Whenever someone asks that most common of “small talk” questions: “What do you do?” and I answer, “I’m a book editor,” I almost always find myself having to correct the notion that editing is a glamorous job.
Fascinating—yes; Absorbing—certainly. But glamorous—rarely (unless one happens to be a fashion magazine editor in New York).
Most of a book editor’s days will be spent liberally marking up manuscripts (and usually elbows, fingertips and sometimes lips—if dealing with a particularly troublesome work that requires pen chewing) in red pen, or sitting in front of a computer for days, weeks and even months on end immersing oneself in words, imaginary worlds, checking facts and deliberating over points of word usage, style, grammar and punctuation.
But while book editing is far from glamorous, it is a wonderful, creative career that comes with the thrill of meeting plenty of new people—even if most of them are fictitious characters!
For me, editing is about constantly learning. I relish the diversity of manuscripts and topics I get to be involved with over the course of a month.
Funnily enough, I still tell people I’m a book editor even though the actual job title of my day job (from which I’m currently on maternity leave) is now “inhouse author”.
It sounds hubristic to tell people that, and it usually raises some eyebrows, so it’s just easier to stick to book editor, which is what my title was before my publisher decided to give me the go ahead to write fulltime.
My job involves writing and editing non-fiction natural history, travel and children’s “nature information” and Australian social history books. Being paid to write is a real luxury. I’ve written more than twenty titles now for Steve Parish Publishing and edited many more (as their former senior book editor). My last big project for them was researching and writing a complete encyclopedia on the mammals of Australia, due for release in 2013 (Yes it can take that long to publish a 416-page natural history book!). Writing it was a Herculean task that meant whiling away more than four hours a day researching, followed by even more many writing.
I also write children’s fiction, which is illustrated with photographs rather than drawings, and recently completed another two children’s storybooks, Rita Big-eater and the Terrible Tooth and Petra the Postie to add to the three I’ve already published.
I’ve had a short story published in a prose anthology called [untitled] and am self-publishing a poetry anthology, Growth, which was more to start exploring the e-book marketplace than anything. Several of the poems included were previously published in magazines or anthologies.
On top of that, I’m also writing a young adult apocalyptic novel, which deals with the themes of displacement and turns an everyday Australian girl into a refugee fleeing her homeland.
As if that wasn’t enough, I have always supplemented my day job with freelancing, mostly editing fiction and creative non-fiction, such as memoirs.
My most recent freelance job was a manuscript appraisal for an Irish author who is seeking an agent for a lyrical, sweeping work of historical fiction set in South America. The same author, David Gaughran, has been self-publishing some of his short stories as ebooks and writing a blog about his experience, which anyone thinking of DIY e-publishing should read.
Writing and editing for myself and others, combined with looking after my 12-week-old daughter, means I don’t have a lot of free time, but that’s okay because I’m so passionate about writing and editing that it never feels like work. Eventually, I would love to be able to write fiction fulltime, even though non-fiction writing and freelance editing are my bread and butter at the moment.
When it comes to book editing, because I’m a published author as well as an editor, I understand how difficult it can be to have some pedantic editor nitpicking his or her way through a manuscript that has taken an author months or years to complete.
But I take the approach that my services are as much for the reader as for the author. In maximising the potential of a manuscript, I am increasing the reader’s pleasure—my primary goal. When a reader finishes the last sentence of a book I’ve edited and thinks “I must look out for the next book that author releases,” I know I’ve done my job to the best of my ability.
I may be a writer. I may be an editor. But above all, I’m a reader. And that’s why I’d rather be sitting in my pyjamas, up to my wrists in red pen, dissecting a novel at 2 am than wearing Prada and editing a fashion magazine in a New York skyscraper. It might not be glamorous, but it sure is rewarding.
Karin Cox is a professional book editor who has worked for traditional publishing companies in the United Kingdom and Australia for more than 14 years. Since 2007, she has been the Inhouse Author for Steve Parish Publishing in Australia. Because she loves helping authors reach their potential, she also freelances in her spare time when not writing her own short stories, fiction or poetry.
Visit Karin Cox’ website www.editorandauthor.com. Subscribe to her blog I’m Write With You. Like her Facebook Page. And for sure, follow her on twitter @Authorandeditor. Curious about just how many books Karin has written, take a look: list of Karin Cox’ books.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Karin Cox is a professional book editor who has worked for traditional publishing companies in the United Kingdom and Australia for more than 14 years. Since 2007, she has been the Inhouse Author for Steve Parish Publishing in Australia, writing fiction and social history books for children, and travel, natural history and coffee table books for adults. Karin has won several awards, including two Whitley Commendation Awards for natural history writing in 2010.
Because she loves helping authors reach their potential, she also freelances in her spare time when not writing her own short stories, fiction or poetry. Her shorts and poetry have been published in several anthologies worldwide and she is currently seeking an agent for a young adult fantasy novel. With an adorable baby daughter, a house on Brisbane’s sunny bayside, and a loving partner, if she could only find time to finish four more works in progress all of her dreams would come true!
Visit her website www.editorandauthor.com, her blog http://imwritewithyou.blogspot.com/ or follow her on twitter @Authorandeditor.