Enter your search term

Search by title or post keyword

The Complete Guide on How to Become a Book Editor

Are you passionate about books and have a keen eye for detail?

If you’ve ever dreamt of working in literature but don’t fancy spending months working on a single project, becoming a book editor might be the perfect path for you.

Let’s explore the ins and outs of how to become a book editor, including the income potential and the necessary steps to get started.

If you’re ready to dive into the fascinating world of editing and help shape the next bestseller, let’s get started!

An Overview of Book Editors: A Primer

Book editors play a crucial role in the publishing process, polishing manuscripts and ensuring that they captivate readers while passing the highest quality checks.

Most people think editing is all about proofreading and grammar checking without ever knowing the heroes behind most great books and publishing houses:

  • Acquisition editors: These editors, almost exclusively found in publishing houses, seek out promising manuscripts and talented authors. They actively search for books or authors in trendy or marketable niches.
  • Developmental editors: As the name suggests, these editors help authors develop the core topic or storyline, employing big-picture structural editing.
  • Copy editors: This is what most people think of when picturing an editor’s job. A copy editor looks at grammar and spelling errors and makes sure the text is technically correct.
  • Line editors: Zoom out one bit from copy editing, and you get line editing. Line editors can look at grammar and word choice but focus more on maintaining a clear voice for each character and having a smooth flow from one paragraph and chapter to the next.
  • Proofreaders: This is the most straightforward type of editing, and it’s to look for typos and grammar errors. That may also include things such as formatting since it’s often the final step before printing and publishing.
  • Fact-checkers: This role is often necessary for non-fiction books, sci-fi, and historical novels, just to name a few. They’re tasked with making sure the manuscript is factually accurate. They also need to know some big-picture information, like the fact that woolly mammoths existed when the Egyptian pyramids were being built!

How Much Do Book Editors Make?

Entry-level editors may earn around $35,000 to $45,000 per year, while experienced editors can earn upwards of $70,000 annually.

As an editor, your income is largely determined not only by your location and qualifications but also by the type of editing you do.

For example, proofreaders only spend a few hours working on a manuscript and get paid $200 to $1,500 per book, while a developmental editor can charge $5,000 and up.

What You’ll Need to Become a Book Editor [& Associated Costs]

Editing is a job that relies heavily on having the right credentials, especially for career switchers. That said, you can get started as a freelance editor by showcasing your editing skills online.

Either way, you need an expert-level understanding of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.

Until recently, a degree in English, journalism, or a related field was almost a requisite for the role until major publishing houses started dropping that requirement.

New editors will need to invest in the following to make it in this competitive career path, especially if they don’t have a degree:

  • Editing Software: Invest in professional editing software with advanced editing capabilities. These tools streamline the editing process and enhance your efficiency.
  • Association Memberships: Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and engage with online communities to expand your connections. This is integral to start getting book editor jobs, especially for beginners. Most associations will have a yearly membership fee and offer great perks in return.
  • Editing Certification Programs: Enrolling in an editing certification program goes a long way for new editors, especially if they don’t have a degree in English literature or journalism. There are incredibly insightful programs that are internationally recognized, starting from $200 up to $5,000.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Book Editor?

Considering the expenses outlined above, the estimated total cost to become an editor can range from $2,000 to $5,000. This includes education, software, networking events, and continuous learning opportunities.

Remember, these costs are investments in your career advancement and can vary depending on personal choices and circumstances.

Is It Hard to Become a Book Editor?

Becoming an editor is no easy feat. It requires a lot of theoretical knowledge, years of reading and analyzing works of literature, and strong communication skills.

Having a degree in a relevant field has become less of a requirement in recent years, but that’s not because what you learn in these degrees is no longer necessary.

It’s just that publishers are acknowledging that people can self-learn everything taught in an English lit degree.

Even with a degree in the right field, you’ll still need internships in publishing houses or certifications specific to book editing. All of that requires serious perseverance and patience — and some money to spare.

Other than tangible knowledge, you’ll also need high emotional intelligence. A good editor knows how to deliver feedback in a way that doesn’t put their author on defense while maintaining the author’s distinct voice and style.

This is especially true when working with authors directly, which is often the case with independent and freelance editors.

The publishing industry is full of jokes about how dreadful the editing phase can be, and that’s mainly because of editors with the wrong attitude.

Authors often feel a strong personal connection to every word they write, so changing and criticizing their work needs to be done with exceptional tact.

This is crucial to attaining a cooperative and friendly work atmosphere. More importantly, it can make or break a project.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Book Editor?

Becoming a proofreader or copy editor can be relatively easy and an important start for aspiring editors. An English or journalism student can start small landing freelance work in a matter of months.

Becoming a developmental editor, however, requires more work, education, and great pattern recognition.

You need to have a solid understanding of what makes a good read, work alongside the author to deliver their vision, and be an effective project manager as well.

This can take a few years of studying, networking, and editing projects on a smaller scale. Expect to work extra hard to land a job at a traditional publishing house, especially a major one.

How to Become a Book Editor in 6 Simple Steps

Embarking on your book editing journey? Here’s a step-by-step guide to set you on the right path.

Step 1: Cultivate Your Language Skills

Editors don’t need to be as creative as writers, but they do need even stronger writing skills.

That’s why it’s important to expand your vocabulary, improve your grammar, and enhance your writing. Consider enrolling in writing workshops to refine your abilities.

Step 2: Gain Education and Knowledge

Technically speaking, having a degree or certification isn’t a requirement to become an editor.

However, most established publishing houses won’t give you the time of day without that or a track record that speaks for itself. Not only that, but you may be missing a lot of important knowledge.

This can result in major mistakes in your work that only qualified publishing professionals can catch.

That’s why it’s important to enroll in editing classes. If you’re not sure where to start, consider an accredited specialization course on Coursera. Most are affordable and will put you on the right track.

If you’re looking for something more in-depth, consider the University of Chicago Graham School Editing Certificate Program.

Step 3: Hone and Showcase Your Editing Skills

Using everything you know as soon as you learn it can make a huge difference in how well-rounded an editor you become in the shortest time possible. 

It also lets you build a library of projects that potential employers and clients can refer to when considering you as their editor.

Start with in-class work and capstone projects to build a portfolio. Gain practical experience by offering your editing services to aspiring authors, student publications, or volunteer organizations.

This hands-on practice allows you to refine your editing techniques, develop an editorial style, and improve your portfolio for better work opportunities.

Step 4: Network and Collaborate

Editing is one of those careers where the best work often never makes it outside of a relatively small circle of contacts or groups.

Joining associations can provide amazing opportunities that are otherwise inaccessible for new editors.

Build a network of connections in the industry. Attend writing and publishing conferences, sign up for editors’ organizations, and engage with authors and fellow editors.

Connect with mentors and established editors and seek their feedback on your work.

Step 5: Seek Professional Opportunities

While we encourage focusing on learning and developing your editing and writing skills, it’s all for naught if you don’t put yourself out there.

Apply for entry-level positions at publishing houses, literary agencies, or freelance editing platforms. This can do wonders for your reputation as a competent and reliable editor.

Reasons to Consider Becoming a Book Editor

Editing is a dream come true for lifelong bookworms. Editors do spend a huge chunk of their time reading manuscripts and applying their knowledge and critical thinking.

A freelance book editing career adds some amazing advantages to that fulfilling career path:

  • Constant Learning: As a book editor, you’re constantly seeing different perspectives, new stories, and new information.
  • Flexible Work Options: Book editing offers flexibility and often allows you to work remotely.
  • Creative Collaboration: Even the most technical sort of editing still has a creative edge to it. You also collaborate with authors to refine their work. It’s a chance to nurture talent, unlock the potential of manuscripts, and witness authors’ growth.
  • Career Growth: The skills gained as a book editor, such as attention to detail, critical thinking, and communication, are transferable to other writing-related careers. This opens doors for career advancement and diverse opportunities in the publishing industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Become a Book Editor Without a Formal Degree?

Thankfully, yes. Becoming a freelance book editor has never been easier. It’s possible to become an editor through self-study, practical experience, and continuous learning.

How Do I Find Freelance Editing Opportunities?

Join online platforms and marketplaces dedicated to connecting freelance editors with authors. Build a professional website or online presence to promote your services, and network with authors and fellow editors to explore potential collaborations.

Similar Gigs to Check Out

If you’re interested in the world of writing but want to explore other opportunities, consider these gigs instead:

  • How to Become an Author: Writing a book is one of the most rewarding achievements a professional can have, and it often doesn’t require the amount of technical knowledge that editing does.
  • How to Become a Blogger: Writing content for faster consumption has a much lighter process and can be done to make money while working on your editing career.
  • How to Become a Medical Scribe: If you’re interested in the field of medical editing, becoming a medical scribe can guarantee you a strong entry.

Wrapping Up

Becoming an editor requires dedication, continuous learning, and a passion for the written word. However, it’s hard to find a book editor who isn’t in love with the job. 

Book editing offers a unique blend of creativity, critical thinking, and empathy. It’s also become much more accessible than it was just five years ago.

Has this article given you a solid idea of how to become a book editor? Let us know what you think in the comments, and join the Gigworker conversation now!

Leave a Comment

FRH Article Default
  • Starting a Career

How to Become a Professional Cuddler: A Step-by-Step Guide

September 19, 2023
7 min read
FRH Article Default
  • Starting a Career

How to Become a Health Coach: A Complete Guide for 2023

August 17, 2023
8 min read
vector graphic showing an illustration of a man charging a bird related to how to become a bird charger
  • Starting a Career

Sustainable Mobility, Sustainable Income: How to Become a Bird Charger [In 5 Simple Steps]

August 3, 2023
7 min read

Explore More within Gigworker

Other App-Based Gigs
Get to work faster with jobs in the gig worker industry.
post explore

Browse Our Gig Headquarters

The gig economy is booming, and thanks to COVID-19, more people than ever are getting involved. But what is this new sharing economy and how does it work?

Important Gig Economy #Fundamentals to Understand

gigworker logo icon
What is the Gig Economy?

Member’s Area

Unlock access to forums, groups, downloadable content, exclusive courses, and more – just for members.

Create an Account

Side Hustle Ideas

Get inspired with our list of 750+ side hustles. Sort by category, rating, and other custom taxonomies.

Browse Side Hustles

Gig Companies

Browse our complete list of gig economy companies, and the gigs they’re hiring for.

Helpful Content

Read thousands of informative posts, written specifically to help you excel in your favorite gigs.