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What steps should I take to become an editor?

Eventually I want to edit books for a living. Right now I'm a senior in high school. I plan on majoring in English once in college. Where do I go from there? editor writing english literature

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Julie’s Answer

Hi Emmalee,


This is a great question. My best advice is: Get experience! You can do this through volunteering, interning or joining an editorial team in a small magazine in your school or at college. When you gain actual experience, you will not only learn about the various tasks that an editor has (and learn how to do them). In addition, you will have actual experience to show for (on your CV), which is really helpful.


I base this advice partly on my own experience. I was recently a guest editor for a literary magazine, which helped me learn about editorial work, and also allowed me to figure out whether being an editor! I had already done a lot of editorial work in an academic setting (I work at the university as a researcher, and I regularly comment on and proof-read academic writing by my colleagues). Still, I wanted to see whether I enjoyed editorial work outside of an academic setting. By being a guest editor, I learned about all the work that goes into making an issue of a literary magazine. It requires planning, financing, designing, and a lot of communication work (emailing writers and others). Getting that experience taught me that editing text and talking to writers is only a small part of an editor's job. Especially if you are just starting out or working for a small organization, you will most likely find that you gain and try out many other skills in addition to editing. This can be exhilarating as well as challenging, and all in all a very useful experience.


In your case, there are three things I would recommend you to at this stage:


  1. Get an internships in the local community: Are there any interesting publications or magazines in your local community that you are interested in? You can contact these and introduce yourself, saying that you are interested in an internship and also suggesting what you can offer them. If you are passionate about editing, you probably have things to offer them. Emphasize these things, in addition to the fact that you would like to learn from them. That way, you establish that it will be a two-way relationship, not just you getting something out of them.
  2. Join the editorial team in a school/college publication: Think about what publications exist in your school, or research student newspapers once you start college. Joining the editorial team in a small publication is a good place to start. When I was as a guest editor, I joined a literary magazine that was founded by two acquaintances of mine. They had started this magazine because they were passionate about literary translation, had studied translation at university, and believed there was a need for a new literary magazine devoted entirely to literary literatures. They were passionate and went for it, and actually managed to start their own publication! In the future, maybe you will be like these guys, someone who starts their thing together with some friends? It's possible! You just have to be ambitious, plan well, and collaborate with people around you.
  3. Do informational interviews: One last tip is to do informational interviews or ask for the opportunity to do job shadowing. While contacting a local publisher about an internship is a good idea, you might also want to consider asking for an informational interview first. Once they've met you, they might be more inclined to offer you an internship or opportunities to volunteer and help out.


What is an informational interview?

An informational interview is basically a short, semi-causal conversation where ask someone about their job, how they got where they are, what they like about their job, etc. It's not a job interview. You are just getting to know the other person and learning about their job.


Based on my own experience, informational interviews have made a huge difference in my life. They were helping me even before I knew that they were called "informational interviews". (When I was an undergraduate at university, I just used to think of it as "asking someone I thought was interesting out of a coffee" – that's probably why I really enjoyed doing it.) Also, I can't underscore this enough: Be brave and contact people you don't know. It's common to think that people don't have time to talk to us, but don't underestimate how kind people can be. (Also, don't underestimate how many people like to chat with you about their work!) Often, people who have themselves been helped my others in their career are happy to talk to someone who is young and aspirational. They remember being helped and want to pay it forward.


When you contact a stranger for an informational interview, the other person might they say that they are too busy, or not reply. But that's okay! There is very little to lose. Since you are young, you should also try to arrange to meet in a familiar, public space where you feel safe and comfortable (like a café you know well, but that is also convenient for the person you are talking to).


Here is a nice, animated video about informational interviews, made by

<span style="color: var(--yt-endpoint-visited-color, var(--yt-spec-text-primary));">Stanford Life Design Lab</span>: Designing Your Career: The Informational Interview. If you search online, there are many other articles on how to contact people about informational interviews (like how to compose the email you send, if you are using email), and advice on the kinds of questions you can ask.


Best of luck, Emmalee!

Julie recommends the following next steps:

Research whether there are magazines or publications in your local community that you could contact about internships
Consider joining the editorial team in a publication in your school or (later on) your college
Watch the video about informational interviews, find a few people you can do informational interviews with, and contact them. After each meeting, write down what you learned, what surprised you, etc.
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Tamasyn’s Answer

The first steps if you’re still at high school would be to see if you can do a short course facilitated by your school as work experience. Otherwise plenty of publsihing houses ask for interns who are at University. Check out internships.com and select publishing. Alternatively contact a local one directly and ask for work experience. Start at the bottom.

Thank you for the help! Emmalee B.
I appreciate what Tamasyn Clare just said, starting from the bottom will be very good by taking this Proofreading and Editor online course that will take you from a Novice to a professional Editor with job guarantee https://bit.ly/3jb5Qvy Bao Bab
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Emily’s Answer

Something you could be doing currently if you aren't already is writing and editing your own work or helping edit/proofread your friends papers/essays. The more experience the better and you can use that as an example when applying for internships if you're already editing work.

Also if wherever you're going to college has a tutoring center where you can help other students with editing their papers for classes that could also help. I'd also recommend learning a range of topics that you can be Subject Matter Expert on. The more topics you know a lot about the more you'll understand what you are editing when you're editing professionally. More than likely, you could get assigned any topic wherever you end up working, so having more knowledge in your arsenal the better.

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