How to Become a Book Editor

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Jun 26, 2018

Jun 26, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

Do you have a passion for the written word?

Do you feel like you have a mild panic attack anytime that you see someone mixing up to/too, your/you're, and its/it's?

If so, it sounds like you already have what it takes to learn how to become a book editor.

However, in this ultra-competitive (and, some would argue, rapidly shrinking) industry, you'll need to work extra hard if you want to make a career as an editor happen.

You'll need to master grammar, get the right degree, work all of your connections, and even learn publishing software.

Want to learn how to land the kinds of jobs in publishing that you've alway dreamed about?

If so, read on to learn how to get started in your career as a book editor.

Start Early

The first thing to understand about how to become a book editor?

Most publishing houses will only be interested in editors that have an undergraduate and graduate degree in English, Literature, or some sort of related field, like Journalism or Communications.

The good news?

If your college years are far behind you, there are tons of available certification programs and courses that you can look into. You may also have a good chance if your degree involved business or even marketing in some way.

After all, books and publishing are just as much of a business as anything else.

Another way to create the right foundation for becoming a book editor?

Read, read, read.

Read classic literature, current bestsellers, and even genre books like noir or true crime. Find out which niche of publishing you'd be likely to have the most success -- and fun -- within.

Of course, you'll also need to master both grammar and contemporary publishing software.

Luckily, there are tons of certification courses to help you learn things like InDesign, Scribus, and other publishing software. Mastering the more technical side of editing will give you a huge leg up over other candidates.

Discover more about digital publishing platforms -- and why they're so effective -- on the MagLoft website

When it comes to giving your grammar skills a boost, listen to the Quick and Dirty podcast from the celebrated "Grammar Girl" Mignon Fogarty.

Also try Purdue Owl, and make sure that you familiarize yourself with the essential grammar book The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.

Land an Internship

When you're trying to learn how to get a job as an editor, you need to understand just how much connections matter within the publishing industry as a whole.

It might not be popular to say, but in the literary world, it truly is all about who you know.

One of the ways you can make sure you're meeting the right people?

By getting a summer internship at a literary magazine, publishing house, or even digital journal. Be aware that it might be tough to find an internship that's paid, and that you'll likely need to relocate to a city like New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Follow your favorite publishing houses on Twitter, as opportunities for internships are usually announced there before anywhere else. You can also check the magazine Poets & Writers to find out about potential summer internships.

Remember that these gigs are very competitive, and it helps to get your foot in the door as early as you can.

Offer to go through the slush pile at literary magazines, and, if you're still in college, work for your school's newspaper or academic journals.

This will give you some editing credentials, plus the experience to decide whether or not it's really for you.

Pick up Freelance Gigs

Especially if you're more interested in focusing on how to become an editor without a degree, you'll need to learn how to provide for yourself in the editing and publishing world.

This means that you'll need to secure as many freelance editing gigs as you can. Check out places like the ProBlogger job board, your university's alumni magazine, and other websites and blogs.

You can even comb through places like Craigslist, where many people are looking to connect with someone willing to edit their manuscripts or academic essays.

Now is also the time to create your own website and to start building your brand as a reputable editor. List your CV, your education credentials, and include a more personal section that allows potential clients to get to know you.

Get active on social media -- the literary community is well-known for being especially active on Twitter. Get in on popular conversations, follow your favorite authors, and never be afraid to add your voice to the mix.

You should also consider writing your own blog.

Fill it with writing prompts, editing tips, and even examples of hilariously bad grammar.

Blogging isn't just an awesome way to promote yourself online.

It's also a chance for you to hone your editing skills and prove to potential clients that you have the expertise that's right for them.

How to Become a Book Editor: Wrapping Up

From understanding how editing and publishing software works to building your personal editing brand through your website and blog, it takes a lot to make it in the literary world.

The good news?

Learning how to become a book editor comes with the opportunity to meet incredibly fascinating people, land your name on the bestseller list, and attend the hottest literary events in the biggest cities in the world.

Ready to apply for an editing job?

Be sure to use our job board to make it happen.

Don't forget to keep on checking back with our blog to understand how to nail the interview, write the perfect resume, and negotiate the kind of offer that you deserve.