Can I get paid to read books?
July 22, 2011 8:26 AM   Subscribe

I love to read anything I can get my hands on. But does this love translate into a career?

and if so-then what? Do I need a degree and if so in what field?
How would I get started? I swear I had a friend whose sister had a job reading novels then writing out detailed summeries, and she was paid per book. That sounds great...but a little *too* great you know?...
Thank you for any and all advice on this
posted by Frosted Cactus to Work & Money (16 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Other than academics in the humanities, lawyers probably read and write more than just about anyone. Indeed, the ability to rapidly assimilate and understand large quantities of written material is almost a prerequisite, and the lawyers who aren't good at this tend to be bad at and/or not enjoy their jobs.
posted by valkyryn at 8:34 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have an eye for grammar and usage errors, you might find life as copy-editor enjoyable.

"... seriously, your job is to sit and read articles ..."
posted by Maxa at 8:41 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You can get a job as a reader for agents or producers. (Agents: either literary agents, who read manuscripts and give reader's reports or TV/film agents, who have people to read publishing things for them, and also write reports, but with an eye towards marketability.)

I do not think a career in copy-editing is for you. In nearly any case with a job that involves reading, you will also have to have top-notch writing skills yourself, but copy-editing is really next-level.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:45 AM on July 22, 2011

Publishers' assistants do a lot of this.
posted by jessicapierce at 8:46 AM on July 22, 2011

May I recommend avoiding publishing? Many people get into the field because they love reading, but quickly find out it's mostly reading things you don't care about (if you're lucky enough to get editorial work, which... probably you're not), schmoozing, meetings, and poverty.

And it's my understanding that literary agent-ing is hard. To be a good agent, you're working 24/7 to build up a client base, then working 24/7 to sell those books, then working 4/7 to keep everyone happy until you're rich or dead (more likely the latter).

Maybe film / TV would be better? I don't know.
posted by AmandaA at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Book blogging? Success as a blogger is kind of a shot-in-the-dark endeavor, but you can work towards establishing a presence in the community.
posted by litnerd at 9:07 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a translator, and my job essentially involves very high-level reading in another language, day in, day out. It also requires me to have very good writing skills.

As RJ Reynolds suggests, there are few or no jobs that involve a lot of reading that don't also involve a lot of writing. Make sure your writing skills are second to none before embarking on any of the careers mentioned above. They may already be excellent, but you do not demonstrate this in the sample we see here.

If you're asking about degrees you're probably young (?). I'd recommend going for something with a large amount of essay-writing, at a university/college where you can get good help with writing if you need it, and which has rigorous writing requirements.
posted by altolinguistic at 9:08 AM on July 22, 2011

I work as an editor, and it's absolutely amazing. It really is. I love my job.

Don't confuse being an editor with being a copy-editor. I don't correct the grammar and spelling; it's more big picture than that. I read manuscripts and decide which projects we should publish, and I work with authors to develop characters and plot and to improve pacing and flow. I like to compare my job to being a director of a play or a movie -- I'm not the one on stage, but I'm the one guiding the writer behind the scenes, encouraging them to try it this way or to focus on that part, pushing them to write the best book they can.

Of course, that's just the editing part of the job. I also act as the liaison between the author and the publishing house, representing the interests of each to the other. I negotiate contracts, write flap copy, meet with sales and marketing, try to stay on schedule, etc etc etc.

I am also someone who loves reading anything I can get my hands on, and I do a lot of reading for my job. Some of this reading is enjoyable, and some of it is less enjoyable, though in general, I like this aspect of my job. I have to read a lot of manuscripts that aren't very good or may not be up my alley. I have to see potential in books that aren't polished yet. I have to read the same thing over and over and over while I'm working on it. However, it's not just reading, and 9-5, there's very little reading, since the rest of my job takes up that time, so there's a lot of time spent after work reading for work purposes. This cuts into the reading that I do for pleasure, and I should mention that it also reduces (to some extent) the pleasure that I get from reading for fun -- I find it harder to feel motivated to pick up a book in my spare time or to read something without thinking about it critically.

tl; dr: Editing is a GREAT job for someone who loves to read, but it's low-paid and difficult to break into. You don't need a special degree -- most editors major in English, but I didn't -- but you probably need to do unpaid internships and you definitely need a healthy dose of luck. If this interests you, feel free to MeMail me and I'm happy to answer more questions.
posted by cider at 9:12 AM on July 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

I work in strategic analysis / competitive intelligence. Basically I follow my employer's competitors and other groups innovating in the field (universities, national labs), and do some reports, trends analysis, and quantitative analysis, sometimes a presentation or other kind of meeting.

In other words, I read a lot more than I write. What I write has to be succinct and easy to understand at a high-level both in terms of concept and audience (management). So, those may be some keywords to look up.
posted by whatzit at 9:17 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm a reference librarian. I read widely, always have, and I never know what might come in handy. Often there's mysterious serendipity: someone will ask for help finding information on a random obscure topic that I just happened to have explored a few days earlier. It's great work if you can find it, comfortable working conditions, shit pay.
posted by mareli at 9:23 AM on July 22, 2011

Public policy analysis would fit the bill.
posted by jgirl at 9:42 AM on July 22, 2011

I'm an online content editor and I freelanced in college as a proofreader for technical documents. Was it hard? Definitely, I had eyestrain so bad I had to start wearing glasses (now that I read less than 12 hours a day, I'm glasses-free). Was it boring? Why yes, it was! But you know what? I got offered a full-time job as a technical writer after that, because I was qualified. I've had virtually every kind of proofing, editing, or writing job you can imagine, from advertising (including radio jingles and TV commercials) to animation scripts for DVD-ROMs.

If you're going to get a degree, consider majoring in English at a Liberal Arts college - but if you're really considering basing your career on a love of reading, you're going to need an impeccable grasp of grammar, spelling, and make The Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook your best friends.

Everyone upthread is right about this line of work being a low-paying job and difficult to get. There are literary agents and book publishers who send me unedited galleys of manuscripts daily, but the Metroplex is a publishing wasteland, so it'd be a real challenge for you to find proofing/reviewing work here in that vein.

If you REALLY love reading, how is your speaking voice? Perhaps volunteering at the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired would help you network with some people that could help you get find an opportunity that suits you?

Other ideas where reading's at least partially the focus of your work: voice talent actor; medical transcription jobs; court reporting (this is something you could be certified in fairly quickly through community college, I believe); here's a link to a proofreading job website with listings in Texas.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:48 AM on July 22, 2011

I disagree with the lawyer suggestion. Lawyers do have to read a lot, but it's very different than the kind enjoyed by people who enjoy reading.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:16 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Reading scripts isn't reading for pleasure. Reading manuscripts for publishing companies isn't going to really pay anything. You might think about setting yourself up as a professional book club facilitator, if you enjoy leading discussions, and so on.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:28 AM on July 22, 2011

Yup. Policy wonk here for the Fed. I read a lot. For some people it would be mind-numbing but since I love my field, it's great. Lots of reading, analysis, summarizing, etc. I was previously a reference librarian :)
posted by pointystick at 10:32 AM on July 22, 2011

Like Pointystick I am a policy wonk, but I work at the city/county level. I spend my time reading about subjects as diverse as parking space distribution, mass transit, water management. I can recall a particular week where, in response to news events, I went from reading all day about red-light cameras to how hate crimes are reported. If you don't just enjoy fiction and are generally curious it is great work.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:58 AM on July 22, 2011

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