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!