Meet the Team

Meet Project Manager Alison Strumberger

alison-1How would you describe your role at Tellwell?

Multifaceted. As a project manager it is my job to educate and support authors through their self-publishing journey, assisting with everything from manuscript formatting and submission, to illustrations and editing and design, and finally to book distribution. In addition to working closely with authors to bring their books into the world, I manage the editing department here at Tellwell. In this part of my role I draw on a decade of editorial experience to focus on refining our services, recruiting the best talent around, maintaining quality assurance, and supporting a team of thirteen dedicated editors who are passionate about helping authors tell their stories well.

What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

My days almost always begin in my inbox as I make my way through emails, answering questions from my authors and acting as a liaison between them and our designers, illustrators and editors. Quite a bit of my time here is spent collaborating with the rest of the in-house team about ways to improve on our processes. Invariably in the afternoon, I will find myself embroiled in an intense game of foosball in the break room. I prefer to play defence.

What is the most common misconception when it comes to editing, in particular in the self-publishing industry?

There are a number of misconceptions about editing, I think because the results of professional editing are often intangible. I would say the biggest of these is “I don’t need editing.” Every author has an editor; it is an essential stage in the publishing process. David Foster Wallace had an editor. Michael Ondaatje has an editor. Editing is so much more than adding missing periods and removing comma splices. Editing is also about style and nuance, it’s about the big picture of a narrative, it’s about character and logic and removing embarrassing unintentional puns, it’s about a fresh set of eyes reading your work as a reader would: critically, looking for the meaning, and really working to draw it out.

It is true when self-publishing that deciding to have your book edited can add substantially to your initial costs, but the investment will increase the quality of your final product exponentially, thereby setting your book apart from the rest. As Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying, “The difference between the nearly right word and the right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

What distinguishes a great editor?

A great editor leaves no trace of intrusion behind. They work intuitively with the voice of a text, within the parameters of what’s already there on the page. A well edited narrative doesn’t seem edited; rather, it just seems good.

What’s your best piece of advice for authors looking to improve their writing?

Read widely. Learn the rules before you break them. Write until you startle yourself.

What interests you about the assisted self-publishing industry?

Assisted self-publishing is a revelation in that authors maintain autonomy and a sense of control over the outcome of their projects, unlike in traditional publishing where it is the publisher making the ultimate decisions. In this arena, we help authors find talented professionals who have the skills and expertise to create a beautiful book, while leaving the final say to the author at each stage of the process. A publishing model in which an artist begins with a vision, and is supported along the way to see that vision come to fruition is truly something special to be a part of.

If you were to publish a book, what would it be about?

My first book was a collection of poetry and correspondence (Redrafting Winter, BuschekBooks 2015,, so if I were to publish another I would want to risk it all and try something new… a collection of essays perhaps, or maybe a photo book chronicling the life of my foundling tabby, Furio.

What did you do before joining the Tellwell team?

I worked for many years as an editor, both freelance and in-house in trade and educational publishing. I taught undergraduate communications. I managed an independent bookstore. I taught English in South Korea and Japan. I got my bachelor’s in creative writing and my master’s in publishing and editing. I did a lot of traveling. I wrote. I painted houses.

What books do you love to read?

I love books filled with language that surprises me, stories that are at once sad and beautiful, essays that broaden my knowledge, criticism that challenges my perspective.

Other than reading, what do you do in your spare time?

I spend a lot of time walking; Victoria is such a great city for it! I also love to cook, write, and play acoustic guitar, and more often than I care to admit I can be found luxuriating on the sofa with my husband and cat, re-watching The Sopranos or The Wire.

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