What is a day in the life of an editor like?
My dream career is to be a fiction author, but I know it's not really a financially-stable career, so I've been thinking of being an editor because I really, really love editing writing. I think I have an eye for it since I've always been the one that my peers come to for proofreading and writing advice in school. I also think it'd be fun because I'd get to work with books and gain more experience about the publishing process while working on my own. So can anyone give me an idea of what a day in the life of a book editor is like?
In my case, I don't really have a set schedule. I'm more of a freelance editor so for me, I'll do editing jobs as they come or sometimes I help others with their editing jobs. Usually it consists of looking over the document and double-checking with anything spell and grammar check thinks is wrong and then I just look to see if the article, essay, or written piece flows well.
Each day as an editor is different. I describe my job in three parts: acquiring manuscripts for publication (which means reading tons of manuscripts, meeting with agents, and pitching the books in a series of meetings to different people in my department); editing (from big-picture content edits to line editing before I send it off to the copyeditor; a lot of this honestly happens during evenings, weekends, and the occasional work-from-home day); and coordinating with other departments (meetings and strategizing with the folks in marketing, publicity, production, managing editorial, rights, and design, and my publisher). I work in children's book publishing, so on any given day I could simultaneously be working on both books for toddlers and issue-driven novels for older teens, and I'm also working on several seasons and stages of production at once.
As an editorial assistant (and then assistant editor), where you will spend 2-6 years, your job is to assist on your boss's list (the books she acquires and edits). You will likely also need to perform a host of administrative tasks including answering her phone, arranging meetings and travel, etc, and you'll also read a lot of submissions on her behalf.
New York (where most of the jobs are) is a very expensive city and editor salaries (especially at entry level) are not high. That said, it is doable, especially if you get roommates and don't have student debt. I encourage everyone to think hard about whether the perks (free books, meeting authors, working with really exceptional people) outweigh the downsides (low pay, long hours, getting stuck at assistant level for a very long time). There is a great community of junior staff in the city, so I have found I can find other people who want to socialize on a budget.
You should absolutely try to intern before you graduate. Your next best bet (or something to do simultaneously) is working in a bookstore or library. I also encourage you to explore departments outside of editorial -- editorial is insanely competitive, and other jobs in publicity, marketing, rights, sales, and managing ed (copyediting) can be fulfilling for many people as well.
One word of caution -- Editorial is really competitive, so I personally don't love hearing interview candidates say that they *really* wanted to be a writer, but being an editor is a great backup. I'd rather hire someone who is passionate specifically about being an editor! Not to say you can't be passionate about both, but I'd take a moment to think about how you'd like to approach it.
Allison recommends the following next steps:
Editorial work is a very rewarding one. First, figure out for yourself if you enjoy content editing or copy editing. They are different and require different skill sets.
Stefania recommends the following next steps: