Novel Ideas: Becoming an Editor

Last Saturday, I was at the weekly Bible Study and one of my friends asked me a question. Some of you might already be saying, “Stop right there. You’ve got friends?” To which I would respond, “Why yes, I keep them in my basement that way they can never leave me.”

Hopefully you all know I’m joking right? I’d never kidnap my friends and keep them locked away in my basement. That’s what my garage is for after all.
Joking aside, my friend also happens to be a copyeditor and asked how one would expand into the world of book editing. I told my friend that question would make for a novel idea for Mastering the Craft (Pause for laughter to subside).

So I did some research and here are my findings about how to break into the novel editing biz.

Some of you might not know that I have edited a few books for other authors. I’m currently editing one for Burning Willow Press, the home of my own books. The first tip I have is this: get some writing of your own out there so employers can see the quality of your writing. This will show them that you know how to write character arcs, build tension, craft a scene, write dialogue. You know, the basics of storytelling. If you don’t know how to write a story, you shouldn’t expect employers to hire you to edit a story.

If you don’t want to wait to get a story published, then the easiest way is to place it on your own personal website. Having your own website is a great way to market yourself. A good freelance editor’s page should include your experience, qualifications, prices, testimonials, and any other piece of information that would sway your potential employers to hire you. If you’re looking for a good example, check out http://www.thejohnfox.com.

Once you have your website up and running, it’s time to build up your social media presence (if it’s not already). Having an account on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon Author Page, and LinkedIn will be your primary way of networking with not only potential employers, but also with other editors. Don’t think of other editors as enemies, think of them as resources. If you’re new to the business, reach out and ask them for advice. They were once in your shoes (maybe they still are).

Now, here’s the biggest piece of advice in terms of social media and your website. Maintain and update them as much as possible. If a potential client finds his/her way onto your site and the last post is from a year ago, it’s not going to make them get excited about hiring you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about your business. People love seeing posts about your pets, your newest video game addiction, what you’re reading, what you’re writing, and just life in general.

Join in on internet book release parties. Authors typically have Facebook events to promote their latest releases. During those releases there’s normally what’s called “Author Take Over Events” where authors or others in the business take over for a time slot (typically half hour or hour periods of time). Hosting such a time slot is an excellent way to network. You could also have contests and give away editorial discounts. This might entice an author to hire you simply because your services are now cheaper. Remember, indie authors don’t get paid the same as Stephen King and James Patterson.

Having a bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, Communications, or some other related concentration is advised. This shows the potential client that you’ve received formal training and should have a grasp on editing. However, if you don’t have the time/money to go to college then you can always receive informal training that may help to even the scales. Go check out your local library and see if they offer online courses like Lynda.com and Gale Courses. My library does and they’re free (at least at my library) to those that have a library card. Even if you’re a college graduate, sharpening your skills is never a bad thing. I’m taking an editing class through the library this March.

Along those lines of education, make sure you have knowledge of Microsoft Publisher and/or Adobe InDesign. They’re not absolutely necessary, but they’re a good bonus to have. Also, get some firsthand experience with Microsoft Word, specifically the Track Changes function. Most publishers now a days require you to have Office 365 and use Track Changes. But hey, look on the upside. That subscription to Office 365 is now tax deductible since you’re purchasing it for your new editing business!

The very last thing I can suggest to you, my friend, and all those others that consider the glamourous life of a novel editor. Focus on getting that first client. After that, focus on performing a good job. Bad reputations can cripple a career. Bad reviews are always easier to spread than good ones. When you do get good feedback from your client, ask for a short testimonial to put on your site. Wear it as a badge of honor.

Above all else, have fun. It’s always been my opinion that you should never spend your life at a career that you despise. 

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