Tag Archives: editor

So you want to be an Editor? Why?


We see a lot of candidates looking for editorial roles. A lot. Many of them are bright-eyed, bushy-tailed graduates (if that’s you, you need to read this Open Letter), but we also see a lot of people who’ve already established a career, perhaps in a sector outside of publishing such as teaching, who are keen to switch things up and see their skills as easily transferable. Sometimes this is the case, sometimes not. However, one of the first questions we’re going to ask is what kind of editorial role are you looking for? Often we’ll see the cogs whirring and can almost hear the inner response. Erm… books?  This is a problem.

I worked in trade publishing for several years in editorial roles. On the best days I would be travelling to a Book Fair or working with an author or artist I really admired, or launching a project that I’d been worked on for over a year. Most days involved less exciting tasks: slogging through slushpiles and having to write rejection letters to twenty people in a row (uplifting!); dealing with last minute print problems; training staff and interns; reassuring an author who’s in tears because a publication date has been moved for the third time; writing reports and applications for funding. This was at small press where it was necessary to do a little bit of everything – larger companies will be likely to have more rigid structures. That editor role you’re looking at on the Guardian could involve anything – from being someone’s PA to running a company.

  • The word ‘Editor’ means a different thing to almost every person we speak to. This is why we like to meet candidates face to face, and why we talk to our clients about every vacancy we advertise. We need to find out exactly what an editorial (or any other) position involves before we can find the perfect candidate for the job. To some people, being an editor means simply proofreading or copyediting, to some it means they want to be involved in project or people management.
  • What does it mean to you?  Do you like the idea of working very closely with content? Can you negotiate a better deal than Delboy? Would you be more suited to a production editorial role? Do you see yourself as a ‘bigger picture’ editor? Would you give away your Grandma to be involved in commissioning? Do you have amazing networking skills? Prefer to work alone? Do you edit onscreen with InDesign or write all of your blog posts in HTML? Can you balance a P&L sheet with your eyes closed?
  • There’s also the question of content and format. It’s not so much about what you enjoy, as what you’re good at and what your professional background is – as Stephanie mentioned in last week’s post, a passion for ‘books’ is not enough. What subject knowledge do you have that makes you unique? Perhaps you know the Singapore educational system inside out, or you’ve written dissertations on the digital evolution of journals. Maybe you have a law or medicine degree, or have taught English in twelve different countries. Maybe be you’re an app addict and could win Mastermind with your knowledge of Moshi Monsters.

Before you go to an interview and tell someone you want to be an editor because you enjoy reading, please have a long, hard think about everything else that particular job entails (that four page job description IS your friend) because it’s likely that’s what you’re going to be doing for most of your time. Make sure you’re a really good fit for every role before you apply and you’ll be much more likely to convince someone else, and to come away with the result that you want.


If you’ve got the skills and experience to be a top editor, we’ve got loads of editorial vacancies in educational, STM, academic, and other sectors. If production editorial is your cup of tea then you should look at these. And to prove just how specific an editorial role can be: if you’re fluent French and Spanish, have a biomedical degree AND experience in STM, this might for you. If, however, after reading this post you’re still only interested in editing experimental poetry from the Ukraine, we wish you the best of luck – you never know, it could happen – but you might want to boost your CV (and your bank balance) with some publishing-based temp work while you’re job-hunting!


Filed under Advice

Oxford Diary: David Fickling at the SYP

David Fickling from David Fickling Books gave a talk to the SYP last night in Oxford about the relationship between the publisher and the author, and he was really rather inspiring.

Below is a summary of the various tweets from the event – my favourite quote of the evening is still “It’s a physi-digi world and it’s kind of groovy“. Because it is.

  1. eleanorkatesh
    The incredible David Fickling talking about the relationship between the publisher and the author. #sypoxford http://pic.twitter.com/6Bq2rALb
  2. charlieinabook
    @DFB_storyhouse so inspired by Mr Fickling’s wonderful talk today! Especially loved the book blocking dance #SYPoxford
  3. emmyappleby
    Spend as little time worrying about the economics; spend as much time as possible finding a really good story #SYPOxford #publishing
  4. emmyappleby
    Todays publishing is physi-igital #DavidFickling #SYPOxford
  5. falldownlachute
    David Fickling talking at OUP tonight; ‘there will always be a shaper and there will always be a storyteller’ #SYPoxford
  6. Charly_Ford
    RT @WException: #sypoxford @DFB_storyhouse “Trust your own views and have the courage to make decisions based on them.” #editing
  7. WException
    #sypoxford @DFB_storyhouse “Trust your own views and have the courage to make decisions based on them.” #editing
  8. WException
    #sypoxford @DFB_storyhouse David’s 3 principles of publishing: Legacy; Sharing; Autonomy #publishing #editing
  9. northernmoores
    RT @AtwoodTate: Fundamental rule of editing is that it is not your book. At the core, there is always the storyteller #sypoxford
  10. smbateman87
    Thank you to David Fickling for thoroughly reinvigorating my love for children’s publishing and the publishing world in general! #sypoxford
  11. tehkelsey
    3 principles of publishing: legacy, share and autonomy #SYPOxford
  12. AtwoodTate
    Legacy, Share, Autonomy = core rules of publishing #sypoxford
  13. EmilyWhyy
    RT @Zazimarki: Digital is like an adolescent pullman daemon, it hasn’t yet taken its proper state #sypoxford
  14. Zazimarki
    Have you ever read a book which changes you@david fickling #sypoxford
  15. AtwoodTate
    Fundamental rule of editing is that it is not your book. At the core, there is always the storyteller #sypoxford
  16. AtwoodTate
    Reading of comics is vital to gets kids enjoying reading #sypoxford
  17. Zazimarki
    Digital is like an adolescent pullman daemon, it hasn’t yet taken its proper state #sypoxford
  18. eleanorkatesh
    David Fickling: the kindle is the equivalent of the talkies, more is still to come. #sypoxford
  19. AtwoodTate
    Digital is like an adolescent Pulman daemon – still taking it’s form. It’s exciting. No one knows what shape it will be. #sypoxford
  20. eleanorkatesh
    Remember, in the author-editor relationship, who is the other person and can they hear what you are saying? #sypoxford
  21. Zazimarki
    Rely on your sense of what works #sypoxford
  22. AtwoodTate
    There are many different ways of editing. You need to find the right one for the book and the particular author. #sypoxford
  23. ZaraPreston
    David Fickling books speaking for the SYP at Oxford University Press #sypoxford http://twitpic.com/b4rh45
  24. Zazimarki
    Making a publishing decision is fantastically energising @ David tickling #sypoxford
  25. WException
    #sypoxford @DFB_storyhouse “Our main concern is stories.” David Fickling
  26. AtwoodTate
    Narrative and story are key and the centre to everything David and @DFB_storyhouse does #sypoxford
  27. BIC1UK
    RT @AtwoodTate: The job of the publisher is to add energy and recognise good stuff @DFB_storyhouse #sypoxford
  28. AtwoodTate
    You need to have courage of your convictions – YES or NO quickly! Even though David hates saying no and taking time is also good #sypoxford
  29. AtwoodTate
    Stability is great – recognise an author and stay with them. The author makes the editor, not the other way round! #sypoxford
  30. AtwoodTate
    It’s a physi-digi world and it is kind of groovy #sypoxford
  31. helenawaldron
    RT @AtwoodTate: The job of the publisher is to add energy and recognise good stuff @DFB_storyhouse #sypoxford
  32. AtwoodTate
    The job of the publisher is to add energy and recognise good stuff @DFB_storyhouse #sypoxford
  33. WException
    David Fickling ‘We need a culture of stories for children’ #sypoxford @DFB_storyhouse @SYP_UK
  34. ZaraPreston
    Excited about David Fickling at OUP tonight! Only a few hours to go @DFB_storyhouse #sypoxford http://www.facebook.com/events/334479879980871/

Leave a Comment

Filed under Industry News & Events