How To Become a Book Editor

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: July 26, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Creative
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Do you love to read and write? Then, you might be the perfect candidate for the career of a book editor. This can be a very rewarding career path for the right person. However, learning how to become a book editor is the first step.

If you want to edit books for a living, you need the right education. It’s also very helpful to enjoy reading and writing. An excellent grasp of the English language, including grammar and spelling, is also vital. Let’s look at how to become a book editor and some of the duties of this job.

How To Become a Book Editor

Steps to Becoming a Book Editor

Finish High School

Before you can become a book editor, you will need to start by finishing high school. Make sure you keep your GPA up and take AP English classes. A high GPA and good SAT or ACT scores can help you get into a good college or university. Consider using an SAT or ACT prep course to ensure you score high.

During high school, it’s also a good idea to read plenty of books. This will help you to figure out if you love to read. You can also start writing your own work, which can help you understand style and some of the editing process.

Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

After high school, getting your bachelor’s degree is necessary. It’s best to major in communications, journalism, or English. These majors will help you start a career as a book editor.

If you have an interest in working on editing specific books, a minor can help. For example, maybe you want to edit history books. If so, get a minor in history while in college.

Get your Master’s Degree (optional)

While a graduate degree isn’t necessary to enjoy a career as a book editor, it will open some doors. Getting a master’s degree can put you ahead of the rest of the candidates when applying for editing positions.

Publishing houses will look for graduates with excellent verbal and written communication skills. They also want a candidate with a strong academic record. A master’s degree can give you a better chance of working as a book editor.

Complete Your Internship

Most likely, you will need to complete an internship to get your bachelor’s degree. This is a chance to gain excellent experience in the industry. However, an internship can also lead to an entry-level job.

An internship at a publishing house is the best choice. This will help you to form relationships and gain the necessary experience to join an editing staff.

Gain Experience and Build Your Resume

Like many careers, if you want to become a book editor, you need to gain experience and build your resume. It’s common to start as an assistant or in an entry-level editing position. As you gain experience, you can move up in the publishing world.

Consider Specializing

Book editors may specialize in specific areas of editing. This can make you more valuable to publishing houses. For example, some editors will work superficially with acquisitions, while others may specialize in copy editing.

Consider a specialty and gain the necessary training and experience within this specific area.

Duties of Book Editors

Main duties will include reviewing manuscripts provided by authors. In addition, you will work with authors to improve the mechanics, organization, voice, and style of the book. It’s common to work with published authors working on another book for your publishing house.

Sometimes, you will work with assistants to figure out which manuscripts are best for publishing. In addition, editors are often hired to work on books at different stages throughout the development process. Some of the common book editor positions include:

As a book editor, you may perform many duties along the way. It will likely depend on the type of editing position you take.

Tips for Those Wanting to Become Book Editors

If you want to become a book editor, there are some things you can do regularly to help. Here are four quick tips to help you with editing books and becoming a book editor.

Read Regularly

You will work with books constantly as an editor. Make sure you love books and read regularly. It’s helpful to read from multiple genres, too. Publishers often look for editors familiar with successful titles and knowledge of market trends.

Network in Person

Networking is a huge part of landing a book editing job. Attend conferences, conventions, and other networking events regularly. Make sure you have business cards and an online portfolio you can show off.

Write Often

Good editors also write quite often for themselves. Whether it’s in the form of a blog or you actually write your own book, writing can help you become a better book editor. You can even take on copywriting assignments and gigs online to develop your writing skills.

Network Online

Social media offers opportunities to network online. You can also use forums and other websites to help you create a network of professionals in the publishing industry.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Book Editor

What is the average salary of a book editor?

Your salary will likely depend on your education level and the type of editor position you accept. The average annual salary for all editors is nearly $70K. However, your starting salary may be as low as about $30K per year, depending on your location. This type of salary is more common for entry-level positions.

As you gain experience, you can certainly earn a higher salary. For example, those with a high level of expertise can earn a six-figure salary as a book editor.

If you decide to become a freelance editor, you will likely charge a per word amount. Most freelance editors charge between 1.5 and 2.5 cents per word. However, the rates vary depending on the length of the manuscript and the genre.

What type of skills are most common for book editors?

If you want to become a book editor, you need to be very detail-oriented. Spotting mistakes will be a huge part of your job, so great attention to detail is preferred.

It’s also necessary to have excellent communication skills. For example, you will likely work with authors and need to communicate with them regularly.

Good writing skills are a big plus, too. Writing with proper format, structure, and a strong grasp of language can help authors do the same.

Is a college degree necessary to become a book editor?

In most cases, you will need a college degree. However, you can become a freelance book editor. If you take the freelance route, you may not need a degree to enter the book editing career field.

How long does it take to become a book editor?

You will need to spend at least four years getting a bachelor’s degree to become a book editor. Many editors will get a master’s degree, too. You will likely need to work as an assistant or complete an internship, too.

If you want to become a book editor, expect it to take between 4 and 8 years.

Is book editing a growing field?

No. Editors for books, newspapers, and other publications are expected to drop by about 7% over the next ten years.

What is the work environment like for a book editor?

Most book editors work full-time in an office. Some work from home, especially freelance book editors. You will likely work in an office environment at home or a publishing house. This means you will work with computer equipment, publishing software, and communications equipment.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.