How do I Become a Fiction Editor?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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Becoming a fiction editor is a dream job for many avid readers. It is possible to become a fiction editor with a college degree, some experience in the field and the motivation to keep pursuing the goal. Book publishing tends to be a competitive industry that typically experiences more demand for jobs than a supply. Working on a school newspaper and completing a publishing internship are helpful ways to gain needed experience to become a fiction editor.

A bachelor's degree in a related subject such as English is often the minimum educational requirement for editorial positions. In addition to working as an editor for your school's newspaper, you could also tutor writing students. This can give you early experience in working with writers to help them polish their work; it doesn't necessarily have to be fiction at this stage, although you could tutor students in creative composition and poetry classes. If you want to become a fiction editor, starting as soon as possible on gaining the skills needed and listing your efforts on your resume is crucial.


If you persevere in trying to break into the fiction publishing field by convincing a senior editor to give you a chance, sooner or later you're likely to get the opportunity you're seeking. However, to become a fiction editor rather than stay an assistant, you'll have to keep meeting the expectations of the publication as well as gain new skills. Being able to notice gifted writers through the mostly unpleasant manuscripts that may cross your desk as you first become a fiction editor, is important and can get you further up the editorial ladder faster.

Even if you must work for little or even no pay to start as an junior editor at a small literary magazine rather than the large book publisher you hope to someday work for, you can still use the opportunity to gain resume-worthy experience as well as start building a good reputation for working with writers. Writers often follow good editors from one publication to another. This industry phenomenon can help your employers see that it's worth their while for you to become an editor for them.

As you build your experience, network with people in the publishing industry by following blogs and attending events. Keep researching internship opportunities such as those in New York City for fiction book publishers. Even if you'll mostly be reading piles of unsolicited manuscripts and be running for coffee, if you prove you have the skills as well as the passion to become a fiction editor when the opportunity arises, you may even be hired on in a junior position after the internship. Editing workshops can offer you another chance for networking with fiction publishing industry professionals.


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Post 3

@browncoat - Just as long as people realize that they have to work their way up the chain of command over time. I've heard of way too many people who think they have a good grasp of the market and just set themselves up as a publisher or an editor without any real experience.

I don't care how much you think you can edit, if you are taking the rights to books you had better know what you're doing. That's hours and days and months of a person's life and you have a responsibility to give it all the care it deserves. All too often people assume being an editor is easy and they crash and burn, taking the books they optioned with them.

Please, become a firefighter or a doctor or whatever else. At least then you will need to have a license before you can meddle in the field.

Post 2

@MrsPramm - It tends to work up a chain of command though. I don't think the head editor is going to be reading all the slush. They usually have layers of people who only pass on the good stuff. I wouldn't mind being paid to read piles of stories looking for a gem. Or even do it on a voluntary basis. It must do amazing things for authors who want to learn what they shouldn't do.

Post 1

I actually think it's a good idea for anyone considering this to work for a small press or a magazine first, as an intern or a volunteer reader.

You have no idea the volume that publishing houses receive until you've directly experienced it. I've heard stories of the time before the electronic age, where whole rooms would be dedicated to manuscripts and this was just at magazines where they were only accepting short stories. I'm sure places that publish novels had it worse.

Now the paper is gone in preference for email, but if anything that has made it easier for wannabe authors to send in their work. On top of that, from what I've heard, editors only read this

stuff in their spare time, because their work hours are usually spent actually putting together the books they've already bought.

Fiction writing is just as tough from the other side of the business. I think a lot of students and authors think editors have an easy job, but that's not true.

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