Book Editors: Job Profile

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Book editors do a lot more than just read and edit raw manuscripts. They're a key part of the chain of command in publishing, and have a lot of influence over which books get published and which ones don't. 

If you love books and love to read, a job as an editor can be a dream come true. But be advised that a lot of a book editor’s time is spent sifting through manuscripts that will never see the light of day.

You have to be OK with reading a lot of bad writing order to find the few gems.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Book Editor

One of the most important things book editors do is acquire books for publication. Usually, they or an assistant will read manuscripts submitted by writers (some solicited, most unsolicited), and based on their knowledge of a genre and its potential market, will determine whether the work is a good fit.

While an editor’s fate isn’t entirely dependent on how many bestsellers he delivers, the people who get ahead in this field almost always have some big name books under their belt.

Book Editors and Relationships With Authors

Another important aspect of a book editor’s job is cultivating relationships with authors. Book editors are ultimately looking to discover new talent, publish them as unknowns and then continue working with them as they build a bigger audience.

This is why many authors will have only one editor for an entire career.

Writers who have good relationships with their editors will often follow the editors if they change jobs over the years. This means that editors who work with high-profile writers are often more valuable to publishers since they usually bring big clients with them.

Skills and Education Needed to Be a Book Editor

Most editors have at least a bachelor's degree, usually in English or literature.

Some have graduate degrees, but it’s not a requirement. More important than the specifics of your education are a passion for literature and an aptitude for editing.

Experience, including internships at publishing houses and work in other media such as newspaper or magazine editing, is also important for a would-be book editor. And connections in the publishing world, whether to another editor or successful writer, can also help your chances of landing a job as a book editor.

Specialization Among Book Editors

Book publishing today is very specialized. There are imprints at all major publishing houses which focus on specific genres of literature, everything from science fiction to romance to cookbooks to literary fiction. Keep this in mind when applying for jobs, and highlight relevant experience in a given field that might make you a stronger candidate. For example, if you're interested in editing cookbooks, a culinary education or background as a chef would be useful.