HELP! I need advice.

I need advice/help.

I’ve been circling around this problem for a while now and for whatever reason I didn’t see that the solution was (probably) right in front of my face. The best audience in the world to ask is this one. Why I didn’t realize that sooner, I’m not exactly sure.

A little background.

I’ve always been fascinated with reading and writing. My first major in college was English, with the goal to be a teacher or technical writer. About halfway through the program I hadn’t really learned anything important. I had taken numerous “essential” classes where I sat on my butt and listened to people debate what (insert dead author’s name here) really meant when he wrote about a white lamb instead of a black one. I realize that that sort of thing really turns on some people, and I enjoy it as well, but I’d always say the same thing when the teacher asked my opinion: “I’m not sure. Let’s dig him up, perform a seance and ask him what he meant. Maybe he just really liked white.” Seriously, how many classes do I need to take that discuss the same things over and over again?

I got to the point where I didn’t see how these classes were furthering my career goals. Then the economy crashed and I realized that health was where it was at. I ditched my English degree and moved over to Health Promotion and Nutrition Education. I love my major, don’t get me wrong, but I will always regret ditching English. My true, passion is all things literary. I wish I had sucked in my complaints and just rode the program out. Especially now that my reviewing and blogging has started taking off. I watch other successful bloggers make a move into editing and it’s shown me that I could have probably actually done something with an English degree, or maybe I could do something if I could somehow get experience in the field and an opportunity to apply the experience somewhere.

The thing is, I’m going back to school. I am either going to get a master’s degree in Education (I love teaching), or I’m going to get another bachelor’s degree in a field I’d perhaps enjoy a bit more (like English, if I can actually do anything with it). I have these thoughts floating around my mind. I want to figure out what my next educational/career step and I really, really want experience with editing. Really badly. Painfully bad. I want to know more about it and I feel like I have some hidden talents in that area I would really enjoy using if I knew how. I know my blog doesn’t showcase my grammar skillz to their fullest, but I do actually know how to use punctuation properly, believe it or not.

So here are my questions.

1) Is a degree necessary to be an editor, or is it a field where experience is more important?

2) Is there a way I can get editing experience without having a degree? Freelance? Volunteering? Etc?

3) If I decide to get a degree that will further this really-want-to-be-an-editor goal of mine, what degree is best? English? Something else?

4) I realize publishing is a very competitive field. Is there any hope for a career in it?

Honestly, I’d really appreciate any insight anyone has to offer. I’m at an education/career crossroads right now and I really need to limit my options. I really want experience with editing, and to learn more about it, but I’m not sure if that’s a possibility, or an option I should even waste time pursuing.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts and advice!

5 Responses

  • You do not need a degree to be a freelance editor. You do need to be good at it. There are several levels–proofreading, story editing and copy-editing. There are many people freelancing in these fields, especially now with self-publishing being so prominent. These skills are necessary and sought after. I can think of 3 people off the top of my head that are freelancing now as editors who do not have English degrees. They started these careers in the last 3 years. I haven’t seen anything you’ve edited, so I don’t know if you have the right training, but if you completed even part of a technical writing or English degree, you can probably hook up with one of the organizations that are offering this service. I can give you the names of two places to query. Most of the time you’ll have to be able to do test pages for one or more of the above skills.

    Keep in mind that editing does not provide a ton of money. Many freelance editors do it part time and have other jobs or are also moms. I’ve done some and am still doing some, but it’s part-time. The work comes in dashes. I also only edit certain material (no horror, erotica, and so on.)

    As for writing, no degree in the world will substitute for Butt in Chair, write. Practice, critiques and so on are the way to go. A class here and there is not going to hurt, but what you need to do most is: Write. Edit. Write more. Edit. Edit. Repeat.

    Make a living at it? It’s not going to be easy. You’ll have an easier time making money as an editor than a writer (in general.) No reason you can’t do both. You’ll probably HAVE to do both at least for a few years. If not editing to pay the bills, you’ll need to find some other job to supplement any income you are lucky enough to earn from writing.

    I have been a technical writer, a project engineer and a test engineer. If your dream is to write, your best bet is to get a job that pays the bills (teaching or your current field if that is possible) and use your free time to write. The vast majority of published writers–whether self-published or traditionally published do not make a living doing it. Many of them are supplemented by spousal monies, an additional job, etc. Health care coverage/insurance is most often provided by some other job.

    FWIW. Just one opinion and your mileage may vary.

    • BookwormBlues

      Thank you for your insight!!!

      I don’t want to be an author. I don’t have that in me. Honestly, my current full time job is being a mom. Freelance part time is wonderful for me. I have some proofreading experience and a bit more with story editing. I’d love any additional information you could give me.

      • There’s a couple of ways you can go about it. You can offer to be a beta reader a few times to get a feel for what is out there on a writing forum (beta reading is usually unpaid.) Or, possibly the better option would be to take a look at these two sites;

        Red Adept started out as a review blog. Then she began hiring out editing services of varying levels. I know one of the editors that works there. Red’s a good egg and could provide you with info and maybe some steering. I have no idea if she has openings. More lately she has become a publisher. I believe she uses the same team of editors for the books they publish, although if a book is edited through the editing service, Red won’t then publish it. (She has two arms to the business and a writer can either approach them to get the book edited for self publishing or submit to get it published. In the case where Red acts as the publishers IF the book is accepted, she doesn’t charge for editing and artwork, etc.)

        You might also email
        She isn’t editing any longer, but I bet she can give you a LOT of tips about what worked and what didn’t and so on. I know she was kept very busy for a couple of years doing editing. I’m not sure why she stopped; I don’t follow her blog all that closely.

        There are other ways I see editors doing jobs or getting started . There’s a lady who reads for review and does what she calls … OH I forget the term. But basically she charges 20 dollars for a read and then for every error on top of that, she charges a dollar. The author can set a top amount. I think she calls it oops detection. The 20 dollar flat reading fee is for works under 100k. I wasn’t fond of this at first because it seemed like it was paying for a review and I believe she dropped the review part of the deal and I think her flat fee quickly went to 40 dollars.

        I don’t have her website, but if you’re interested in that, let me know and I’ll see if I can find it. She started by hanging out at the Kindleboards Writing corner and offering her services. Since she doesn’t consider herself a professional editor it was her way of saying “I’ll catch what I can and pass it along.” She started out fairly cheap and a lot of writers seemed to like the service.

        (I haven’t used it.)

        I JUST finished my last round of beta readers/editing, and I doubt I’ll have anything ready for another beta reader any time soon, but keep in touch (if you follow my blog you’ll know where I”m at at any given time.)

        If you have questions, send me an email through the blog.


  • I agree with Maria, you don’t need a degree to be an editor. Most set themselves up online and get clients that way. You already have a great marketing outlet with your blog. You can do correspondance courses to become qualfiied. There’s a company over here in the UK called ChapterHouse that run inexpensive courses. I don’t know how good they are or what equivalent’s there are in the US.It might be worth contacting some other bloggers who have turned editor and see how they’ve done. I follow Parjunkee who’s done something similar, although she’s designer rather than an editor but she’s used her blog to drum up business. It might be worth contacting her for some tips. Good luck with it all!

  • I know this is a super old post, but I’m the one who offers Oops Detection. I’ve been professionally editing since 2010. To clarify, while I started out as a reviewer, I never charged for reviews. Nor did I ever review books I’d done paid work on as that’s a conflict of interest.

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