A guide to landing a book editing career
There are many different types of editing jobs in many different industries. From academia to film, and broadcasting to publishing, editors are necessary to ensure quality output. In the publishing industry, editors can play various roles, including those of executive editor, acquisitions editor, developmental or content editor, and copy editor.
As a book editor, how do I fit into the publishing process?
The importance of good book editing should not be underemphasized. Some people think that good writers don’t need editors. This is a myth. All writers and all books require editing (and several rounds of it). The book industry consists of efficient linkages between its different components, a critical one of which is the book editor. You must keep in mind that without good book editing, there would be a missing link in the publishing process.
As a book editor, you must not only be able to wield a red pen but must also be able to critique in a positive way and explain the rationale for the changes that you suggest. You must be able to consider and critique the overall structure of a book while keeping its intended purpose and audience in mind to edit the text for clarity, consistency, style, and readability. You must have a thorough understanding of the different stages of book development in order to help authors ultimately produce a book that will sell in today’s uber-competitive market. This means you must be familiar with the various aspects of the book industry. In particular, you must know what sells and know how to tweak text to help sell books.
What skills do I need to embark on a book editing career?
To be successful in a book editing career, you must have strong communication, interpersonal, analytical, business, and organizational skills; an excellent command of language and grammar, and the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines.
How do I begin a book editing career?
No single educational or occupational path leads to a book editing career, but most people in this line of work tend to have a number of things in common, such as a love of language and reading, a great respect for authors and what they are trying to achieve, attention to detail, and a university degree. To be a book editor, you must understand the various genres of writing, as well as the ins and outs of the publishing industry. While a university education is not always required for book editing career, it would be well worth considering getting a degree in English, with a focus on writing and publishing. There are also many postgraduate publishing programs in Canada (e.g., the Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University, the Book and Magazine Publishing program at Centennial College, the Publishing program at Ryerson University, and the Creative Book Publishing program at Humber College) and in the U.S. (e.g., the Publishing and Writing degree at Emerson College, the Columbia Publishing Course at Columbia University, and the MS degree in Publishing at New York University). There are a number of online editing courses to jump start your book editing career.
When you are just starting out, it is critical to get practical experience. Try working at your university newspaper or editing other students’ essays. Join professional associations, such as the Editors’ Association of Canada, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, or the Society of Editors (these often have student rates). You can network via these sites, make useful contacts, and keep abreast of job openings for those interested in book editing careers. Seek out internship opportunities; this kind of experience will be impressive on a resume and might lead to an entry-level position (see the article “Entering the Book Publishing Industry: Negotiating the Three Phases of Arts Internships“). Experience in the publishing industry is greatly valued by employers, so internships and/or entry-level jobs are good jumping off points for a book editing career.
If you are serious about a career in book editing, be sure to check out the available resources, such as Editing Fact and Fiction: A Concise Guide to Book Editing by Leslie T. Sharpe and Irene Gunther, the ebook Become a Book Editor by Jodi L. Brandon, and the e-book The Editorial Department by Britanie Wilson and Jeremy Lucyk.
We hope that you have a successful and satisfying book editing career!
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