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  • Writer's pictureKristy Phillips

Not as Cool as the Gang Unit

A friend of mine said to me recently, “Sometimes I think about becoming an editor. I often spot typos in books.”

I cringed on the inside.

A friend of a relative reached out to me last year because she’d just retired from teaching and thought she’d become an editor to make extra money. She said she’d been good at correcting students’ papers.

She was very sweet and I enjoyed talking to her—I always love to talk to other lovers of language—but at the end of the conversation, she sounded a little discouraged.

People are surprised to hear that editing requires training. Experience. Education. It’s more than spotting a typo. It’s more than liking books.

It makes sense that people don’t get that. When was the last time you put down a best seller and said, “Wow. That was such an amazing editing job!”

This is the crux of what frustrates me the most about my profession: most people—including many of those who hire me—have no concept of the value of editing and how much work it involves.

I recently volunteered at my son’s high school career day. I had a table in the back of the gym—with the other business professions (a bank on one side of me and a software company on the other). I stood awkwardly for over an hour, making myself available to talk to juniors and seniors about either manuscript editing (my freelance job) or marketing editing (my regular job).

There was no way I could compete in popularity with the tech tables or the Everett Police Department gang unit officer. But some bright-eyed students did come talk to me.

Most of them were interested in the marketing side of what I do.

I told them that marketing is more than selling. It also involves analysis, project management, creative, branding, strategy, messaging, business intelligence, and consumer education.

One sweet young woman asked me for advice about being self-employed. I encouraged her to follow her interests and create a niche. And to keep moving forward despite rejection.

A young man told me he’s been working on a novel for years. I congratulated him and said, “Keep going!”

Two juniors asked me how I chose my career path in college. I told them to follow what they love, and that will lead them to what they’re meant to do.

When I packed up to go home, I was surprised at how many students DID talk to me. I was expecting zero.

Editing can’t compete with biotech or gang units. It’s not cool. It’s very important and can make the difference between a best seller and a dud. It’s hard work that everyone sees but no one notices.

So give you favorite editor a little love and a pat on the back.

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