ve also worked on several books for Becket, Anne Rice’s assistant. I absolutely loved his Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl books. The second one in that series releases in February. I’ve actually worked with several people as a result of Anne Rice and her Facebook page. Sherrill Willis has allowed me to edit the three books in her hugely popular Ruby Lake series. I’ve edited four books for Jamie Magee, a fantastic self-published author with huge following.

Here’s a short list of the other authors that I’ve worked with: Nick Pirog, Terry Hill, Dana Cornell, Daniel Sherrier, Amanda Gatton (writing as M. Jet), Shay Ray Stevens, Erin McFadden, AJ Reissig, Jake Hammes, Barrymore Tebbs, JD Brink, and Dana & Blakely Bennett.

I’m also the Senior Editor at Imajin Books, a small Canadian publishing house. I’ve worked with a number of their authors including: Kat Flannery (two books), Jesse Giles Christiansen, Peter Clenott, Rosemary McCracken, Melodie Campbell, Cathy Astolfo, Alison Bruce, and NYT Bestsellers Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon.

8 – Where can writers interested in your services contact you for further information?

I can be found on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/ToddBarselowEditor.
Many of the authors that I’ve edited for have posted recommendations regarding my work on that page. I always tell authors who are interested in my services to reach out to others that I’ve worked with to ask them about working with me. I can always say what one wants to hear, but it’s best to hear it from a satisfied third party who has experienced working with me.

I also have a website here: www.toddedits.com

This is my store on Amazon where the majority of the books that I’ve worked on are listed: http://goo.gl/f4JpTe

I’m always available to answer questions about editing or about self-publishing in general. I can be reached via my Facebook page or via email at todd@toddedits.com.

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Coming up, a review of "Execution" by Dick Wolf, creator of TV's "Law & Order".

See you next time!

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