This is not the right occupation for people looking for a 9 to 5 or lacking a personal passion for literature. Editors are fervent literature enthusiasts who are required to take a genuine interest in and consistently monitor the relevant market.
From an author’s point of view, an editor is both a confidant and the first critic to read his or her work. Furthermore, the editor needs to reconcile the author’s interests with those of the publisher – after all, publishing companies are no strangers to marketing concepts these days. In most cases, publishers no longer reach a decision concerning a publication project merely on the basis of their own experiences. Instead, they work with different editors who specialise in specific fields, provide the publisher with advice and make suggestions.
This development has affected the job profile of editors – besides working with texts, their tasks now include project management, producing and ghostwriting. As opposed to exclusively working with books, today’s editors are also confronted with CD-ROMs, websites and databases. Another important aspect is that it is increasingly rare for companies to offer an editor a regular employment contract. Due to the changing corporate structures, more and more editors work on a freelance basis.
Does the book fit in with the publishing program?
Some of the questions editors are faced with when selecting a manuscript are: Will the subject matter of the book fit in with the publishing program? Will it be possible to integrate the project into the program schedule? Is the text at hand immaculate both in terms of contents and language/ style? Editors supervise book projects from the concept stage until the book is finished and sold.
This process encompasses a broad range of different activities and requirements. In the case of a small publishing company with a versatile program, the assignment of tasks is bound to be different than in the case of a scientific, trade-specific or major publisher. Beyond this, it is vital to take into account that the job title editor is also used to describe young scientists who are assigned language and culture-related tasks at a foreign university.
Am I suitable?
The following candidates are ideally suited for this job:
No specific training standards
There is no specific training or university course for editors. However, a degree, broad general knowledge and very good English skills are essential these days. According to the experts at the Berlin-based publishing company Aufbau-Verlag, a university course in a philological discipline is highly recommended – at least as a minor field of study. Furthermore, technical skills in the field of typesetting, reprography and typography as well as computer literacy are an advantage.
A profound affinity with arts and culture is necessary to enable a person to assist in the birth of a work of art. English language skills, for example, help an editor to assess whether a manuscript is worthy of being translated. Broad general knowledge is indispensable when it comes to ascertaining whether the “realities” of the story are in actual fact true, and to detect a potential lack of logic.
Editors need to work accurately
It is absolutely vital for editors to work accurately – verifying the contents, i.e. the factual statements, figures and facts, reviewing the language and style, ensuring the spelling is consistent and double-checking the quotations are only some of the tasks. Beyond this, legal and formal aspects need to be checked. These include looking into the rights concerning texts from external sources, the reprinting rights of the publishing company with regards to illustrations the publishers intend to include or copyright issues, as well as editing the bibliography, notes and index.
The work on the manuscript is carried out in cooperation with the author, as the support and guidance of the author is the most important factor concerning the success of a book project. This support is provided in the shape of suggestions in relation to specific topics and advice concerning the development of style, contents and marketability of the texts. To conclude, the fully edited manuscript is counterchecked by another expert in the field for good measure.
Contacts with author, agencies, publishing companies and journals
However, editors not only keep in touch with authors, but also with agencies, other publishing companies and literary journals. For this purpose, they have to have a good knowledge and understanding of the literary market and Public Relations, marketing know-how and, of course, communication skills. Prior to actually working with texts, looking for and finding new authors is of utmost importance.
The type of qualification an editor should obtain very much depends on his or her future employer, because book publishers, audio publishers and other media institutions have different requirements. Whether to opt for a philological discipline, cultural studies or a target-oriented course of study rightaway should be considered taking into account the field of activities of the future employer and the educational background expected in this context.
What kind of further education is available and where?
Attending university is an inevitable necessity for anyone intending to work as an editor. That said, there is a selection of further education courses for editors with a focus on topics such as working on manuscripts, finding the ideal title, proofreading translations, new media for editors, literary criticism or freelance editing. These courses are offered by institutions like the “Akademie des Deutschen Buchhandels GbR“ in Munich and the Media Academy in Berlin. The main providers of job opportunities are publishing companies and audio book publishers.