A simple definition of editing is that it is the process of choosing a medium and preparing materials in order to communicate a message. Every message and piece of writing in the public domain has invariably been edited. There are different types of editors with different qualifications. Here we take a look at what a book editor does, some qualifications needed to become an editor and where to find editing jobs.
Book editors, whilst being concerned with spelling and grammar, are focused on story development and credibility. They work with authors, almost like a coach, to help ensure that a story follows conventions when and where required, is plausible (even in a fantasy world) and that time and distance have been believably suspended. They will check to see that the style of writing is consistent throughout the story. They will look for continuity in the story to ensure a logical progression. Editors in corporate publishing houses will have a say in which stories are published and will work with writers with a view to hopefully have the writer’s work published. On big projects the role of editor can be divided into specialized roles such as line editor, developmental editor, copy editor, and proofreader.
There is more to becoming an editor than a love of reading and writing. The role carries enormous responsibilities. Editors impact on the careers of writers and on the success of a company. It’s a serious job. A degree in English, Journalism or Communications will provide training in drafting, reviewing and publishing to some extent, especially when backed up by intern experience at a newspaper (big or small), a magazine or a publishing house, whilst studying. Some universities and colleges are able to assist their Journalism and English students with finding internships in the local community and through the alumni. Such opportunities are invaluable as they may lead to employment after graduating. It doesn’t matter what job the internship is along as it is a foot in the door and a step in the right direction.
Further study to gain more practical experience is a good idea. There are short, online, certificate courses that will teach you about editing software and how to research effectively, and also provide opportunities for practical editing assignments with the support of a supervisor. They will teach you to be flexible and improve your attention to detail. These projects will be the start of an editing portfolio.
Where to find work
With your college degree or diploma, online practical training certificate, and the beginnings of an editing portfolio, you can start to look for small projects as an online freelancer. Accept any work that comes along regardless of what it pays. There is no substitute for on the job training with a real live client. Another way to find paying work is to reach out to freelancers and friends in the website development community. Websites and blogs are information machine monsters that require constant feeding. You will probably have to begin by becoming a content writer first, but this will build a good understanding of what the market needs from writers and you will then be able to edit to those needs once editing work comes along.
Do not expect to start as a freelancer and instantly be given the next bestseller to edit. Edit everything and anything, and enjoy treats like editing short stories when they come along. Once you have built a respectable portfolio, gained invaluable experience, and understand what type of work you would like to edit, then it will be the right time to hit the “Assistant Book Editor Wanted” ads.