How do you know which type of Editor you want to be?
I am thinking of pursuing editing as a career, but I do not know if I should pursue an editing job for magazines, newspapers, or books, or go into advertising. I know advertising is where the money is at, but I love to read. I applied for my school's yearbook class to get some experience, but I don't know how I'm supposed to know which type of editing is right for me.
I have two editing jobs—one where I read about workers' compensation insurance and the other where I read about Major League Baseball players. Guess which one I like better?
Start anywhere; you can always move around. But the dream-come-true is finding an editing job where you get to read material that you would be glad to read even if you weren't getting paid.
There is a lot more to think about than books, magazines, newspapers, and advertising. Almost all the books I edit are by doctors, for doctors. I love it. I work with amazing authors who do amazing things. My title is Senior Editor, but I have never editied a book during my career. I search for the next book to publish and manage the publishing process for those that I sign. Teaching number two, think about things that excite you. They generate content that needs to be edited. Maybe the Webb Telescope excites you. It will generate a lot of content that needs to be edited over the next decade. Maybe you love music, or animals, or the ocean. All these generate content that needs to be edited. Find something to be expert in. I have a friend who edits books in industrial and applied math. I do not even know what that is, but she loves it.
When I started in publihsing, manuscript came in on paper, there was no Amazon, no email, and no internet. Today I work on books that will never be printed. They will only exist in electronic forms. Teaching number three, change is happening at light speed, and it is not going to slow down. Accept that, embrace it, and drive the change, if you can. Good luck.
You'll surely need that college degree to acquire general knowledge, as well as knowledge in specific fields. If, for example, you intended to edit a cooking magazine, you'd certainly be expected to know a great deal about the subject as not only would you be editing, possibly challenging or correcting the work of others, you would probably need to write sidebars--short, colorful essays that add to or illustrate further something in the main article. You would need to be able to communicate with your writers, and knowledgeable about who is writing about what in your subject. You'll need the four years to read your head off, and if done cleverly, to use that reading in your courses: you'll learn to never to use research only once.
Even more than the degree and the reading, you'll want to practice writing and being edited as much as editing your own and others' work. If you can afford to work purely for the acquiring of skills, definitely find yourself an editorial internship and make sure it is for a mentor who is critical in the best sense of the word and who can explain her/his editorial choices. Good editors train good writers, and train good editors too. If you can learn how to help a writer preserve his/her style while improving the organization and clarity of their text, you can probably have any editing position you desire.
The irony is that, you will probably work at least as hard as your writers to make their writing shine, but their success resides in the shining while yours will reside in the shadows. If an editor has done her work really well, no one but the writer will know its full extent,
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Which medium do you enjoy reading the most? Editing involves A LOT of reading both for your job and for your industry. If you're not reading it in your spare time, it's going to much harder to enjoy the editing process. It's challenging with subjects you don't care as much about. Editors choose novels based on their passion for the novel for a reason.
Magazines and newspapers both have sections which you would apply for (beauty, celebrity, finance, etc.). These jobs are specific. There isn't really a broad editing job (until you get higher up). Although, it is reasonable to feel you could be a good editor for several subjects.
You'll have to have knowledge in each subject (this includes fiction--think of the different genres and what each expects).
Of course, you could also explore academic editing and editing high (reading) level documents for governments or schools. Or editing for corporations (instruction manuals). This can be dry at times, but pays better and consistently.
Keep in mind that you shouldn't dismiss pay. While it's great to follow a passion (and I wouldn't discourage you from doing so), take stock of your lifestyle and what it costs. Would your pay support your lifestyle? Be sure to look up the pay scale online. Also think of competition for jobs. Don't let fear dictate your choice, but be prepared to fight harder or sacrifice more for passion projects.
While you're reading, think about how you'd edit what you're reading. Try copy and pasting articles, passages, etc. into a document (for your personal use only) and editing them. What do you like the best?
AP vs. CMS are simply different styles, but make sure you know both or whichever you need for the job you choose.
I will keep it real with you as someone who has been working 5+ years in writing and editing -- editing jobs seem to be dwindling in specific industries, such as marketing (the one I work in). This is not to alarm you but just to let you know that you may not find your ideal editing job right away, especially as a newer editor.
In traditional corporate office environments, you're much more likely to see editing expected as part of a writer's job, rather than its own specific job. That is, unless the company is pretty large and has a true Content Team, Creative Team, or Editorial Team.
Keep in mind that sometimes HR creates the job descriptions, and they might not even know exactly what type of editor they want. They are not going to distinguish between a developmental editor, line editor, proofreader, etc. like a publishing house would. If you're the first editor a company has ever hired, or the only one on staff, they may expect you to be a self-starter and bring your knowledge and skills to the job. This has pros and cons to it.
It sounds like you may be leaning toward publishing rather than marketing, advertising, academia, or journalism. That is totally OK -- you may start there and change paths as you follow the job opportunities. Or you may love it and spend your whole career in that area. I will say that publishing seems much different than the type of job I do in marketing, so if publishing is where your true passion lies, it may be more important to work in that industry overall than in that specific editing job role to start out.
I would highly, highly recommend you check out ACES: The Society for Editing. They have TONS of professional knowledge that is awesome for editors at all points in their careers. I also know of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), which I'm not as familiar with but which may have more information for you.
I would also recommend familiarizing yourself with the different types of major style guides. AP Stylebook is typical for marketing and journalism. Chicago Manual of Style is more common in publishing. There are also others like the APA and AMA that are for specific academic areas.
Final place to check for more information about editing jobs -- good old-fashioned professional books from the library or a used book seller. They will give you a good history of editing and proofreading jobs that may be harder to find online, especially as the role has changed over time. It could be great professional knowledge for you and will likely be an interesting read, even if some of the information is now outdated.
Best of luck to you!