Niche Careers: Editing
When people think of the publishing industry, they usually think of the writers involved in creating content. Seldom do they consider the behind-the-scenes action that goes into what we read.
Whether you read magazine articles, online posts, academic journals, or books, it’s important to be aware that all of that content has been edited by a professional editor. This article aims to give those who’re interested in pursuing editing as a career information straight from someone already working in the field.
I recently had a chance to chat with Meghan Houser, an associate editor for Crown Publishing Group, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House. Her background includes a B.A. from Harvard in History and Literature, and the Columbia Publishing Course from Columbia University.
If you’re worried because your educational background isn’t in English or writing, don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be.
“No, you absolutely don’t need to have majored in English or writing to get a job in publishing, nor do you need a master’s. Having related experience of some kind definitely helps, though.”
If you’ve written for online publications or maintain a blog and believe that this work “showcases your writing in a way you’d be comfortable showing to potential employers,” keep in mind that you should “definitely cite any published work in your resume and/or cover letter.” If you have other kinds of experience like internships in media or even working at a library desk, know that “anything that demonstrates your interest in books/publishing is worth citing. It’s all about proving you’re as bona fides as someone who genuinely loves books.”
It’s important to note that publishing has a lot of different realms. First off, decide if you want a job in books, magazines, or digital publishing. And if editorial isn’t really your thing, remember, publishing also has publicity, marketing, and sales divisions as well.
Meghan is a book editor, so her advice is best for those interested in the editorial side of publishing. However, “the same general tips apply on getting entry level positions in other areas of the field.”
“Other than making sure to play up your related experience, things that can help lead to a job, in no particular order:
- Informational interviews—Email anyone and everyone you have any connection to, no matter how tangential. Meet with them in person if you can. Be professional, bring your resume (just in case they ask), and ask good questions. If people are impressed with you, they really will remember you when jobs come up.
- Internships—Of course you want a paying job, but these are a valid way to gain experience and make helpful connections.
- Publishing courses—Definitely not necessary but there are a couple places with well-regarded summer programs that can help you get your foot in the door in the industry afterwards.
- Living in New York—Easier said than done, but if you want a job at an NYC-based publishing house, it is easier to land one if you already live in New York than if you’re applying from elsewhere, as publishers often want people who can start immediately.”
I asked Meghan if moving to New York for school or one of the publishing programs and then staying to look for jobs could make the transition easier, and she thought it was a great idea. The research I’ve done shows that NYU has a well-regarded MFA program, as does Hunter College, the New School, and Columbia, among many other options. Remember, you don’t need to have a master’s to work in publishing, but moving to a new state for school can sometimes be easier than moving for a career. Plus, there is no such thing as too much education.
It is important to note, however, that you do not need to live in New York to work for a successful publication—especially depending on what type of publication you want to work for.
The fact is that although a lot of media is based in NYC, the main draw are the major trade publishing houses. These are called the “big five,”and include Macmillan, Harper Collins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House. NYC also boasts various independent publishing houses, like Norton, Melville House, Grove Atlantic, New Directions, and more. Most of the literary agencies are found there as well. But in terms of other kinds of publishing, such as print or digital magazines, there are plenty of opportunities in cities around the country.
And though not as easy to find, there is also book publishing elsewhere. For instance, Minneapolis has a thriving independent publishing scene, and there are some small presses on the West Coast as well as literary agencies and even smaller satellite branches of NYC-based houses. Other big cities like Los Angeles and Philadelphia, along with smaller cities like Grand Rapids and Seattle, have other editing opportunities. These jobs just might not be as high profile.
If you’re interested in editing for newspapers or magazines, there are even more cities to consider living in. If the place has a newspaper (which every city does) or local magazines, there is a need for editors. And independent publishers are everywhere. So if New York doesn’t seem like the place for you, don’t throw out editing as a career choice based off of not wanting to relocate.
There you have it! These tips will help you jumpstart your career as an editor. For the next steps, I would suggest going to a website like Indeed.com and typing in “editing” or “publishing,” then the city you would like to work in to see what is currently open. Check out the requirements for those jobs to make sure you’re qualified. If there’s an area you need experience in, that will be the next thing to tackle.
Good luck job hunting!