Work as an editor
June 10, 2005 8:27 PM   Subscribe

A client of mine is interested in work as an editor for book publishers. How would he go about making contacts about doing this kind of work?
posted by yclipse to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Join a long line of fresh-out-of-college starry-eyed kids working for low pay doing shit work until such time--years, usually--your friend has shown skill and perserverance and gets promoted to assitant editor in charge of book blurbs for atlases. Then it's nothing but candy and lights from there!
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:15 PM on June 10, 2005

I love Mo Nickels' answer, just for the entertainment value, but as someone who's worked as an editor, he's also totally right.

Basically, there a lot more people who want to be book editors that there are editing positions--that's why it pays like crap unless/until you make it into the top 1% and become a publisher. Even so, people like Nan Talese don't even get their own imprints because they're great at editing prose (even though they might be)...they get them because they're great at picking profitable titles.

What's more, that's becoming more true every year...there's been a series of articles online recently on how book editing is no longer really about sitting down and editing a book, but just about deciding what you're going to publish. Agents are now starting to help outsource the actual editing themselves, where they'll hire a freelance editor to work with the author beforehand before the publishing house even gets it, so they can promote it as pre-edited and much cheaper/attractive to buy. That's just becoming a standard approach, and you know those freelance editors aren't even making what an in-house editor does.

Sad to say--no, not just "sad"..."incredibly demoralizing and tragic to say"--wanting to become a book editor is becoming somewhat quaint. Certainly nothing you can just start doing because you want to.
posted by LairBob at 10:05 PM on June 10, 2005

There are all sorts of editors, too.

I've done some freelance development editing work. I got the work on the strength of a friend's recommendation and a brief, informal interview that allowed me to point to past experience editing online publications.

DEs receive the manuscript from the author and give it a first look, making sure the formatting won't stymie the production people, cleaning up egregious issues, and checking the book against the house style guide. DEs are also supposed to make sure the author is sufficiently clear, doesn't miss anything the book is supposed to have in it, ensure that the author has produced the amount of work contracted, and get a general sense of how the book works for later, in case cuts need to be made or the author needs to provide more material.

Doing DE work has put me in contact with several levels of the operation I've worked with: I've had to interact with the acquisitions editors, in-house development editors, production editors, copy editors, publishers, and managing editors at one point or another on every project. I don't know how successful a freelance DE would be at trying to convert to full-time work, but I do know people who have put together a decent living as freelance editors and who get steady work because they've built up a good reputation over time as versatile and reliable workers.

If my own experience is any guide, I'd say it just helps to know someone doing what you want to do and finding out if they contract any work out. As LairBob pointed out, more and more freelancers seem to be appearing in the business, so personal recommendations and contacts go further: HR doesn't get involved in the process.
posted by mph at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2005

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