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Is It Hard To Be An Editor? Ask Anne

editor catNot long ago I got this question – “Is it hard to be an editor?”

Since it came through one of the LinkedIN groups I belong to I assumed the person meant some kind of editing within the publishing field. I emailed her a quick ‘yes and no’ and promised more in a blog post. So here we are.

The first thing to figure out is exactly what kind of editing you’re interested in doing. I break it into four pieces:

Copyediting – also known as line editing – reading manuscripts with an eye toward catching errors, but not changing the meaning.

Proofreading – like copy editing but generally associated with shorter manuscripts.

Rewrite, substantive,  or substantial editing – probably closer to actually rewriting a book length manuscript so it fits what an agent or publisher wants – often, but not always, done by the author.

Developmental editing – the editor works directly with the author to create a book.

How difficult any individual finds these types of editing is highly personal. I don’t do copyediting or proofing – my spelling is too creative and my attention span too broad. However I hire editors who thrive on that kind of detail.

I love rewriting and developmental editing, either of which isn’t that far from ghostwriting, which I also do well.

Finding out which kind of editing you’re best at is often a matter of luck. Copyeditors and proofreaders sometimes get their start because they recognize they are the ones catching everyone else’s typos while they’re doing a typical office job. Or they discover people come to them to help them sort out their writing and they realize they can do developmental editing.

Breaking into editing

Implicit in the question is “How can I break into editing or find an editing gig.”

Finding an editing job is not unlike finding a writing job. You’ve got to find a way to get some credits in the editing field you want to tackle. It’s quite possible to get credit for editing right in the job you’re at – if you’re the one people come to with writing questions, see if you can’t get editor added to your job title, or some testimonials about what a great job you did.

Those then can be worked into a resume or credit list and used when applying for editing jobs or gigs.

Which in turn can go on your web page – editors need websites just as much as writers do and for most of the same reasons.

Finding editing jobs and gigs

The approach almost the same is finding freelance writing gigs. You look, maybe using a job list like the one here. You talk with people, telling them what you’re looking for. I can even imagine a telemarketing campaign around editing much like freelance writers often do.

Another great way to build some credits is to talk to your local weekly newspaper – they often need editing. Don’t expect a ton of pay, and maybe you’ll even have to do a bit of the work on a volunteer basis, but newspaper credits are worth having for both writers and editors.

Have a question about writing, editing or publishing?  Contact me – with Q&A in the subject line and I’ll probably answer you here.

Have you been hired as an editor? How did they find you? What other tips might you have?


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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • I was recently approached by someone with an editing job, asking if I would proofread a short novel for them. I have not heard back from them and suspect that they may have thought me a little pedantic because whilst I was happy to proof-read their text, I wondered if that is really what they wanted – hiring someone to proof-read your text is rarely good value for money in these days of computer software reviewing your text as you write.

    I am editor for a quarterly journal and find that generally what is needed falls between proof-reading and sense checking (i.e. will what was written make sense to third party readers). This often requires a little rewording or reorganizing of parts of the text (which often make perfect sense to the author but seem confused or misleading to the editor and therefore are likely to confuse other readers). So for me, copy-editing is always a little more than just looking for errors, which is the realm of the proof-reader, it includes sense-checking and minor rewrites to that end.

    That doesn’t mean that if asked to proofread something that made no sense to me, I wouldn’t advise that I found the text confusing, I wouldn’t rework it though as I would with copy-editing.


    • Mike, sometimes I think some folks only want to hear that what they’ve done is perfect. I was once paid to edit a novel… I returned the money because the writing was so awful… that infuriated the author – I felt I won just by getting out from under.

  • Timely post!

    I was approached by someone who would like gain more editing experience and asked if I would be open to having my writing edited. My clients are off limits, but I wouldn’t have a problem having my blog posts edited.

    The publisher of my personal development books asked if I would edit a few books (not mine). I was glad to help out.
    Amandahblackwell recently posted..Comment on Stop Wasting Time! Go from Ideas to Blog Posts by 7 Simple Tips on Blog Writing for Your Business – Savvy-WriterMy Profile

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