How do I Become a Book Editor?

Dan Cavallari

A book editor position will require that you obtain a higher education degree; while a master's degree is not always necessary, a bachelor's degree or similar is almost always required. A love and passion for reading is also a must if you want to become a book editor, as is a keen eye for detail and an ability to recognize and correct grammatical errors, sentence structure problems, and other common pitfalls an author may encounter when reading a book. To become a book editor, you must be prepared to read a significant amount of bad writing, as much of the writing that will be submitted to you will never be published.

An aspiring book editor must be savvy enough to quickly recognize a good book.
An aspiring book editor must be savvy enough to quickly recognize a good book.

You will have to be savvy enough to recognize a good book if you want to become a book editor who is successful. This means being familiar with good writing, popular trends in literature, and marketing possibilities. In other words, you will need to be a student of the industry. A good way to become a book editor is to start working at a publishing company, literary agency, or editing firm. You will more than likely need to start at the bottom, sorting through what is known as the "slush pile," or unsolicited manuscripts sent into the agency by hundreds or thousands of unpublished writers.

If you are in college, you are in a great position to become a book editor, provided you take a few crucial steps toward that career. Read as much as you can, and work at the student newspaper if possible. Try to find an internship pertinent to the field of editing, and build up as much experience and credentials as possible before and immediately after graduation. Throughout your college career, be sure to read and write as much as possible, and learn as much about your reading and writing preferences as possible. It is also incredibly helpful to read industry publications, such as magazines and newsletters, to prepare you for the challenges and issues facing the industry today.

Try to schedule informational interviews with current editors who may encourage you and give you the best and most logical steps to become a book editor. Such an interview is a good idea not only for gaining information on the trade, but also for establishing connections with editors already established in the book publishing industry. A current editor may have information on available entry level positions, and if he or she thinks you would be a good candidate, you may even get a recommendation out of the meeting.

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