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.