On Sunday, Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight suggested that I write a post about how I got into editing and proofreading, and I thought it was a fantastic idea! I get that question a lot, actually, so I don’t know why I never thought to write a post about it before.
The fact is that book blogging can lead into several forms of income (I’ll talk about some ideas of ways to earn money in the community later), but I’ve found that it does take some special circumstances to make it work, and it might not be ideal for everyone. Still, if you’re passionate about books and you have a little flexibility, it’s definitely worth the effort to look into.
So, how did I get into editing? The answer is complicated in some ways and really simple in others. First of all, I feel like I should point out that I don’t have a special degree or even really specialized training in editing. (I have a BFA in Acting, actually.) At one point I planned to get certified (and I still might at some point), but honestly, I’ve gotten enough work without certification to keep me busy, and going through the certification process would take time that I don’t have right now. But, what I do have is a natural grasp of grammar and punctuation, which have always come easily to me (though these skills were definitely helped along by a high school teacher who put a huge emphasis on them). And, while writing was not my sole focus in college, I did take quite a few language arts courses and some writing courses – books have always been a passion.
When I first started blogging, I read a lot of self-published books, and I started to see that there was a need for good editors and proofreaders in the self-publishing world. Probably all of us who read self-published work have come across a book that has a fabulous concept but needs some real work when it comes to grammar and punctuation. I know I came across MANY of those. This is what sparked the idea in my head to start copy editing/proofreading (at this point, I wasn’t really thinking about substantive or developmental editing – that came later).
So, after a little research, I got myself a book: The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, with Exercises and Answer Keys. My first step on my journey to becoming a copy editor was to read this book from front to back. The fact that this was an enjoyable experience for me was my first indication that I was headed toward the right career.
Once I had absorbed the information from The Copyeditor’s Handbook, I knew it was time to put some of those skills to use. Here’s where my situation is somewhat unique: I have the luxury of not needing to work. My husband makes good money and has supported our family ever since we had kids. (Before that, I worked in a software company – of all places! – as a business analyst and used my grammar skills to write technical documentation and edit other people’s documentation. Not the most creative job, but I still liked it overall until I was promoted to being a project manager, which I mostly hated – but that’s another story). This gave me a lot of room to edge my way into the publishing world without having to worry about whether or not I was making enough to put food on the table. I know not everyone has this luxury, which is, unfortunately, what makes it difficult for many people to turn their bookish interests into work – it doesn’t typically turn into a full-time job right away.
It wasn’t long after this that I received one of those books I was talking about from an author – I had only gotten a few chapters in and was definitely intrigued by the story, but the grammar was ruining the experience for me. I decided to take a chance. I contacted the author and told her that I was enjoying the concept of her book but she could definitely use an editor. I told her that I was thinking of breaking into the editing world and I offered to copy edit her book for free. It was really a win-win situation. She got an edited book with no risk on her side of things and I got the experience of my first edit and a possible future reference.
That first book took me a long time to edit. I had to reference my handbook often to make sure I was doing things right and I had to make a few passes just to feel secure in the job I had done. I felt okay about this because the handbook said that it should take a long time and that no one can catch all mistakes in a single pass – your brain naturally skips over some errors, even when you’re being careful.
As I was reading, I realized that, in addition to the grammar and punctuation fixes, there were some recommendations I wanted to make on things like plot and character. I was very hesitant about this at first – after all, there was this little feeling of who am I to tell you how to write? I’d had no actual training on how to give these sorts of suggestions, of course. I was just basing my notes on my experience as a reader and a reviewer (and a few of those classes I took in college where we critiqued each other’s work) – by this time, I had been a blogger for about a year or so and had read and reviewed over 150 books. I had also read countless other reviews, so I had my finger pretty firmly on the pulse of what people do and don’t like in their books. Of course, there’s always disagreement – no book is for everyone – but you can get a pretty good feel for some basic themes as you read and write reviews. It felt natural to extend those critiques to the book I was editing.
It turned out that the author was very happy with the work I did. So happy, in fact, that she decided to hire me for her next book. I knew that finances were really tight for her (and, again, I wasn’t desperate for the money), so I gave her a low rate and we worked out a payment plan that stretched those payments out over a long period of time. I was fine with that, and it enabled us to keep the relationship going.
That original author is still one of my clients today, and I’m happy to say that she’s doing very well for herself. I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my editorial abilities over these last two years. I’m no longer hesitant in giving my input (though I always tell authors that, in the end, it’s their book, and they can take or leave my advice), and I’ve had authors tell me that my advice is invaluable. It’s a fantastic feeling – doing work I love and knowing that I’m good at it.
I still don’t edit full-time, but that’s mostly by choice. (I still homeschool my kids and my husband likes to see me sometimes!) I love the fact that I have a job that has the flexibility to fit into my schedule and my lifestyle. I also love the idea that I can expand upon this job in the future and turn it into something full-time if I choose to. For me, it’s ideal! For someone who needs full-time work right away or who doesn’t have the flexibility to offer their services for a low price at first (or free!), it might not be so perfect.
Love the idea of a bookish job, but you’re not sure editing is for you? There are other flexible, work-from-home type jobs that you might want to look into. Each of these jobs have their own strengths and challenges – you just need to decide what’s right for you. Do a quick search on the internet, and I’m sure you’ll find some info on how to break into the one of them. Here are a few to think about:
Blog Tours – If you’re the organized type, you could start a blog tour company. It might take a while to build a name for yourself in the blogging community, but if you run consistently trouble-free tours, it can happen!
PA/Author’s Assistant – Lots of authors use someone to help them with promotion, social media, email, giveaways, etc. Again, you might need to offer your services for free/very cheap at first to break into this.
Writing – Become a writer! You might write books or look for other paid writing jobs. After all, you are writing a blog – you can do it! (This one’s a personal goal of mine – one of these days I am going to write a book. Or maybe co-author one – I actually think I’d make an excellent co-author – it’s nice to have someone else to bounce ideas off of!)
Beta Reading – Similar to editing, but you come in even earlier in the process. You read the book and give the author your opinions. It’s basically the same as reviewing, but you have to realize that you’ll be reading books that are sometimes extremely unfinished (and they might be rough). I actually offer beta reading as one of my services.
Cover Design – If you’re an artistic/design minded person, you might want to look into this job avenue!
Formatting – Formatting books for ebook publishing is another skill that’s in high demand. Of course, you’d have to learn the rules to get it done right, but this would be a great service to offer!
Bookish Crafts – Some crafty or design-minded bloggers open Etsy shops (or other retail shops) and sell bookish items!
Audiobook Recording – This one sounds out there, but it’s actually something I’ve seriously considered because of my acting degree. The cost of the equipment would probably be prohibitive at first, though, so I’d have to figure out if this is really something I’d want to do and be good at first (in college, I was told I was good at voiceover work, but we only did it for one semester and I’ve never done it again – unless you count the fact that I narrated an instructional video for software at one point). It’s low priority at the moment, since I have plenty on my plate, but maybe someday …
Any other bookish at-home jobs you can think of? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to my list! Have you ever considered turning your book blogging into something that pays? I want to know!
Great post! It’s nice to see how you came into editing. I have thought about ways to use what I love doing to make money – well, extra money because I need a regular job at the moment. I have a freelance publicity business, but I’m thinking about expanding it into research and whatnot.
I knew you were one of the other bloggers that has turned blogging into a bit of money. Thanks for giving your input!
I’m so glad you used my idea! And I’m actually surprised by this, but in a good way. I’m currently trying to figure out a work-from-home job I can do, but I just kind of assumed everyone working in proofreading and editing had super English degrees or something. Not that I’m jumping right into this, I don’t know if it’s really feasible with my financial situation, but I now feel like it’s something I *could* possibly do one day since I’m good with grammar and studied mass comm (which required a class entirely devoted to grammar, with entrance and exit exams).
What I REALLY want to do is write books, but that takes a lot of time I don’t have right now, especially since it would be a long time before I’d make any money. It would be nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, but I could never actually co-author because I wouldn’t want to have to compromise on my vision of the book.
Anyway, this is a great post! Thanks for sharing 🙂
It’s definitely something you could consider! You could always start out part-time (in addition to another job) at first to build up a bit of a resume if you decided to try it out.
Great post! I had thought about offering copyediting, but I’m not confident enough in my skills.
I did start a blog tour company–I got my first client yesterday, yay!
I have a ton of novels started, but very few close to being finished. I used to write articles for Helium until they closed. I sold a few articles to online magazines through them.
Congrats on your first client! And good for you on selling some of your articles. 🙂
It is really cool that you found something to do that makes a bit of money, and you are passionate about it. I would love something like that, but not editing. That just isn’t for me. I am sure it is really exciting to help an author in that way. Believe it or not, at one point I did make money with my blog. A lot of money. I made between $300-$500 every month in affiliate money. That was a whole different kind of blogging though. I have to wait until Fall to see if it is something I can do again. (don’t ask, its complicated). It is heartbreaking to realize that I JUST NOW, after almost 2 years of book blogging, have hit the $10 threshold at Amazon. That makes me want to cry.
It’s a good thing I am not in this for the money. Lol!
Wow! That’s a lot of affiliate money. Now I’m really curious what type of blog you had – not that I’m planning on switching my blog or anything, but … you know … curiosity. 🙂
Fascinated to learn about your experience, particularly as I’m probably going to retire from my full time job later this year. I’ve worked in journalism and communications for 30 years so have a few skills up my sleeve but never thought about using them in combination with my reading passion. I’m intrigued by the idea of a book tour company – how would that work?
I haven’t done a book tour company myself, of course, but I know several of my fellow bloggers have. For instance, Lola over at Lola’s Reviews has a blog tour company. You might want to check in with her and see if she has any advice! Marrying your skills with your love of books seems like a fantastic way to keep busy and make some extra money after your retirement!
thanks for that advice Nicole, I shall hop over to see Lola
Thanks for explaining how you got into editing, I was curious about that. It may seem counter-productive to work for free at first — but on the other hand, you’re giving yourself a “free” education. I admire how you found a path that you love and put in the hard work to be successful at it.
Exactly – I saw it as a sort of unpaid internship. It gave me invaluable experience and got my foot in the door. Plus, I was able to show someone I did good work so she’d want to keep working with me!
This is such a cool post. It’s so awesome that you took a hobby/skill and managed to make a job out of it! I’ve been a beta reader for a friend who is writing a fantasy series, and you’re right, it took me so long to make grammar edits but I also had a lot of suggestions relating to content (like how to name things so they sound more like fantasy as opposed to sci-fi) and other random things I picked up from reading and reviewing so much. I don’t think I’d ever be able to be an actual copy-editor but being a beta reader was really rewarding 🙂
Fun – so you got a little taste of this, yourself! Maybe you should look for ways to do more beta reading, if you really enjoyed it.
Awesome post! I always find it so interesting to hear how people got into things like editing and freelancing. I would love to eventually have a work-from-home job (being a major introvert working in retail isn’t ideal!) and I’ve been looking into getting into freelance writing or editing for a while, so it’s always inspiring to hear how people got their start.
Yes! I always tell people that if you want to get out there and do it, you can!
Great post, Nicole! I spend so much time blogging, I’m trying to find ways to monetize a bit because COLLEGE next year and I’d love a job I could do anywhere. I’m starting beta-reading now, so I’m starting off for free to build a portfolio, but eventually I’m going to start charging. 🙂
Beta-reading is a great way to make a little money doing something you love!
What a great topic for a blog post! Just like you I have a bookish business and rarely talk about how I started my own business. I think that making a job out of skills that come natural/ easy to you is a good way to start. For me that’s planning and organizing. I don’t have a degree in that direction, although my psychology degree does come in handy in my job as well.
I am prety horrible at grammar and such and read right over most mistakes, so usually it doesn’t bother me to read a book that still has some mistakes as I won’t notice them and it won’t interrupt my reading. Although I do think it’s very important for books to get edited well.
That’s great your husband made enough money so you could try and start your career in editing without having to worry about the money. Money is something I still struggle with and while my business is doing better there are also days where I am frustrated or worried about money issues. I think that’s also the part that hardest for most people wanting to start a career like that, having to take that financial risk.
And that’s awesome you managed to do a free editing job for one author and then slowly builg your business out of that and that author is still one of your clients today. I also think that offering some of your services or products for free or cheap can help new authors and client discover you. I decided to offer my cover reveals for free since last year and it definitely helped authors give my business a try and I have gotten some new clients and exposure thanks to that.
I have my own blog tour organizing business and also do marketing assistant work for two authors. It’s a full time job and even though it doens’t pay all the bills yet, I do love the work and am still glad I took the step tp start my own business. Before I started my blog tour business I had worked for about half a year as publicist for a small publisher. I enjoyed organizing tours, but also saw some thgins that i thought could be handled better, so I picked up the basis there and developed my own approach based on that. And eventually decided to start my own blog tour company. The marketing assistant work actually grew out of my tour organizing job, one author loved working with me on a blog tour and asked if I was interested in doing marketing assistant work for her and I said yes. Recently I got another author as she also had a good experience with a tour and said she could use a bit mroe help in all area’s so I offered to do marketing assistant work for her too.
Great post and it was interesting to hear how you staretd your business. And I think you listed some good ideas for possible bookish jobs. A few other book/ writing/ author related jobs I can think of are designing or cover design/ website help or formatting.
I’m glad to hear that your business is expanding and that you’re garnering a loyal client base! That’s the key, right? You do good work, and when people see that, they want to use you more!
This is a really interesting post. I remember reading you work as an editor but I had no idea this began through your blog! That’s an inspirational story to say the least. 🙂
I work with books, too, I translate them, actually, but I started with that way before I started my blog. I studied English and French lit so I was always very bookishly oriented. Finding a hobby such as book blogging merely cemented my status as an irredeemable bookworm.
I think your translating work seems incredibly interesting – and it’s so impactful, too. The way a book is translated can make such a difference!
Wow, what a great post! Thanks so much for this. I don’t have a degree in editing, but honestly I have thought about trying to break into it. Right now, I don’t really need to work either. My husband and I are temporarily living in Italy (for the next three years) because he is a civilian employee for the Navy. As an American citizen, I am not allowed to work for the Italians but there aren’t any jobs available on base. Luckily, we are financially comfortable but still. I would love to do SOMETHING to earn money for the household as well, you know? Thanks for the tips on how you got into editing and some other careers. I may have to check out that book you mentioned. Honestly, I tend to edit (in my head) other people’s grammar and sentence structure anyway. I know I would enjoy that.
I always edit in my head, too! It’s always been impossible for me not to – even before I was actually an editor!
Yup I’m been thinking about your editing services for a while now! 🙂 I’d love to send you my first draft! 🙂 AWESOME post Nicole! I would love soooo much to do all the jobs on your list but the last one 🙂
Hey, Daniela! I’ll shoot you an email about my services in case you’re interested in having me look at your book! A critique is really inexpensive and I apply it toward later services if you decide to have me actually edit. 🙂
This was so interesting to read. I know people talk about turning their hobbies into a job but you don’t often hear about how people manage it. I think it’s really cool you’ve managed to turn something you’re good at and enjoy into an actual job that you can do at your own pace. It was also interesting to see your ideas for how you could turn books and blogging into a job. I probably wouldn’t, not at the moment anyway. It’s always nice to read a success story, though, that emphasises the fact that it will be hard work and take time.
Yes – it can be done, but it definitely takes some hard work – realistic success stories are always better than too-good-to-be-true stories, right? 🙂
I think editors have a specially wired brain-I just don’t get grammar. At all. lol. And I have a BA in English, with a Writing emphasis :p
And my brother-in-law actually does audio book recordings as his job, the company he works for is owned by Amazon 🙂 He loves his job and gets to meet famous people (he’s met people like Kate, from John and Kate Plus 8, Jim Bob from the Duggar clan and even the family of a former president who was coming out with a biography!). And he gets to travel quite a bit. He went to school for this kind of career though and it’s a pretty competitive arena I guess. It would be a pretty cool thing to do though!
To clarify, my bil is the tech behind the audio book recordings-he handles all the equipment/editing and works with publishers/authors/narrators to put the actual audio books together. He’s not the narrator though 🙂
This is so cool!! I think it would be so exciting to work in that industry – I’m sure it is very competitive to get into the world of audiobooks for traditionally published books. I have recently realized (through my editing) that there’s some demand for self-published authors who get audiobooks made, but they can’t afford to pay for the big-name audiobook narrators and producers. So there are some smaller companies or freelance narrators cropping up. I think it’s really interesting, but I don’t know that I could manage everything that it takes to do this well. Still, it’s piqued my interest and given me food for thought!
Wow that is such a great story of how you got into it. It is very cool to do something you love and have flexibility in it. I never thought of trying to get into some sort of job with blogging but it is nice there are options!!
It’s perfect for me – I’ve always wanted to work in the publishing world somehow, but I never knew how to break into it when I was younger (and I had a really well-paying job that I couldn’t justify ditching to try for something that I had no idea how to pursue). Sometimes you find your dream job late in life!
I love that you explained exactly how you got into editing! I’m so happy that you get to spend your time working with something that you love and that you can easily fit it into your schedule! I’m in the same boat as you where I don’t have to work but I do miss it, but at the same point I don’t want to miss out on time with my two little boys. My previous job is always asking me to come back (usually on a bi-monthly basis lol)….they’re on replacement #8 since I left almost 5 years ago. I loved my job but I enjoy the flexibility of getting to volunteer at my sons preschool and getting to spend all day with them. I’m definitely not a grammar person but maybe in a few years I’ll look into another avenue related to books and blogging. 🙂
Yes, I had to wait until my kids were old enough that they’re not so dependent on me and I’m not missing out on a lot of their lives by working. Definitely something to keep in mind for your future …
I used your editing services because of your blog, so yeah, I do think it works!! 🙂
Ha! Yes – the blog is a marketing tool in some ways, though I didn’t really think of it that way at first. One other benefit of having the blog is that I can help spread the word about my clients’ books once I’ve worked on them. I always love doing that! 🙂
Great topic! I don’t think I could ever be an editor LOL I am working on the whole craft thing though – it’s so going and takes A LOT of work.I actually would LOVE to do the tour thing, but there are so many it intimidates me!
Tour companies intimidate me too – I’m just not organized enough to follow through on the many tiny details that would need to be handled with tours. I hope your bookmark store takes off and ends up being worth your while!
Wow, that’s a really inspiring post, Nicole! I’m doing book cover design. Like you, it’s something I noticed many new authors need help with. I just wish I had your courage 🙂 Lots of good points and suggestions in this post, thanks!
Ooh, now I want to see your designs! I’ll have to go to your site and check them out!
The reason I first started blogging, actually, is because eventually I do want to become an author and I wanted to build up an email subscriber list because publishers really do approve of that sort of thing! I’m still set on that, but as a back up plan I want to go into the promotion side of publishing. All of this book blogging contributes to!
Yes, you can build up a readership and many of your loyal blog readers will eventually read your book!
Thank you for this post, it’s really helpful.
I blog for only two months, so I had no intensions of earning money now, but you never know what life will throw at you.
Yes, you never know!
This is really cool! I like seeing how people got into their current jobs (or what gave them the idea for a certain book). I’d like to get into editing, but I’m not sure I’d have the time for it nor would it be feasible for me to spend what little time I might have doing it for free at first. But anyway, eventually I’ll get into it. Maybe I’ll publish a book first 🙂
Good luck with publishing!!
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Thanks for linking me to this post! I knew you had talked about it at one time in more detail, but this post definitely helps. I’ve thought about doing audiobook voiceovers, but if you say the equipment to do that is expensive, that defeats that purpose. I just know when I’ve read aloud to classes or in front of people, I’ve had people say I read in a way that really caught their attention. The editing/proofreading is something I’ve kind of considered since I lost a friend recently, who was a self-published author, but she didn’t want any help with editing, and her finished copies showed that. I offered to edit for her for free, but she never took me up on it. I will have to get that book about editing and see if I can break into the business! Thanks for all this info.
I hope you find the perfect avenue for you!!