For today’s post, I’m very excited to present an interview with Todd Barselow! In the lead up to the paperback release of The Worlds Traveler on December 1, 2015, I thought it would be fun for everyone to meet the man behind its editing. As an independent author I take full responsibility for the final product I put out there. Part of that process involves finding a good editor like Todd to help polish a manuscript to as professional a shine as possible. I’m so pleased with the work he did for me and I am really happy to have had the chance to interview him. So without further ado, I present to you…Todd Barselow!
Thank you, Todd, for taking the time to do this interview! I know you’re a busy man. When I was searching for an editor, I noticed several authors had only heartfelt thanks for your work on their books. That must never get old. What is it like for you to see a book published with your name listed as the editor?
Honestly, it’s quite thrilling but maybe not as much as it used to be, though. The first few times I saw my name on the Amazon page for a book or I took a quick peek at the Kindle edition and saw my name in the Acknowledgements, I sort of freaked out. I mean, I worked on this book. I took a lot of time to try to help the author make this book be the best it could possibly be, so what happens if someone hates it? What happens if someone blames me, as the editor, for the book not being as good as they thought it could be? I got over that pretty quickly, though. No book ever written has pleased every single reader. It just doesn’t happen, no matter who the author or the editor is.
What are your goals when you first pick up a manuscript?
The first thing I do is read the manuscript from cover to cover. I make notes in the margins regarding things which could or should be addressed. I generally don’t make any changes during this initial read through. At this point, I’m just familiarizing myself with the story, with the setting, the characters.
The second round is where most of the surgery takes place, where I make the vast majority of my suggestions for change and/or improvement.
What do you feel are an editor’s biggest challenges?
For me, I think it’s in preserving the author’s voice, their vision with the story and how they want to tell it. It can be so easy to insert your own influence into a manuscript when making or offering stylistic changes, or changes to plot and pacing and character development. I think it’s really important to avoid this as much as possible. For me, preserving the author’s voice is one of the most important aspects of what I do, and that’s one of the reasons the authors I work with enjoy working with me; they know I’m not going to come in and gut their manuscript, destroying the hard work they’ve put into it. That doesn’t mean I’m not critical, mind you. If I think something just doesn’t work, then I’ll say so. I’ll make suggestions to make it work. Ultimately, it’s up to the author to decide what changes—if any—to make.
As far as the technical issues found in a manuscript—grammar, spelling, punctuation—there can be little room to compromise. Sure, alternate spellings of certain things can be used, and maybe punctuation can be a little fast and loose in certain circumstances—if it fits the stylistic choices the author has made—but really you have these guidelines and rules and you have to abide by them; that’s why you have them. I follow what’s in the Chicago Manual of Style—unless told otherwise—but there are other guides out there, too. And in the editing work I do for Imajin Books—I’m their senior editor—I have other certain stylistic guidelines to follow aside from CMoS.
How do you turn off your ‘editor’s eye’ and just read for fun?
That’s one of the hardest things in the world for me to do now. Before I began my career as an editor, I would always make mental notes when reading. I’d think about things I would have changed, different word choices or turns of phrase, that sort of thing.
Since I do all of my work now in Word documents, I find that reading physical books sort of snaps me out of the need to ‘offer improvements’ as it were. I do read e-books sometimes on my tablet—I have upwards of 2,000 books there—and I find that it’s harder for me to get out of that mode then. I make use of the note feature in the Kindle app a lot when I read that way. I think maybe being an editor is more of a calling than a choice. I suspect I’ll have to deal with my ‘editor’s eye’ forever, but I’m good with that.
What opportunities do you see for editors in today’s publishing climate?
I know with the rise of self-publishing there’s a definite need for competent editors to help authors put forth the best, cleanest work possible. For a long time self-publishing had the worst reputation because authors weren’t using editors—or I should say professional editors—and the work was, well, pretty grim. It still happens a lot, too, but there are more folks like me out there working with indies to make the difference.
The key is to put yourself out there, let people know about your services. When you get a few books under your belt, let people know about it. If you specialize in one certain genre, find pages on Facebook related to that genre and ask permission to post about your services. Do the same with other social media channels. Before you know it, you’ll have more work than you can handle. That’s the way it happened with me.
Congratulations on your new publishing company Auspicious Apparatus Press! How has the transition from editor to publisher been?
Well, it hasn’t really been a transition, per se, as I still edit full time. It’s just another hat added to my collection. I vaguely had the goal of becoming a publisher eventually when I first started editing for a living and not just as a hobby. Now when I switch hats, it’s from ‘editor’ to ‘acquisitions editor’ or ‘marketing director’ or any of thirty other positions that go along with owning and operating a small press.
For anyone who would like to submit a manuscript to Auspicious Apparatus Press, what are you looking for and where should one go?
In 2016, we will specifically be looking for full-length novels (45k to 100k; longer works may be considered) in the following genres:
- steampunk (an emphasis on comedy will move you to the top of the slush pile)
- police/detective/investigative procedurals
- psychological suspense/terror
- certain horror works
What we WON’T be considering for publication:
- previously published works with the exception of acquiring audio rights
- works in genres other than those mentioned above
- works with excessive sexual content (we get that ‘sex sells’ but we’re not interested in selling it at this time)
More info can be found on our website here: http://www.apparatuspress.com/submissions/
Now for a mini lightning round!
This may not actually be my favorite quote, but it’s the most appropriate quote I know.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ~ Stephen King
- Favorite book to TV/Movie adaptation?
I thought King’s The Green Mile was really well done, and quite faithful to the book. The same with The Shawshank Redemption. Too often movies and television series made from books just don’t cross over the medium well enough to suit me. And I guess you can’t fault Hollywood for trying, but I find myself disappointed more often than not with adaptations these days.
- You’re stranded on a deserted island with one book. What is that book?
It would have to be King’s Dark Tower series (okay, so that’s 8 books, but I’m sure they will all EVENTUALY be published as one massive tome…and are you starting to see the pattern involving King here? Ka was a wheel; it was also a net from which none ever escaped…)
- Reading on the beach or with a view of the mountains?
I live just near the beach so I would have to say the beach. I love working from the beach and try to do so once or twice a month if possible. Although, I live really close to the tallest mountain in the Philippines, as well, so conceivably I could do both within the same week—on consecutive days if I wanted to be a real champ about it.
Thank you again, Todd, for allowing me to interview you and for your work on The Worlds Traveler. It was a great pleasure on all counts! Best of luck to you and all your endeavors.