How to Make a Living As a Freelance Book Editor

College graduates have a rough time in a course in miracles job market. If you’re job hunting and no one responded to the first 300 resumes you sent out, don’t despair. You may not immediately find work in your chosen profession, but in the meantime, you do have options other than unpaid internships and McJobs.

Why not consider freelance book editing? Depending on your other commitments, you can make this either a full-time or a part-time gig. Maybe you’d like to work at home after having your first child. Or perhaps you need to supplement your income from another job. It’s not necessary to have a burning desire for a career in the publishing industry. All that you need are good language and writing skills, a detail-oriented personality, and a little basic training. Of course, the best editors also have broad knowledge about many current and not-so-current topics, but this is acquired gradually. The more books they are exposed to, the more expert they become in fields they once knew nothing about.

Are you the kind of person who pounces on typographical errors in magazines and newspapers and online? Are you now or have you ever been called a “bookworm”? (Translation: you enjoy reading for pleasure.) Have you always found it easy to get A’s in English, grammar, literature, and writing classes (no matter how bad you may be at math and science)? Did you keep a journal as a child or a teen? Were you the editor of your high school newspaper or yearbook?

If you answered yes to two or more of the previous questions, you’re probably a natural. Chances are, you could become a good editor.

Advantages of Freelance Editing

1. Autonomy: You’ll be your own boss. You can schedule your time and can work the hours you choose.

2. Convenience: Working at home will allow you to seamlessly switch back and forth from editing books to getting your personal projects done and responding to emergencies. If the school nurse calls at noon to say your son has chicken pox, you can immediately drive over to pick him up, without apologizing to your boss or asking a coworker to cover for you.

3. Economy: You’ll save money and time by not commuting to work, shopping for office clothes, dressing up each morning, or eating lunch in restaurants.

4. Peaceful work environment: You can avoid the stress of office politics and working under power-hungry or petty-minded bosses. Most of your communications will be via e-mail and phone calls with in-house production editors. (I have to say that after seventeen years of working with dozens of editors, I’ve never run into anyone unpleasant. All of them have been super-nice people, which is unheard of in any profession.)

5. Educational benefits: In most cases, you will learn a lot. Books I’ve edited have featured cutting-edge health and nutrition discoveries that I incorporated into my own lifestyle, witty political rants that analyzed current events more deeply than any newspaper or magazine could, self-help advice and psychological coaching, and other useful information.

6.┬áIncome: The pay is decent–not spectacular, but better than you’ll make at many jobs in this depressed economy. The more experienced you are, the more you’ll earn, generally. Publishers vary widely in what they pay. For entry-level copyeditors, it can be anywhere from $18 to $30 an hour from trade and academic publishers and up to $60 to $100 an hour from legal, medical, or technical publishers. Some publishers have set prices; others ask copyeditors to determine their rates.

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