Friday, March 25, 2011

What Does It Take to Become an Editor?

Because I am a passionate book reader, my hope is to one day become an editor. I think that that it is a good career choice for me because I know that my love for reading will give me a love for this career, as well. I remember that I started reading at a pretty young age, and I haven’t stopped since then. I read everything from romance to mystery to horror to science fiction and everything in-between. When I was asked what I want to do when I grow up, my first thought was that I want to do something that I love, but I wasn’t sure what. Then a light bulb went off in my head, and I realized I can make a career out of my love for books.

Ever since I came to that realization, I have been trying to learn as much as I can about the job. But there are many things I would still like to know about becoming and being an editor. For example, which would an editor prefer—to work freelance or to work for a company and why? What kind of skills does one need to become an editor? Is there a need for online editors of newsletters, e-zines, newspapers, periodicals, etc.? What type of person would make a good editor? I want to know if this is a career that I would love, have the skills for, and if it is something that I can do for the rest of my life.

Hannah Cruz, a junior at a Denver, Colorado, high school, wants to become an editor and desires to learn all she can about that job. In addition to hearing from editors, she would like to know what writers expect of editors when they submit a manuscript to be edited. Hannah is currently shadowing Linda Lane for 20 hours as part of a school assignment.


Linda Lane edits books and coaches writers. Visit her and her editing team at and

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  1. Lots of questions here and I won't try to answer them all. The easiest one is whether I prefer to work freelance or for a company. One thing I really like about being freelance is I can take only the number of projects I feel I can handle. When I have been with a publishing company, they wanted me to do a certain number of books a year and that was sometimes too much.

    One of the main skills you need to have to be a good editor is to know how to edit without changing voice or style. That is something that comes with experience.

    Good luck with whatever path your future goes down.

  2. Although I worked as a reporter and editor for a newspaper early on, I've done mainly freelance work. The pros are that you can pick and choose what and how many projects you want to work on, set your own hours, payscale, etc. To be a good editor you need a certain amount of innate skill or feel for what reads well, as well as a thorough knowledge of style and grammar. Good luck to you!

  3. I admire editors. They pay so much attention to detail, and can make a book shine!

    Morgan Mandel

  4. I've always been a freelance editor and I like being able to make my own choices as to what to edit and when. If I travel, I take my computer with me. Reading a lot helps in that you develop a sense of what works in the genre you edit. I think it helps to either have a degree in English or to be gifted in that area. You also have to be patient. Your clients will want to discuss your edits, get your advice, and have you re-read what they re-wrote. A good editor has to do more than edit. She works with people just about as much as she works with the page. She also has computer skills and can edit in Word.

  5. Sometimes Blogger goofs and signs me with a name and profile that takes you nowhere. Have no idea why. That last comment was from me.

  6. All the best with your career Hannah.

    Just one thing I wanted to mention to bear in mind: when you begin reading as an editor it may change the way you read for pleasure. Some people can separate their enjoyment of and immersion in a good book from the deep attention to every error required for editing (editing from back to front is one way to do this), and others find they either get too sucked in to the story, or they have developed an eye for errors and can no longer lose themselves in the story.

    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

  7. Thank you to those who responded to Hannah's questions. She's working with me on an actual edit during her 20-hour shadowing, and she's both loving the process and adding valuable input to the YA manuscript -- since she's also the target audience.

  8. I like Elle's comment. Other than that, I recommend you pick up: Merriam Webster's Manual for Writers and Editors.

    Check out my editing site too.

  9. From a new writer's point of view, I'd suggest you start a little editing right now. Some of your school classmates would, no doubt, love to share some of their writing with you.
    Take care to encourage them while offering 'constructive critisizim'.
    Good Luck, Hanna.

  10. I love Della's suggestion!

    Hannah, I think that if a job with a mainstream publisher is available when you hit the work force, It couldn't hurt at all to work for a major publishing house. The one thing you'll get there is a feel for what work is commercial--because after all, this is a business. We freelancers can help people write their best possible book, which is always a feel-good endeavor, but if it can't sell has the author really brought his/her dream to fruition?

    Corporate vs freelance is a right-brain, left brain thing. If you can keep both halves in line, freelancing might be for you! I write about it today at my blog:

  11. Join a computer user group near you and volunteer to be the editor of their newsletter.

    I used to edit two user group newsletters, and still am the editor for one of them.

    You will get good experience, and help others at the same time.

    Just my two cents worth.

  12. We have the same goal. I'm glad I'm not alone and I hope things work out well for you.

    They're right about helping others edit now. A possibility that might also help is editing with more than one person, because they'll sometime catch things you wouldn't. I edit for my boyfriend and then he sends his book to Person B, then to Person C, then to Person D, he changes it and sends it back to me as a rainbow because he has everyone edit in a different color. It's useful to see what I missed and how I could've made it better.

    A good pointer, though, read the story for the story itself at least once so you can get a good flavor for their 'voice' and the main character's personality. It makes it easier to go in and fix something and make it so like what the author would've put or intended to put that it wouldn't confuse the readers. (I highlight it anyways so he can see where I made the change.)


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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