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So I want to be a social studies textbook editor...
May 12, 2011 10:59 AM   Subscribe

A few years ago I landed on this idea of what I think may really be the perfect fun-and-interesting job for me: a textbook editor. But even more so with social studies content. How do I do it?

How can I make it happen? What can I do for myself NOW to target that specific kind of work in a couple of years?

My situation: I have degrees in geography and journalism, and most of my work experience draws heavily on writing and copyediting skills, though frequently ventures elsewhere (e.g., nonprofit operations, marketing, incinerating deceased house pets, tutoring, graphic design). I have been a B2B editor, a grant writer, a copyeditor of test banks, a freelance magazine writer, a copywriter. Always, the most interesting part for me is the copyediting process. My knowledge of AP is intact but rusty and my CMOS requires attention. I am for a while quite rural and remote, but that won't be forever.

If I want to poise myself for this dream job, what can I do in the meantime? What educational publishers should I investigate? What style do most use? Would a specific certification be of value to them? Something I can get with an accredited online course? (if so, where would I take such a course?). How do I get my foot in the door on small related projects? In general, how do I make the connections I need? Is there a website for the textbook-editor crowd? And finally, if I wish to remain mobile, is it realistic for me to think I can do this work remotely? Your answers, resources, suggestions are all welcome and appreciated!
posted by AnOrigamiLife to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I worked in textbook publishing years ago, until 2006. At the time, a lot of the copy editing was outsourced to countries like India, where supply of English writers more than met the demand, and at a fraction of the price American copy editors demanded. I worked for Thomson, which at the time was (and maybe still is) one of the big three in textbook publishing.

I looked at their website and found a list of jobs under publishing/editing: many of them are quite geographically distributed, but looking at some of the requirements may help you get a better understanding of what additional skills or training you'd need.

Good luck--I ran screaming and never looked back, but then again, I wasn't in editing.
posted by stellaluna at 11:09 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh oh! I'm a textbook editor! It's pretty great! Which is not to say perfect, but overall I'm quite happy.

It sounds like you have a good background for this, based on your editorial experience. I'm not sure what level you are thinking of starting, but you might want to start by finding some social studies books you like and taking a look at who publishes them. Pearson and McGraw Hill are the two biggest companies, but there are a lot of smaller publishers, especially in the humanities.

What style do most use?
We tend to use CMoS as our base, then add on whatever discipline-specific guidelines. Every book is a little different.

Would a specific certification be of value to them? Something I can get with an accredited online course? (if so, where would I take such a course?)
Although you already have some experience, it can't hurt to have something that demonstrates your interest in editing. I know UC Berkeley extension has an online editing course that a lot of us have taken. I'm sure there are other universities with similar options. There are also intensive programs like the Denver Publishing Institute or the Columbia Publishing Course. It's a good way to meet people and build your publishing network. I went to DPI and I got my first editing job out of it.

How do I get my foot in the door on small related projects? In general, how do I make the connections I need? Is there a website for the textbook-editor crowd?
You can try publishing meetups and classes from Media Bistro and BookBuilders. Other than that, you can just start sending your resume to publishers that interest you. You might also want to ask people for informational interviews. We tend to be pretty happy to talk shop with people who care about the same things.

And finally, if I wish to remain mobile, is it realistic for me to think I can do this work remotely?
This one is going to be tough for the first few years. Most publishers like to have people on site to start with and the majority of textbook publishers are in New York and San Francisco, although most of the big publishers also have other offices scattered over the country. Check out their websites and see if there are any locations that appeal to you.

Best wishes with this. MeMail me if you want to talk further!
posted by chatongriffes at 11:24 AM on May 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


There is a solid concentration of education publishers in Boston, as well. This is a very freelance-friendly business, but the best way to open the doors to those freelance jobs is to work in-house first. Don't overlook packagers -- there's a lot in this space and the competition for those jobs may not be quite as fierce.

If you really want to make yourself stand out, learn about XML, ePub, and other eBook technologies. Even if you don't want to specialize in digital, everyone is going to be doing a lot of experimenting with digital products in the next few years, and the more you know, the better.
posted by libraryhead at 11:37 AM on May 12, 2011


I also work in this field, intermittently, and can give you some contacts, so msg me as well. Definitely talk to university publishers - shops like UC Press and Princeton Architectural do a lot of neat stuff, and some of the smaller imprints have their own staff for this sort of thing too. And journals! Many of them are based at the editor's university, and some even do their own editing, and although the money isn't fantastic there, you could do a few different journals for the same big client (the American Sociological Association, for example, who I started out working for) and definitely pay the bills that way.

Yes, learn about epub, mobi, xml, and especially - as it will be more important than all of these over the next 2 or 3 years - html5. and learn about licenses, copyright vs. commons.
posted by luriete at 12:08 PM on May 12, 2011


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