There is no substitute for a professional editor, designer, marketer, etc.
Ben Belding, Tellwell Publishing Consultant
Tell us about your role at Tellwell.
My role as a publishing consultant is to support prospective authors during the first steps toward self-publishing. My first priority is to present them with all necessary resources, so that they may make an informed decision that suits their projects, families, and budgets. By taking the time to understand their needs and assess their intentions, I do my very best to ensure that the services they choose are appropriate for their book project(s) and, when required, recommend options that may be more suited to their project. I am always excited for the first chat with a new author. It’s a great opportunity to meet interesting, creative minds and develop relationships with people from all different backgrounds! It’s pretty neat to work in an industry where the young, the elderly, and everyone in between are on a level playing field. It’s especially rewarding to see their work go from an idea to fruition.
There is an unwritten contract between an author and their readers. Picking out a book, purchasing and opening that book, sitting down in a solitary moment to read that book – all of this is an act of trust. It’s a leap of faith. It’s an investment of your readers’ time, money, and attention.
Alison Strumberger, Tellwell’s Managing Editor
Tell us about your background, as well as your role at Tellwell.
I’ve been working in publishing for a little over fifteen years, starting out as a submissions reader for a magazine in Montreal while completing a BA in English literature and creative writing. I went abroad after I graduated. Thirty countries and some years later, my travels took me to Melbourne, Australia, where I got my MA in publishing and editing while working in both trade and educational publishing houses. I ran my own writing/editing business for several years, editing everything from novels and travel guides to celebrity memoirs and annual reports. My own essays, fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous magazines and journals in Canada and Australia.
Here at Tellwell I mostly manage the editing department, and have been doing so since I moved to Victoria and joined the Tellwell team in 2017. In my capacity as managing editor, I make sure to recruit (and rigorously test!) highly experienced and professional editors who love what they do, and who are as passionate as I am about supporting authors to make their good writing great. It’s an incredible privilege getting to work so closely with a cohort of twenty-five talented editors based across Canada, the US, the UK and New Zealand. Along with our indispensable in-house editor, Simon Ogden, I work closely to monitor the quality of the editing while adjusting our services to respond to feedback from our authors. I’m an inveterate perfectionist with high standards, so I keep the team on their toes! I also spend a lot of time focusing on the quality of our production process, working to improve what we make, and the experience of the amazing authors with whom we make it.
Why is editing crucial for creating a quality, professional book?
There is an unwritten contract between an author and their readers. Picking out a book, purchasing and opening that book, sitting down in a solitary moment to read that book – all of this is an act of trust. It’s a leap of faith. It’s an investment of your readers’ time, money, and attention. With each typo, error, malapropism, unintentional pun, break in logic, inconsistency, accidental repetition, missed punchline, unchecked fact, misused semicolon etc, that trust erodes, and so does the author’s credibility and the reader’s lasting impression.
A well-regarded book is not weighed down by its technical pitfalls, which can be plentiful and distracting in unedited books. It is disappointing to read a review of your book that says, “It would have been great, if only it had been edited.” The crux of your book – the concept, the idea, the dare-I-say genius of it – can be clouded or confused or missed altogether when the reader needs to wade through a sea of errors, correcting as they go.
Just as each word you put on a page contributes to the meaning of your work, so too does each space, each paragraph break, each punctuation mark. Your editor is an expert in units of meaning. As Mark Twain put it: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter; ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Dr. Seuss put it more playfully perhaps: “The writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
Your editor doesn’t see mistakes, they see opportunities to make your writing tighter, cleaner, and clearer.
Tellwell book-cover designer Benjam Mosquera has been a valued member of the Tellwell team since 2018. He has ten years of book-design experience and is passionate about creating covers that draw people in at first glance. Read on to learn Benjam’s favourite book cover-design trends and hear his advice to authors working with book designers for the first time.
What inspired you to become a book-cover designer?
I began my book-design career working as an interior book designer. I was really inspired seeing beautifully created cover designs by my teammates, in bookstores and online. It led me to learn how to artfully create book covers. I have been enjoying creating book covers for a decade now.
Where do you draw creative inspiration from?
I am often inspired by film posters. I’ll search for the designer’s name and look through their work for more inspiration.
What advice do you have for authors working with a book designer?
Clear instruction is really key. If an author has a specific vision for their book, then it’s important for the author to relay detailed instructions for the cover designer. That allows the designer to more easily visually interpret the instructions.
We are also creative individuals who love taking a concept and running with it. So if authors don’t have a clear vision for their book cover, that’s OK. That’s why we are here, to put in our professional touch and create magic. Showing covers that you love and want to emulate also go a long way.
Tellwell illustrator and cover design consultant Jamie Jamandre spends her days illustrating beautiful images for Tellwell’s children’s authors and consulting with authors about their cover design. Get to know Jamie, learn what illustration styles she’s most drawn to, and what she believes makes for a really good illustration.
I think the key to a good working relationship is communication and understanding.
Jamie Jamandre, Tellwell Publishing Illustrator
What inspired you to become an illustrator?
Like many illustrators, I’m largely inspired by cartoons, comic books, animated films and Japanese anime. Sci-fi and fantasy genres inspire me the most.
What do you love about illustrating children’s books?
I like being able to peer into the lives of the authors, and hear their stories. Stories from people of all walks of life, their families, their values, or the places they are from – I like getting a glimpse into their world through the power of their words.
What design/illustration styles are you most drawn to?
Although I appreciate all sorts of design styles, I find myself most drawn to soft watercolors and painterly styles, as well as pen and ink drawings. I like playing around with gradients and textures and experimenting when I can with my artwork.
What do you think makes for a really good book illustration?
Tellwell project manager Gezel Zorobrado has been working at Tellwell for about three years. In her role, she helps navigate authors throughout the various stages of their book project, from manuscript to distribution. She is a ray of sunshine, with big smiles and lots of laughs to share. Gezel is about to welcome her first child this fall:)
Never be afraid to share your stories with the world. You may inspire others to do the same.
What do you enjoy most about working with authors?
It is very fulfilling to play a small role in helping authors achieve their dreams and complete their goals. It brings me much joy! I like forming friendly and strong relationships with authors so they know they can rely on me to be their ally.
How would you describe your personality? What motivates you?
I am an introvert. I prefer having a quiet environment to think, reflect, and focus. I’m motivated to achieve my full potential and continue growing individually and professionally. I appreciate it when people recognize my efforts.
What is the most common misconception when it comes to the self-publishing industry?
Authors, at times, confuse the self-publishing model with the traditional publishing model. There is a common misconception that once the author submits their manuscript, we will do all the legwork to bring their book to market.
While Tellwell certainly takes many of the pain points away during this process by creating the cover, laying out the interior, editing and distribution (depending on the author’s package), it still requires the author to submit input, approve changes and be involved in the process.
The authors who are most engaged during the production process tend to carry the same enthusiasm in marketing their book, which is crucial to success.
A really great book cover is one that captures the book inside it in some fundamental and, perhaps, unforeseen way.
Von Langoyan, Tellwell book cover designer
What do you enjoy most about designing book covers?
I enjoy the creative process of capturing and evoking the essence of a story through visuals. The cover needs to both intrigue a reader and give them a sense of the book’s genre and content. I enjoy staying up to date on design trends and using them in my process so our covers look fresh and contemporary.
Our authors sometimes have a vision for how they would like their covers to look, and I work with their input to create something they would love, and that is also captivating and current.
Where do you get your design inspiration?
Social media and the Internet, in general, are great for inspiration. I follow artists and designers who I admire to see what they are working on.
What have been some of your favourite covers that you’ve created for Tellwell? Tell us why.
I’ve had the pleasure of working on several book covers for the talented fiction author Monique Gliozzi, who lives in Australia. Monique’s books Foresight, Vestige and Diversity are paranormal thriller/mysteries and we wanted the covers to evoke a sense of supernatural spookiness.
Monique had a clear idea of what type of cover she wanted and provided us with really great, detailed instructions. I used a number of design elements to create a sense of haunting and mystique, such as the illusion of depth, partially hidden titles and objects, and surrealism.
We aim to take the piece of art they have shed blood and tears for and polish it into its most beautiful form, and we do this by being the author’s greatest champion.
Simon Ogden, Tellwell Publishing’s lead editor
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a recent Toronto transplant after a two-year residence on Prince Edward Island (Canada’s cuddliest province), but I was born and cultivated throughout British Columbia, mostly Vancouver and Victoria, the latter being where I joined forces with Tellwell in 2017. In Vancouver, I spent many years wearing the various hats one does in pursuit of a theatre career, mostly as a playwright and director, and I ran various hospitality establishments, from ridiculous night clubs to nerdy classicist-cocktail lounges, finally accepting my birthright and inevitable career as a book editor (I’m the youngest son of a pedantic linguist, who passed on to me his deep love of the English language and its best literature).
You’ve been an editor with Tellwell for several years now. Tell us about your role.
I began with Tellwell as a contract editor and soon assumed the post of head editor, or assistant to our beloved managing editor, Alison Strumberger. I have recently moved into the position of in-house editor, which delightfully allows me to interact more with my colleagues populating the other departments in our little publishing mothership, and it lets me keep a more structured schedule than is typical for freelance editing, which I refer to amongst the team as “the craft that never sleeps.”
The bulk of my duties still entail working with our authors to strengthen their manuscripts before we put them to print, but I’m also a handy resource for the rest of the team to make sure processes are on track, and the often esoteric world of the editing department is approachable and clear when needed.
What approach do you take when editing a manuscript?
Working with an editor is a very trusting and intimate relationship, so my first and abiding goal is to get in sync with the author’s style, intent, and rhythm. One of the glorious aspects of the job of the professional editor is the opportunity to work with many unique and personal voices, and it’s our main job to support them. All authors need support in unique ways, so we begin by identifying each manuscript’s overarching strengths and weaknesses, and then decide where best to apply our resources.
For example, a manuscript may present a truly original and fascinating approach to its plot, but its sentence-level syntax isn’t making the plotting as clear as it could be—that becomes the area we would prioritize toward bringing all the elements into alignment. Or the author’s sentence styling might be nuanced and gorgeous but various plot points are in conflict—we would then be looking to smooth them out a bit while maintaining the sentences’ natural euphony … each book has its own needs, and a great editor has to be able to tweak all the dials as necessary.
What is the end goal when you are editing a manuscript?
It’s always the same: to help the author produce absolutely the best final version of their book, one that they can for the rest of their lives be proud to offer to the world in exchange for the cover price. We aim to take the piece of art they have shed blood and tears for and polish it into its most beautiful form, and we do this by being the author’s greatest champion.
Some authors worry an editor may change their words too much, and the book may no longer feel like it’s theirs. What would you say to those authors?
At the end of the day, book marketing is really all about connecting with people and enjoying the process.
Colleen Hay, Tellwell Book Marketing Consultant
What does a typical week look like for you as a marketing consultant?
A typical work week as a book marketing consultant is never very typical! What I love most about the role is how varied it is day-to-day. Some days, I’m busy consulting with authors on various marketing activities they can do to help promote their books, and other days I’m designing websites, promotional materials, and social media campaigns to help get them started on their marketing journey.
What do you enjoy most about working with authors?
I am inspired daily by each author I work with. I’m amazed by their bravery in making that first move to get their words and thoughts down on paper. It’s such a pleasure to be able to meet authors of all ages, every walk of life, and from so many different countries! I love to hear why they wrote their book and to watch their level of enthusiasm surge once they’ve received some guidance on when and where to start marketing their book.
What do you tell authors who aren’t interested in marketing their book?
We’re passionate about books so it’s no surprise that some of us at Tellwell not only love helping authors through their publishing journey but are going through our own! Project manager Joy is currently writing her novel. Learn more about Joy, her role as a Tellwell project manager, and what her book is about!
What puts a smile on your face every day?
Learning something new, helping others in small ways, and showing appreciation. When I push my limits and accomplish things that I once thought were very difficult, that puts a wide smile on my face.
What do you enjoy most about working with authors?
“Meeting” a lot of interesting people, knowing their stories and how they came up with their books is delightful. My absolute favourite feeling is when my authors tell me I’ve helped them fulfill their dreams.
What advice do you have for authors going through the publishing process?
My advice is to ask a lot of questions, especially for first-time authors. Having patience throughout the process is really important too. I understand the excitement in wanting to be published quickly, but I advise authors to not rush through approving drafts— take the time to carefully review them:)
What advice do you have for authors who are considering publishing their manuscript?
I’m trying to write a book myself as well so I would say, don’t hesitate and take a leap of faith because it will be your legacy.
Home workouts, new reading lists, and words of inspiration are among the Tellwell team’s New Year’s resolutions. Take a look!
JH, Subject Matter Expert/Publishing Consultant
New Year’s Resolution is to burn those quarantine gains and get back in shape!
Charlyne, Project Manager
My new year’s resolution is to be committed to my personal growth; physically, mentally & spiritually. This year, I want to focus on quitting toxic habits that are not good for my body. I’ll start to be more active and live a healthier lifestyle. I also aim to be more kind to me and allow myself to be vulnerable enough to accept my flaws. And, keep in mind that not everything is in my control and that it’s okay to screw up sometimes because that’s what makes us human. Lastly, I want to always look at the bright side of things, be more grateful and celebrate life everyday.