Wednesday 31 July 2013

5 Questions with Editor, Todd Barselow

Visiting today is Freelance and Senior Editor at Imajin Books Todd Barselow. I've asked him to answer five questions about his job and what writers need to know before submitting a manuscript to be edited. 
I've had the pleasure of working with Todd twice and what I've taken away from both experiences is knowledge within the editing process and the utmost respect for his work. He is awesome to work with and I highly recommend him! 
Welcome to my blog, Todd! 

1. What types of books do you edit?

That’s an easy question with a very simple answer. I edit all kinds of books in all genres. I’ve edited poetry chapbooks, children’s books, religious-themed books (not a personal favorite), science fiction (a definite personal favorite), paranormal romance, erotica, historical fiction, general fiction, horror, New Adult, Middle Grade, fantasy, etc… I’ve even edited a few that defy being placed into any specific genre or category. Basically, I’ll edit just about anything so long as my schedule permits it. I’d love to see more science fiction and fantasy manuscripts coming across my desk, to be honest. Some of my biggest literary idols are Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Jordan, and Raymond Feist. I dream of discovering the next Clarke or Asimov…

2. How would you handle sensitive writers who question every edit you make?

Each manuscript edit that I do is with the understanding that my objective is not to change the author’s voice or vision, only to clarify it where necessary and to clean up the prose so that the reader experiences the best book possible. This is explained before I ever even see the manuscript. The vast majority of the authors that I have worked with get that and they understand, after seeing sample edits and speaking with others who have worked with me, that I’m not going to tear apart what they’ve worked so hard to create only to put it back together in a way that they hate. I’ve never done that and I never will. If I come across a manuscript that I think needs to be reworked to that extent, I’ll make my suggestions to the author and let them do that reconstructive surgery.

If an author finds the edits that I’ve made to be objectionable or questionable, then I’ll do my level best to explain why I made said changes. If it has something to do with grammar, I’ll point out the rule in play for the change that was made. This usually clears up questions or concerns regarding those issues. If it concerns a substantive/creative edit, then I will explain my reasoning for the change. Ultimately, acceptance of those kinds of changes—substantive and or creative—is up to the author. If I’ve made a change that I really feel strongly about, that I feel adds significantly to the story, then I’ll fight for it. In the end though, it’s up to the author to decide whether or not to implement the change. I’m not at all heavy handed like that and I hope to never be that way. That may change a bit in the future if I decide to pursue my goal of becoming a publisher myself.

If it comes right down to it and I see that an author isn’t really going to want to work with me to make the changes that I feel are necessary to improve the book and make it better for the reader, then I will most likely refer them to another editor. After all, my goal is to get the book into the best shape possible for the reader. If I feel that I can’t make that happen with the author, I’d rather another editor work on the book.

3.What is your favorite style guide? Why?

The Chicago Manual of Style is my go-to resource for all things style-related. I invested in an electronic copy for ease of use and when asked, I encourage authors to invest in their own copy. It’s sort of my bible or holy book, if you will, and in my opinion is the best resource a writer can have at their disposal. It has answers to almost any question under the sun regarding style. I’ve also been known to consult the Grammar Girl website for ‘quick and dirty’ tips, as they like to say. It’s also a great resource that every writer can easily use to quickly answer grammar-related questions. I’m very fond of picking up Stephen King books and following the lead for style-related issues, too. I keep three or four of his books just next to me on the desk for such occasions.

I also have style guides mandated by the publishers that I work for. For the most part, they all instruct me to follow CMoS but there may be specific things that they like for their books to have—or not have. For example, one of the publishers that I work for doesn’t care for parentheses in their fiction so I tend to replace them with long em dashes, things of that nature.

4. What advice can you give a writer before they send you their work?

Read it. Then read it again. When you think you’ve caught everything you can, read it one more time. If you’re able to, use beta readers. They can be friends and/or family members or complete strangers you’ve met on Facebook. The more eyes you have on the manuscript, the more likely you are to catch any major flaws before it gets to me. That being said, most beta readers—unless they’re English teachers or grammarians—aren’t going to catch the little things that will be poking me in the eye when I read through the manuscript. They can also give you positive or negative feedback as far as the storyline goes. This can be invaluable information to have. I will say this though: when using family and friends as beta readers, you have to be careful because they may not want to tell you that they don’t think the book is good or they may not feel right about telling you something critical may be missing. That’s why I suggest having at least one person who isn’t personally attached to you beta read for you. You can find tons of people including bloggers and other authors who are more than willing to beta read for you. It’s just a matter of asking, really.

           One other piece of advice before sending a manuscript to me. Use Word’s ‘Find’ feature (ctrl+f) to search for common errors including:

·      your/you’re
·      there/they’re/their
·      then/than/that
·      to/too/two
·      a/an
·      misspellings of your character’s names—type in the first few letters of the character’s name and then search to make sure spellings are consistent. The same for other frequently used place names, organization names, etc…

5. What is you favourite thing about your job?

Honestly? I get paid to read. Every. Single. Day. How could you not love that? When I was a kid, I literally daydreamed all the time of finding a job that would pay me to read all sorts of fantastic stories and tales of other worlds and peoples. Most kids back then dreamed of growing up to be a firefighter or a police officer or things of that nature. Not me. All I wanted to do was read. It took me a while to get to where I am, but now that I’m here, I won’t be doing anything else for as long as I live. To put it simply, I have what is arguably one of the best jobs in the world. I’ve met so many fantastic people—authors, readers, publishers, other editors—that I probably wouldn’t have had the pleasure of knowing otherwise. I’ve made the acquaintance of the likes of Anne Rice, who sends me referrals from time to time. It doesn’t get much better than that as far as I’m concerned.

Aside from getting to read every day, I also take a certain satisfaction in knowing that I’m helping authors to make a dream a reality. Many of the authors that I work with are first-timers. They’re self-publishing and they can be scared out of their wits at times. I enjoy being able to help allay those fears and make the process a lot less scary than it might otherwise be if they were going it alone. I also take pride in the fact that I’m able to offer my services at rates that are more than competitive in today’s marketplace.

About Todd...

I’ve been a lifelong reader and writer. I grew up behind a used book store and spent the majority of my youth—daydreaming away while reading—sitting on an old milk crate in the corner of that store. While my career path didn’t take me into writing and editing immediately, I’ve never once stopped reading and writing. I’ve done all sorts of things, lived the roguish lifestyle of a jack-of-all-trades. I spent nearly a decade as a pizza chef; I did a stint in the army as a tank mechanic; I once worked as a movie theater manager/projectionist for a time. It wasn’t until after my father passed that I decided to pursue a career in writing full-time. I wrote tons of web content for countless websites, I worked on several novels of my own, too. This eventually led me to a career in teaching English as a Second Language in, of all places, the Philippines, where I currently reside. After teaching for a number of years here, I decided to take a hiatus and focus solely on writing and editing and here I am, forty-plus books edited later, chugging right along full-steam ahead.

Website: Todd Edits
Facebook: Todd Barselow
Twitter: @putipato
Email:  or


  1. I really enjoyed this interview. It was profoundly pleasant to learn more about this wonderful editor who played a key role in the current success of my first published novel. Keep up the great work Todd!

    1. Thanks for that, Jesse. I look forward to the amazing career that you have ahead of you. 'Pelican Bay' was the first in a long line of fantastic novels that you're going to write, of that I have no doubt.

  2. Thanks so much for the opportunity to be on your blog, Kat. It was a great experience and I hope to be able to do it again in the future!

  3. You're very welcome, Todd!! I will definitely have you on again soon. :)