I am currently an English Major and beginning my sophomore year of college. I’m very interested in children’s literature, specifically books written for 10 to 14 year olds, and I was wondering what you could tell me about being a children’s book editor. What are the pros and cons of being an editor?
- You work in books.
- People in children's books are really nice people, with very few exceptions.
- You are in charge (this ought to appeal to you if you want to be an editor—editors have to be in charge)
- By the power of your "no," you get to stem some of the tide of bad books getting published.
- It is a truly challenging job. Editors need several different skill sets.
- Editors manage relationships with lots and lots of people: authors, illustrators, agents, other editors, designers, people from production, sales, marketing, publicity... and most editors are introverts, so this takes work.
- You're underpaid. You have to be doing this for love, because the people multi-talented enough to be good editors could be doing lots of things that pay a hell of a lot better.
- You're overworked. There's always more work than people to do it, and editors take work home all the time.
- Much of it is not glamorous or fun work. The amount of time we spend reading and editing is absolutely dwarfed by the time we spend filling in forms, reporting and sharing information, attending meetings, juggling p&ls, building marketing material, etc.
- It can be high-stress. There's a lot of work, there's a lot of responsibility, and there isn't much time.
- Everywhere you go, when people ask you what you do, you can either lie or get drawn into another conversation that starts "Really? I've written a children's book!" Honestly, it's eerie how much this happens.
Are there specific qualities you think an editor should have?
An editor should be:
- Knowledgeable about the market
- A smart reader
- A talented writer
- Good at identifying problems
- Good at coming up with creative solutions
- Good at predicting reader and market response
- Good at identifying hook and at positioning books
Is this the kind of job that consumes your life, or can you have a family?
Yes, and yes. You just can't spend a lot of time with them.
Are there other jobs that, in your opinion, are better in the children’s publishing industry?The only better job I can think of is Bestselling Author. But there are even fewer openings. Though, as you should be realizing, that's my take. Editing is not for everyone. Some people would hate it.
I’ve heard that the way people get their foot in the door is by interning.
Are there different types of intern positions available? If so, which ones would
You can intern in marketing, editorial, even design... it depends on the publisher. But an editorial internship is most likely to turn into a job in editorial, if that's what you want. And of course even then it's not that likely.
Are there any other tips, pieces of wisdom, or warnings you feel compelled to dish out?
There are many different ways to love books, and many different ways to work in books. An internship is a good idea simply for the chance to see whether editorial work is for you. If it isn't, try something else in books.