Book Editor Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Get the truth about a book editor's salary, education requirements and career prospects. Read the job duties and see the pros and cons of becoming a book editor.
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Pros and Cons of a Book Editor Career

As a book editor, you're in charge of making sure each book is well-written with clean copy. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of a book editing career to decide if this is the right job for you.

Pros of a Becoming a Book Editor
Growing electronic books industry ($119.7 million in sales during 2010)**
Potential for high salary (top 10% earned about $109,000 in 2014)*
Technology allows some work to be completed outside of the office*
Greater opportunities for those with digital media skills*

Cons of Becoming a Book Editor
Slight decline in growth (2% decline projected from 2012-2022)*
Deadline pressures can lead to long work hours*
Most positions are located in major media markets (New York, Los, Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C.)*
Freelance editors may have trouble finding consistent work*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **International Digital Publishing Forum.

Career Information

Job Duties

If you become a book editor, you may read manuscripts, sample chapters and book outlines from a variety of authors and writers with varying experience. Your job is to suggest revisions and to ensure the book is error-free and easy-to-understand. Specifically, this can include fixing grammar, spelling and sentence structure; streamlining; designing layout; and fact-checking nonfiction books. In order to meet publishing deadlines, keeping in constant contact with writers is often necessary so you can make sure they stay on schedule. You may also work with marketing, publicity and sales teams to determine the best plan for gaining exposure for the book.

Technology advances are becoming more prevalent in the book publishing industry, and you may need thorough knowledge of using various publishing software. Long hours, deadline pressures and busy offices are common characteristics of a book editor's work environment. And although major media companies are typically located in large metropolitan areas, such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, technology is making it easier for book editors to work from other locations.

Career Prospects and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) 2012-2022 projections, this career may decline at a rate of 2%. Those with proficiency in digital technologies should have the best prospects. May 2014 BLS data showed that editors earned median salaries of about $54,000. Those in the bottom 10% earned approximately $28,000, while those in the top 10% earned $109,000.

Education Requirements

The BLS stated that most employers look for candidates with bachelor's degrees in communications, English or journalism. A degree program in communications can teach you about human communication and communication technologies. Concepts in marketing, management and writing may also be learned in this degree program. Journalism programs delve deeper into writing, reporting and editing for various media platforms. As an English major, you may read and analyze a variety of literary works while honing your reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Intensive writing is also a large component of an English bachelor's degree program.

Useful Skills

To be successful in this field, writing and language skills are most important. You should be meticulous in order to catch errors and have a firm grasp on grammar rules. Creativity can also prove helpful when assisting authors in fine-tuning their narratives. Developing good interpersonal skills may come in handy when building relationships with authors; as an editor, providing advice and criticisms sensitively may encourage writers to work with you more often and help establish a good professional reputation.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Many book editing positions can be found with publishing companies. Some major publishing companies also have sub-companies that focus on niche fields in which they seek editors with relevant expertise. For example, text book companies may prefer candidates with some academic experience.

Additionally, many publishing companies are expanding into digital media and looking for candidates with knowledge in electronic book formatting. Although this isn't a comprehensive view of everything out there, the following job postings from May 2012 provide examples of criteria employers are looking for.

  • A book publisher in California was looking for a managing editor familiar with all stages of book production to assist with streamlining, art placement, book structure, marketing and publicity procedures.
  • A textbook publishing company in New York was searching for a detail-oriented senior editor with a bachelor's degree to work with new media and book design and to shape and edit print and electronic content.
  • A non-fiction media company in Georgia was looking for a technically adept assistant editor to edit for quality, style, consistency and accuracy.
  • A New York publishing company was looking for an associate editor with 2-3 years of experience and a bachelor's degree to keep track of product information and prepare for international adaptations.

How to Make Your Skills Stand out

While earning your degree, there may be on-campus opportunities where you can hone your editing skills, such as student newspapers or magazines. Many publishing firms also offer students internship opportunities in their editorial departments. As an intern, you can gain valuable first-hand insight into the book production process while establishing professional relationships.

You can also gain experience as a reporter or writer; the BLS stated that many editors start off their careers this way. As a writer, you can work on perfecting your writing and language skills, which is a must for editors.

Alternative Career Paths

If the stagnant growth rate for book editors is a deterrent, but you still want to work in publishing, consider working as a marketing manager. These professionals are needed in a variety of industries, including publishing, and they're responsible for identifying possible markets and figuring out strategies for boosting profits. The 2010-2020 BLS projections estimated an average 14% growth rate is expected for marketing managers, and also stated that they're often indispensable to companies and the least likely of all managers to be laid-off. As of May 2011, marketing managers earned median annual wages of about $116,000.

If you want a career that allows you to use your writing skills more regularly, consider becoming a technical writer. Your work would entail developing various manuals and instruction documents that help convey intricate information into easy-to-understand terms. According to the BLS, technical writers should experience a 17% growth rate during 2010-2020. These professionals earned median salaries of approximately $65,000, as of May 2011.

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Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Arts in Communication

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Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Communication

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  • M.S. - New Media Journalism
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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Freelance Writer

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