You want to be an editor? Drive your nose into a book, get a cat, and lock yourself into a musty apartment. Just kidding ... while being an editor does require the ability to work in isolation, your work life will vary depending on which field of publishing you enter. Magazine editors have quite a different lifestyle than book editors. A certain set of skills, however, will be necessary regardless of the field you enter.
A Flexible Schedule
If you want to be an editor, expect to be flexible with your schedule. A publication deadline might mean an all-nighter in the office at a book publishing house or a magazine. Schedules are cyclical and depend on the time of year, too. For most book publishers, some months are busier than others, such as when books are being finalized and printed for the Christmas sales season. In magazine publishing, depending on whether the publication is bi-weekly or monthly, you'll face hectic deadlines many times a year.
Attention to Detail
Expect to spend long hours poring over the same documents repetitively to get them into perfect shape. An editor's job is to make sure the final product sings, and that sometimes means working with a writer for a long time, exchanging ideas and edits. Your job is to have a critical eye and point out problems the writer won't be able to see. This takes sharp editing skills and communication skills, as an insulted writer probably won't be able to work productively.
According to the Editors' Association of Canada, editors can be found in many different fields, especially with the rise of websites and online publishing. Now, even companies outside of traditional publishing often have web editors. In addition, marketing, education, and health-care fields also demand editors. This is good news for you, but it means you need to build a portfolio and stay on your toes. Treat your work as an editor like a professional calling and always be prepared to bridge your skills into a new field. Especially in book publishing in New York, editors tend to move among several different companies during their career.
While an editor used to wield a red pen and reading glasses, today's editors must be computer savvy and up-to-date on word processing software. Most of your editing, regardless of your field, will happen digitally. If you work in magazine publishing, you'll need to be able to collaborate with artists and designers as well, so an understanding of visual communication is crucial. If you're looking for a fast-paced job that demands technology skills, communication, and a flexibility to handle the unknown, editing might just be for you.
Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.