Whenever the dreaded topic ‘what do you do for a living’ rears its ugly head, it’s time to take a deep breath. There are so many career myths out there, but being an editor has its own.
Many people don’t actually know what we really do. The word editor either springs forth images of newspaper editors, drowning in copy and surrounded by reporters (or perhaps more akin to Drop the Dead Donkey… if you remember that), or celebrity book editors wining and dining the great and the good. While they are indeed editors, most of us fall into a different category.
So, here are 5 facts about editors that everyone thinks are true:
- It’s really glamorous – all parties, million dollar contracts and globetrotting.
While that may be true for the top 1% of commissioning or acquisitions editors, those who have reached the top of their field and have a celebrity portfolio, the majority of editors rarely get to attend glitzy parties or deal with million dollar contracts. Globetrotting is still a thing of our dreams. Editors who edit tend to sit in front of a computer and edit text, or as developmental editors we sit in front of our computers and read into the bigger picture of the text rather then edit line by line. We don’t do contracts and signings, that’s down to the commissioning editors.
So no, editing is not really glamorous. Unless we decide to wear our tiaras while sitting in front of the computer.
- We must make a packet.
This usually rolls on from number 1. Glamour, glitz and huge pay cheques.
Nope. I wish. We are not rolling in cash, at least no-one I know is. We work really hard for a living, and sometimes it feels like we barely make the minimum wage. As freelance editors we take the rough with the smooth, and we have to save for lulls in the workflow while charging fairly for our time.
So no, we don’t make a packet. Unless we are very, very lucky.
- We will pick apart your writing if you show it to us.
Seriously? We edit for a living, it is a career and like anyone else we value our down-time. If you show us your writing we may read it, but we won’t work on it… not unless you ask us to and you hire us. And please don’t give us your writing expecting us to work on it during our spare time. Many times we’ve heard ‘Can you look at this for me, it will only take a minute’ – no it doesn’t.
So no, we won’t pick apart your writing. Unless you hire us.
- We find it difficult to read for pleasure.
This is and isn’t true. I always have my head in a book when I’m not working. We can switch off when reading for pleasure, as working on a book and reading a book are two totally different things. When we work on your book we are not ‘reading’ it in the same way that we read for pleasure: we are looking at the structure of the book, the grammar, the flow, what makes it work and what doesn’t work. The books we sit down to read for pleasure have already gone through the editing process, so there shouldn’t be much for us to pick up on. We do however, naturally tend to pick up on the odd typo or formatting problems.
So no, we don’t find it difficult to read for pleasure. Unless the book has not been edited, in which case we will probably throw it at the wall.
- We make everything perfect.
Well we certainly try! But there really is no such thing as perfect. Now this may shock some people, but hiring an editor will not make your work perfect. It will, however, make it a damn sight better than it would be if you didn’t hire an editor! Plus there are different types of editor who ideally should work on your book with you, from developmental editor through to copy-editor and proofreader. Now, while many editors can offer different levels of editing, one person ideally should not do it all – we get too close to the work after a while and fresh eyes help to find those last few niggly bits. That’s why it is so important to hire a proofreader after a work has been edited.
So no, we don’t make everything perfect. Unless you understand that ‘perfect’ is making your book the best that it can be.