How Do I Become a Book Editor?

Being an avid reader is one requirement for becoming a book editor.
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Being an avid reader is one requirement for becoming a book editor.

Maybe you don’t have time to write the next great best-selling novel, but you want to be in on the action. Having a career as a book editor gets you entry into all the book-signing parties without actually having to put pen to paper or come up with 300 pages of ideas. Unfortunately, breaking into the world of book editing can prove even more difficult than actually sitting down to write a novel. If you are planning on becoming a book editor, be prepared to pay some dues.

Book Editor Careers

Book editors mainly work at publishing houses, although there are some who go into business for themselves. Their jobs consist of finding new publishable talent and developing these authors’ work into a book that a businesswoman will want to buy during a layover at JFK airport. At smaller publishing houses, the book editor will be responsible for reading the work, editing and working with the author. More profitable publishing houses employ copy editors to do the drudgery of making sure all the commas are in the right spaces. The book editor is then free to work with the author in editing the book down to something that can be reasonably read and to plan book signings. Book editors also may work in management roles, depending on the company setup.

Start Early

The field of book editing is very competitive. Not as competitive as Black Friday sales, but you get the idea. The earlier you start on the career path, the better -- early means college or even high school. Working on the school paper can give invaluable insight and experience into your future career choice. Starting out as a reporter and then moving your way up on your campus newspaper is a great resume builder. If possible, try to get a position on a local paper, covering the local scene for young people.


Even though your ultimate goal is to become a critic of other people’s work, you need to spend some time in the trenches. First, you will need a degree that shows you can link words together to form a comprehensible sentence. A degree in English, communications or journalism will fill that bill. If you are hoping for a career in a major city, you will want to obtain a degree from a four-year university. If you are in small town, in let’s say, North Dakota, you may be able to get away with an associate degree. Because an editor’s job sometimes includes managing an office and other people, taking some business courses or minoring in business wouldn't hurt.

Breaking Into the Business

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the growth rate of editor careers at 1 percent for the period of 2010 to 2020. This does not bode well for all of you would-be book editors, but for those determined few it is possible to fulfill your dreams. Be prepared to start off as a writer or a reporter to learn the industry and to get to know the players. You also need to read, a lot. Part of being a good book editor is finding new talent, so expanding your literary repertoire will help you in analyzing authors. Since book editing is such a competitive field, this may be one time to take that internship. An internship will help you get a foot in the door of a publishing house and make contacts. If you are past the age of internships, try going on a few informational interviews to learn the industry and meet with the players directly.

2016 Salary Information for Editors

Editors earned a median annual salary of $57,210 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, editors earned a 25th percentile salary of $40,480, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $79,490, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 127,400 people were employed in the U.S. as editors.

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