Editor for Life: Greg Ioannou, freelance editor, owner of Colborne Communications, and co-founder of PubLaunch.com and Iguana Books

Interview conducted by Jennifer D. Foster

A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the W5: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

Greg Ioannou

Greg, please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do, and how long you’ve been an editor.

I started freelancing on September 6, 1977, though I’d done lots of writing and some volunteer editing for a couple of years before that. So not quite 40 years. My first paid editing gig was working on Coles Notes (I edited almost 200 of them), and from there I branched out into textbooks, dictionaries, and trade books. By 1982, I was working for a range of publishers, and also editing a section of Ontario’s provincial budget. I’ve always been a complete generalist. My all-time favourite customer was Cranium, the board game company. I worked on over 30 games for them.

In 1985, I agreed to share a small office with two friends, which ended my days as a lonely freelancer working from my spare bedroom. That became a company that was originally called The Editorial Centre and is now Colborne Communications.

Five of us founded Iguana Books in 1991 as a book packaging company. (We put out one book soon after we launched the company. It was someone else’s pet project—an academic book on a business subject—and I’ve never seen a copy of it.) In 2011 I converted Iguana to a hybrid publisher, serving self-publishing authors. Iguana has published about 70 books, many of which I’m intensely proud of.

Iguana publishes general trade books—fiction, non-fiction, poetry, kids’ books, whatever. I won’t publish a book unless it is at a fully professional standard. Our books are as well edited and designed as the books coming out of the major trade-publishing companies. As an editor, I’ve always been a complete generalist, and my publishing company is the same.

Iguana started crowdfunding its books in 2013, mostly using a New York-based website called Pubslush. By early 2015, a large portion of my income was coming through Pubslush, so when the company announced in August 2015 that it was going out of business, I sort of acquired the company. That deal fell apart seven weeks later. We’d been planning to rebrand the company as PubLaunch anyway, so that was an opportunity to program PubLaunch the way we’d wished that Pubslush had worked.

The kinds of work I do? I run three small companies while goofing around on Facebook and occasionally editing.

PubLaunch hasn’t fully launched yet, and I’m already in meetings about the next new company. (Sorry, I can’t really talk about the new one yet.) I love playing with shiny new things more than ANYTHING.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

That question is almost rude, like asking “who would you most like to see naked?”

Or, a safer metaphor: I’ve seen behind the curtain too often. I’ve seen the unedited manuscripts of enough authors that I know, like, and respect that I don’t feel inclined to see unedited works of famous authors, let alone have to edit them.

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

My favourite punctuation mark is either the interrobang or Tom Wolfe’s “wall of colons”:
And halcyon is simply the best word in the language, for how it looks, how it sounds, and what it means.

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

London, England. I love the city, love the bustle and the crowds and the variety and the culture. I’ve never had a chance to live there.
When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

I didn’t really make a career choice, and I haven’t meaningfully stayed with one career path. Editing is like an infinitely expandable shopping bag, and I’ve managed to squeeze writing, teaching, publishing, and crowdfunding into that bag.

I think I’ve been able to do that because I’ve never specialized in one kind of editing. When I’m asked if I can do something, I don’t automatically say “no” or “that’s not editing.” When you do that for long enough, and get ambitious enough, you end up with staff who can do the things you can’t do yourself, and a network of freelancers who can do what they can’t do.

When Pubslush closed in 2015, blowing a big hole in Iguana’s business model, my instinct was to call the owner of the company to see if she’d be willing to let me have their software for Iguana’s website. Her answer might well have been “take a hike.” Rather, it was “please, just take the company.” So I lined up a business partner and hired an employee, and four days later we were running Pubslush. Who could resist, eh? That didn’t work out so smoothly but it gave us the knowledge and confidence we needed to launch a replacement company.

And while we were developing the software for PubLaunch, we realized that we’d learned how to do something that no-one else was able to do — something that could be the core skill of another new company. Who could resist, eh?

My one core skill in all of this is the ability to find and hire people who are incredibly talented and then fashion positions that make good use of their strengths.

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?

Editing chose me because I’m very good with words but get seriously distracted when I try to write for a living. I chose to stick with it, to the extent that I’m actually still an editor, because it has allowed me to do pretty much whatever I’ve felt like doing and still call it editing.

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

My motto? “Mottos are slick oversimplifications.”

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto-based freelance editor and writer, specializing in book and custom publishing, magazines, and marketing and communications. She is also chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series.

This article was copy edited by Tom Nicholls.

2 thoughts on “Editor for Life: Greg Ioannou, freelance editor, owner of Colborne Communications, and co-founder of PubLaunch.com and Iguana Books

  1. Interesting. We read a lot but it never occurs who edited it. Film editors get awards. Do book editors get recognised in some way?


    1. Hi Sunethra, Thanks for your post! Yes, Editors Canada has two: the Tom Fairly Award, which “recognizes the editor’s often invisible contribution to written communication”: and the Karen Virag Award, “recognizing excellence in editing and service to the organization. For more information about these awards and the talented editors who received them, please visit our website: http://www.editors.ca/about/awards. –CH


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