What is an Editor?

Editors are critical readers that love words. They are the people who prepare the writing of others for publication. Editors are seen as gatekeepers between the writer and audience, and they have to take a dual-sided point-of-view in order to keep both parties happy. Authors know their stories inside and out and have had a strong relationship with their manuscript for years. Audiences, on the other hand, have no emotional attachment to books that they have not read yet and are quick to judge any novel that they pick up to read.

The editor needs to edit a manuscript from both points-of-view. Changes that are to be made must feel like the author's authentic voice to keep him or her happy with the new and improved manuscript. The manuscript may also need changes that will keep the audience pulled in and interested for the length of the novel. One of an editor’s many challenges is to find a balance between the two.

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What does an Editor do?

Editors supervise a range of functions in a publishing house and have many tasks that need to be accomplished before a book is ready to be launched. When people hear the word “editor” they usually imagine someone who spell checks and is a stickler for grammar. While this is true, a lot more goes into editing a manuscript. When a manuscript is picked for publication there are many alterations and decisions that need to be made before the book can go to print. These alterations are made by different kinds of editors.

The first editor a manuscript goes through is the Acquisitions Editor. This is the editor that picks out the manuscript and decides if it would be a profitable choice for the Publishing House. He makes a pitch to the House to publish the manuscript and figures out all the budgeting, marketing, and contractual decisions. He is also the editor that facilitates communication between publisher and writer.

When a manuscript has been chosen it may need a heavy amount of editing. This work goes to the Developmental Editor. This editor works very closely with a writer as they try to develop the work to be its best. Content, organization, and presentation are all considered. He assists the writer in developing material including characters, setting, and plot, if needed. He may suggest additional research to be done to “flesh out” certain parts of the material for clarity and to create better flow. He makes comments on style, structure, and flow of information. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are also checked along with URL links, captions, graphics, footnotes, references, photos, tables, quotes, bibliography, and citations. This type of editing is the most invasive, so the editor works closely with the writer to be sure that he approves changes and his original voice is preserved.

Next in line is the Line Editor. He goes through a manuscript line by line and finds grammar and spelling errors that compromise the quality of the material. He makes sure that word choice contributes to the overall tone of the book. In some publishing fields the Line Editor and Copy Editor positions are combined into one.

The Copy Editor is the one to go over a manuscript before it's ready for print. He examines the document for inconsistencies in theme, style, and factual information. He checks permissions for copyright material and ensures there will be no legal conflicts. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are also scanned again. The main purpose of a Copy Editor is to make sure the import of text is clear and amusing for the reader.

In the home stretch, the edited manuscript goes to the Production Editor who oversees the transition between manuscript and published book. He is the last person to review the material before print. He manages the typesetting, artwork, and budgeting and ensures quality is met in all other areas of editing.

What does it take to be an Editor?

Editors spend their time running their eyes over text looking for errors and changes that can be made to better enhance the material. It's so important that they have patience and pay attention to every detail. It takes a lot of focus and time to be able to read a document through an Editor's eyes and to make it publishable. They need to have a good sense of the language and should be knowledgeable and updated on current affairs. This makes their job easier if they already know a bit about what they are reading. Editors do not need to know every rule about grammar, punctuation or spelling, but they do need to know how to use the resources that will help them make those decisions.

An English or Journalism degree is recommended, but not mandatory, to get into the publishing world as an Editor. A master’s degree is also something you may consider. Like many careers, editing is something that is learned on the job. Starting at an entry-level position and learning the job by doing the job, is the best way to move up in a publishing house.

What is the workplace of an Editor like?

Editor's hours are generally determined by the production schedule, and by the type of editorial position they have. Most salaried editors work in-house, dealing with production deadlines and the pressures of trying to produce accurate work. This is advantageous because they get to learn how the production works from the inside.

Advances in electronic communications have changed the work environment for writers and editors alike. Editors can do a lot of their editing from their homes or wherever they feel the most comfortable. This is both good and bad. Their schedules and hours are a lot more flexible and they have more independence.

Schedules and budgets are tight in a publishing house so a lot of employers don't want to risk new freelancing editors. They may be less likely to hire someone with no in-house experience. With experience, editors will know what they can handle and what projects might be too much. At some point they learn when to turn down a project. The most important thing is that editors use their time well and meet all deadlines. After all, they are working as part of a team and everyone must do their part.

How much does an Editor earn?

The typical wage for editors is $20-$75 per hour and ranges depending on experience. Editors usually work forty hours per week but time is not necessarily a constraint. Work hours purely depend on the workload or deadline to be met. The average salary for a starting editor is around the $30,000 range and increases with experience. An editor that that been working for many years can earn up to $80,000.

Learn more about being an Editor