How do I Become a Production Editor?

T. Webster

A production editor often works in the publishing industry, editing and proofreading books or other manuscripts. Some production editors also design the layout or the covers of books. Landing a job as a production editor usually requires a degree in English, journalism or another field that is specific to the kind of books published by a company. Textbook publishers, for example, sometimes will hire teachers or college professors.

A production editor oversees the entire book publication process.
A production editor oversees the entire book publication process.

There is no set path to become a production editor, partly because there generally is no degree program specifically designed for this field. Generally, the best way to become a production editor is to have a related degree and some writing or editing experience for newspapers, magazines or other publications. You also will need excellent spelling, writing and grammar skills.

You also should enjoy working with others as a team if you want to become a production editor. As a production editor, you likely will be working closely with others to help finalize a publication before it is sent to print. This can include working with authors, editors, proofreaders, designers and layout artists, to name a few. Any experience working with teams of editors, marketing departments, designers and writers will be a plus in your quest to break into this field.

You also will need tact if you want to become a production editor. Sometimes a writer’s manuscript must be heavily critiqued or edited. The editing can be done either by an editor or by the writer. In either case, it usually is a good policy to point out any deficiencies in a way that is professional and does not alienate the writer.

An artistic flair is another valuable asset if you want to become a production editor. Depending on the type of publication, you might be responsible for selecting illustrations to go along with a book or articles in a magazine. At the very least, you likely will be working with others who do this kind of work.

Training in desktop publishing software also can be helpful if you want to become a production editor. Desktop publishing typically refers to computer programs used to create layouts, book or magazine covers and other kinds of written materials. This training can be done either on your own, by reading books or other instructional material, or you can do it by taking a course.

When first starting out, you might need to take a job as an editorial assistant, or you can work as a freelance writer or editor. These and other entry-level positions sometimes allow you to get a start in the field and eventually to become a production editor. You can find job leads by checking postings in newspapers or on the Internet, at your college job placement office or through employment agencies that cater to the publishing industry.

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