It’s no secret that I do the majority of my marketing, networking, and connecting for my book editing on social media. The most common question I get whenever I post any video or graphic on being an editor is “How did you get started?” or “How do you become an editor?” So this week is about how I became an editor along with some advice and resources I recommend for those looking to become editors.
How did I get here?
I didn’t always know I wanted to be a book editor. I have always known that I loved books. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a book binger. I never took a TV to college and would read 50 books a semester. I read while I worked out. I read between classes. I even met one of my college best friends because she was reading a book I had read. Despite being a history major, my professors noticed my knack for writing and recommended me to tutor in the writing center, which required an additional elective course and training. I made time for this my senior year and tutored other students in writing.
Fast forward through a 1000-mile move, a career in law, two kids, and a pandemic and I was burned out and dried up. After months of exhaustion, frustration, and a lack of inspiration I told my husband that “I never want to work again.” He was supportive of my decision to quit and cheered me on the whole way. The thing is, I’ve always been a pusher. I see life as exciting and full of opportunity, but after years of working at a job that didn’t fit I couldn’t see a way to happiness through work.
So I took time off. I did nothing. I cleaned my house. I spent time with my kids. And I read books, obviously.
It was during this time of respite that I came across an article that listed editing as a great option for people looking for a remote side hustle. Immediately, I dove headfirst into researching what it took to be a qualified editor. I knew that my only interest was going to be with fiction books, but I began to research routes to being a professional editor.
Something that came up in my research and is both a positive and negative about editing is that it’s not a regulated field. This means that anyone can be an editor. There are no requirements or licenses required to be called a book editor. Regardless, I knew for me to uphold the level of service I felt authors deserved, I needed to get further training.
How did I train?
After researching and comparing programs I opted to enroll in the University of San Diego’s extension program in copyediting. The program takes about a year to complete, and is comprised of four courses starting with grammar and ending with editing with developmental queries or heavy copyediting.
In addition to that, I took an editing for fiction course through the Editor’s Freelance Association as my program was heavy in nonfiction editing information. I used a break between courses to take this self-paced course and gain knowledge where I knew I was going to want to expand my business.
Starting my business
This is where my story starts to overlap some. I had already been editing on some freelance sites, but minimally. However, after the completion of my grammar course I decided to announce to my private social media following (read: friends and family) that I’d decided to switch careers and what my plans for the future were. A family member reached out to tell me she knew some contacts in independent publishing. One of those connections reached out to me to work on an upcoming book she needed help with.
That project was a small 30k word multi-author novella and started during my second class. I worked really hard on this project, but I also experimented and analyzed how this project went. On top of this, I requested a meeting with the client and her coordinator to discuss future projects. She loved my work and referred me to other contacts within the publishing industry. Between her and her contacts my calendar filled up quickly.
I used this time to create social media and start to plan my transition into fiction while working and finishing my post-graduate certificate. To clarify, I edited six books while I was in the copyediting program at UCSD extension. I highly recommend this. It helped me gain experience to apply what I was learning. It let me gather testimonials while I decided who my ideal client was. It helped me build confidence and grow while gaining real world experience in editing.
What parts of my journey do I recommend to new editors?
First, I highly recommend getting editing training. I think one of the positives is there are multiple pathways to becoming an editor. But one of the negatives is a lack of understanding on what levels of editing or types of editing are. It’s very common to have new editors with a lack of understanding regarding the service they provide. Furthermore, there are many who think that a degree in English or having written a book qualifies them to edit another person’s book. I will say that I rarely think those are sufficient qualifications. I say this from a place of experience.
Second, if you’re serious about changing career paths, I think making it known to your friends and family is a great first step. If you’re on social media, announce your new endeavor. You’d be surprised who knows who or who may be writing a book. I have friends who’ve gotten jobs from employers, friends, or connections they didn’t know were working on a book. I even did a very early assignment for a friend looking for feedback on her resume and cover letter. Experience can be gained quickly in exchange for feedback and testimonials.
Finally, I recommend starting before you feel 100% comfortable. This seems counterintuitive, but editing is a primarily woman dominated profession and women notoriously hold back or underestimate their qualifications. Editing does not require perfection and it shouldn’t be a requirement to start working with authors. Clarity in what you’re able to deliver and honesty with clients is what will benefit you in your early editing career. So get clear on what you’re offering and start scared. It will always be a little nerve wracking, but the only way to become an editor is to start editing for clients.
Resources for those who want to be editors