How to become an editor

Forums Fiction General Writing Discussions How to become an editor

This topic contains 11 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  LRC 2 days ago.

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    Thomas (CrØss_Bl₳de)

    I know I dissappear all the time (YWWC, if you must know), but I have a question.

    @jane-maree, I want to get into the editting gig. At least, I want to learn more about it. I know you’re an editor, do you have an resourses or tips for editing?

    (This is an open converation, by the way)

    *Forum Signature here*


    Cassandra Hamm

    I also would like to know more!


    R.M. Archer


    Fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi author. Mythology nerd. ENFP. Singer.


    Brianna Storm Hilvety

    @thewirelessblade @cassandraia @r-m-archer

    In addition to overseeing the publishing department here at SE, I’ve been a professional editor for almost five years and was recently certified by the Christian Editor Connection (an organization that rigorously screens and tests editors), so I have some insights to offer. 😉

    1. Actively seek connections, experience, and education. Join a professional organization like The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network. This is essential for keeping up to date with changes in the publishing industry. I would have been ignorant of so much information (both at running a freelance business and knowledge of editing) if I hadn’t joined the PEN at the outset of my career. The discussions the members have are invaluable!

    Sharpen your skills and gain confidence by editing profusely while taking some courses in the areas you want to specialize in. The PEN Institute is the best option, but Writer’s Digest also has a few editing courses (just bear in mind that they’re not Christian based).

    Critiquing other authors’ manuscripts is one great way to achieve skill. But also remember to think outside the box and pursue opportunities as they come—even if they’re less than ideal or seem like detours. You may be surprised where some twists lead. During my early days as an editor, I applied to join the staff of a small publisher. I had to take a test and didn’t expect to be accepted because I knew I would be competing against several other candidates who had more experience. Surprisingly, I was one of only two editors who were chosen, and though the staff was all volunteer, the couple years I spent there launched me to where I am now.

    2. Find your niche and settle into it. Rather than trying to edit anything and everything, focus on what you love and are naturally good at. This will help you optimize your talents, as well as target and connect with clients. Maybe you feel you have solid instincts with historical fiction because you’ve read heavily in that genre, and you’re more attuned to story structure than the nitty-gritty details. If so, you could concentrate on developmental editing and marketing yourself to authors who write historical fiction. When I hung out my shingle as an editor, I’d planned to offer comprehensive editing services, but I soon realized that I wasn’t suited to the macro levels of editing and that line editing (aka copyediting) + proofreading were the areas where I shone. And since speculative fiction has always been my favorite genre, I gravitate to authors (and publishers) who produce fantasy and sci-fi and such.

    3. Don’t underprice yourself. Newbie freelance editors are almost always encouraged to offer rock-bottom rates, but this advice is flawed. First, it will lock you into a certain price range so that you’ll have trouble raising your rates in the future without losing customers. Second, it bolsters the notion that editing (which is a difficult, brain-taxing job) should be cheap, and that hurts the industry as a whole, as well as devalues your time and effort. Third, it gives the impression that you’re an amateur (or aren’t confident in your abilities), which may make some potential customers hesitant to hire you. Now, you may not be an expert editor, but if you’ve followed tip #1 prior to launching your business, you won’t be entering the field without some knowledge and expertise. Don’t discount that and instead set your rates at a reasonable level. This chart will give you a general ballpark to go by:

    I hope that helps!

    Wielder of a Red Pen |



    @briannastorm That’s great information!

    " knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."


    Thomas (CrØss_Bl₳de)

    @briannastorm I’ve got some stuff to learn, but 30-40 bucks an hour! WOOOOOOOOOOOO! This sounds like a great job already! Thank you, I’ll look into all of this.

    *Forum Signature here*


    Thomas (CrØss_Bl₳de)

    Quick question: What do you do about writers who disagree with your edits?

    *Forum Signature here*


    Brianna Storm Hilvety


    If no publisher is involved and you’re working directly with a client, all editorial contracts have a clause stipulating that the author has the right to decline changes. Ignoring all or most of an editor’s recommendations is of course unwise, but authors still have the freedom of that choice. When an author objects to a tweak, you can try to further explain your rationale and/or suggest an alternate solution to whatever problem you were attempting to fix. Oftentimes all you need to do is reach a compromise that both parties are satisfied with. A freelance editor’s job is to make the manuscript more readable but also to help her client achieve his goals with the story (even if that means breaking the mold on occasion). You’re a team, so learning to communicate well and building trust with the author is crucial.

    If you’ve instead been hired by a publisher, the author has much less leeway to oppose changes. A periodical or book editor refines pieces to provide the best reading experience for the intended audience and match the standards/style of the magazine/website/publisher she works for. Pleasing the author is secondary to that. The process usually has a much tighter turnaround time as well, so even if some negotiating occurs, it’s more limited. The department’s editorial head (which could be you or someone else, depending upon your position) will have the final say on how a piece is printed, and uncooperative authors are let go (if on staff) or unlikely to be accepted for publication again (if they’re freelancers).

    In either scenario, though, you’ll need to be tactful and gracious but also firm. If an author insists upon doing something ridiculous that will harm his manuscript (such as not capitalizing the first word of every sentence because he wants his writing to feel “informal”), you need to try to steer him in the right direction. But if the disagreement concerns a more subjective detail that won’t adversely affect the story or how it’s received by the public, letting the author have his preference may be the best option. Essentially, both you and the author need to pick your battles carefully and discern when to stand your ground vs. when to back down.

    Here are a couple posts that touch on how authors and editors ought to interact with each other (written from the author’s perspective):

    Wielder of a Red Pen |


    Jane Maree

    @thewirelessblade Looks like Brianna has got you covered with all her tips! I echo what she said. 😛

    I’ve been noticing that every second young author out there is starting to offer some kind of freelance editing, so it’s important not to take the exact same route. You have to stand out from the ever-growing crowd. This can mean doing courses to get a more official knowledge, as Brianna suggested. Joining editor websites. Having a professional website yourself. And other things like that.

    Lots of people are just adding a new page to their blog and setting up editorial services. It’s really easy to do. It’s not so easy to actually become a legitimate editor. There’s so much more to it than just adding a page to your website.

    Writing Heroes ♦ Writing Hope //



      @briannastorm @jane-maree

      I will be stalking and/or referring to this topic for a while, lol. Interested in this myself 😀

      However—*gasp* I checked the prices on courses at the PEN institute and….well. Will need to save up a ton if this ever becomes a possibility for me. 😉

      Thanks though, ladies!


      Brianna Storm Hilvety

      @lrc A solid education in any field is always worth the investment, though, because it places you a step (or two or three) above others in the field and makes your work higher quality. 🙂 Attending college would cost considerably more than taking multiple courses from the PEN Institute, so in that sense it’s a more affordable option.

      Wielder of a Red Pen |



        True. 🙂 I would prefer something like this over a college any day, lol.

        *puts it on my future to-do list*

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