Editor

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Bridget, early 30s

So what does an editor do?

Looking at Bridget's desk at guidebook publisher Lonely Planet is a good indication of what an editor does. There are large piles of printouts marked-up with red pen and Post-it noted books that won't be in book shops for months, as well as a fair collection of postcards from the Pacific Islands and the Australian Ballet.

What sort of skills and qualities do you need?

It's a job that requires a keen eye for detail above all. "I think I'm suited to editing because I have that nit-picky, attention to detail sort of brain. I like to make things right, tidy them up - you couldn't tell that from my desk, but it's true."

The large variety of research books on Bridget's shelf shows how well read an editor has to be. "If you like reading you get to read a lot of different stuff and you build a really good general knowledge out of editing."

It's a job that has a lot of variety. While editors do look at grammar and spelling, they might also be responsible for writing back cover blurbs or marketing materials, as well working out what books will be about or commissioning titles (developing book ideas into briefs and recruiting authors to write the books).

An editor works closely with an author to develop their original manuscript. As Bridget sees it, "The author is like the mother of a book and the editor is like a midwife - so they're bringing the author's baby into the world. An editor knows what the reader and the market wants."

How did you become an editor?

Getting into editing usually involves getting some training. "At university I tailored my degree towards writing and literature, then while I was travelling I did a correspondence course in copyediting and proofreading, which I think is what got me in the door to my first job as a content editor of educational CDs."

What are the pros and cons of the job?

While many people start editing thinking they'll be working with literature, the reality is different. "You're not always editing glamorous novels by famous authors," Bridget observes. "A lot of editors just to make their bread and butter do fairly dry academic journals or company newsletters."

Plus when a book is published, editors rarely get recognised for all their hard work on a book. "On the cover is the author's name and it looks like it's a one man job, but it never is. The editor is important and there are a lot of other roles involved in producing a book like the publisher, sales and marketing, designers."

But for Bridget creating books is the big kick. "You get to see a book created from an idea into a final object at the end and you can take it home to your mum and say 'I did this!' even though your name might not be in it."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).