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Discover the Career Path of an Editor

Discover the Career Path of an Editor

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Have you ever considered pursuing a career as an Editor? This interview takes you through the ups and downs you can expect, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to DiversityJobs and is one of many interviews with writers and publishers.

I am a writer/editor and have worked in this capacity for more than twenty years.

As a writer, I write mostly nonfiction. I have written seven commercially published books, and have had many articles published in a variety of newspapers and magazines. I also write devotionals for students involved in a local sports ministry, as well as write web copy for clients of a local ad agency. Right now, I have two books in the works.

As an editor, I edit manuscripts for both new and well-established authors. Sometimes I work for the author; other times, I work for the publisher on a contract basis.

As you know, no two jobs are ever alike! As far as editing goes, just three words say it all: Clean it up! I check every word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter for things like accuracy, organization, correct spelling, and proper word usage. I try to eliminate redundancies and overuse of certain words and phrases. I make sure nothing is going to be confusing for the reader, at the same time making sure I preserve the author’s intended message, style, and tone.

I also make sure the style and formatting follow the publisher’s guidelines in order to keep everything consistent. Editing involves a lot of back-and-forth with the author, typesetter, and publisher, and sometimes you have to be quite the diplomat in order to keep everyone pleased with the progress, focused on the goal, and “on the same page.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my job a 9! It would easily be a 10 if you could remove the deadlines and eliminate occasional computer problems.

This is definitely my calling! I have a report card from second grade–the teacher had written in the comments on the back that she “expected to see Angie’s writing in a magazine one day”!

Clearly, I have loved words and writing from day one. That I would major in English/writing was really a no-brainer. But when I landed my first “real” writing job after college writing for a newspaper, I was on cloud nine, just thinking about the fact that I was going to get paid to write things for people.

I started out writing about business promotions and livestock reports for the business section in Little Rock, Arkansas–not exactly glamorous reporting, but you would have thought it was for the front page of the New York Times, I was so excited.

One “unique” thing that has taken place during my career as a writer is that after my daughter came along, I decided to try to amp up my income because of the added expenses of a new baby. I glanced through the want ads of the local paper in the VERY small town we live in just outside of Little Rock to see if there might be some typing I could take in or something.

But I saw an ad that said “writer’s assistant needed.” Turns out a well-published Christian author lives in my community, and he had been diagnosed with a degenerative retinal disease that was destroying his vision. He had reached the point that he could no longer see the computer screen, so needed someone to transcribe/edit the books he was writing. I sent him my resume and he hired me right away.

He became a dear friend and mentor, and was the one who first suggested I try my hand at writing a book. He does not need me to transcribe anything anymore because of an amazing computer he has now that “reads” everything back to him, but I still edit everything he writes–which by now is well over twenty books and probably thousands of articles.

One major challenge I face–well, I guess it’s more of a frustration than a challenge–is that no matter what an excellent job I do, it’s the mistakes I make that the clients and readers will notice. I can produce 99 error-free pages, transforming clumsy phrasing and eliminating redundancies, correcting blunders, fact-checking obscure references, and polishing the prose to perfection.

The client/readers may never know how much time/effort I put into those 99 pages. But let me miss a typo on the 100th page–that’s the one thing EVERYONE will notice and call me on! I try to just take a deep breath and move on.

Because of the things I mentioned above, and because deadlines are essential in the world of publishing, it can be a very stressful job, at times. But through the years I’ve managed to get better at managing the stress–budgeting my time helps, taking breaks helps, setting realistic deadlines helps, etc. But the stress that I have to handle is a very small price to pay for the unbelievable freedom and flexibility this job has given me to take care of my “life” responsibilities of being a wife, mom, daughter, friend, volunteer, etc.

Salary fluctuates so widely, depending on what books are out there and selling, and how many editing projects I take on, that I really cannot provide a consistent figure. I have logged enough experience that I can make sure that my fees make the work well worth my time.

I plan my workload around family vacations, I give myself plenty of days off here and there in between projects, and if needed, I can always bring some of my work with me. I enjoy both writing and editing, so if I’m sitting at the beach “working” on a manuscript, it really does not usually feel like work to me.

I strongly recommend getting a degree in English/writing–I use the mechanical skills, research skills, writing skills I learned in college every single day that I am working. Since I am freelance, I do not have a clue what qualifications the publishers are looking for in the editors they want to hire in-house.

I would encourage anyone to go for it, if they feel editing is their calling! Books are not going away, they are just changing form. And as long as people are reading them–whether by flipping pages or scrolling down their Kindle screen–we will always need both writers and editors.

In a way, more people are writing than ever before–just think how many blogs are out there. If I were just starting out, I would make sure I learned the ins and outs of electronic publishing.

I would love to be doing the very same thing in five years that I am doing today. Every project is different and every client is different, so it never gets old to me.


Editor career image from Shutterstock

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