25 Life Lessons from a Book Editor

As I reflect back on Curiouser Editing’s birthday, I realize that I’ve learned a thing or two as a book editor. 

I started in the publishing industry when I was twenty, almost twenty-one, and have received valuable life lessons that I’d like to pass on to you, fellow editors. 

1. Your friends and family will never care about grammar the way you do. 

2. You will meet editors who couldn’t edit manuscripts to save their lives, and it will keep you awake at night. 

3. Friends will ask you to edit their papers/books/poems. Be gentle. 

4. Your competitors are your friends. 

5. There will come a time when you have no clients because life is life. Buck up and keep marketing yourself. 

6. There will come a time when you have so many clients that you have to speed-hire someone so you aren’t drowning in manuscripts. 

7. Self-promotion stinks. A lot. Yes, even for extroverts. But it has to be done until you’re no longer the one promoting yourself. 

8. You will have a client (or clients) who makes you question your sanity. Be patient, but be wise. Learn your lesson and try to avoid it the next time around. 

9. If you’re in this business for money, please walk away. You should be in this business because you love books and want to help authors succeed. 

10. You never stop learning. I’m always reading grammar books—old and new—to stay on top of my craft. 

11. Stand up for what you believe in. If a successful company hired me and asked me not to use the Oxford comma, I would politely decline. It’s a radical choice, but if I’m going to stand up for something, it will be the Oxford comma—always.

12. Taxes are hard. Ask for help. 

13. You’ll meet incredible people who truly share your same passion for the written word. Hold on to them forever. One day, you will need to rant to them. 

14. Have an editor friend who challenges you. 

15. Understand this about authors: that book is their baby, and it terrifies them to turn it over to someone else’s eyes. 

16. You will one day have to up your prices, and it will be scary, because you’ll convince yourself you’re not worth it. You are—trust me.

17. Be honest about your pricing. 

18. Don’t give up your first love (books) for your new love (work). Take time for yourself and dive into a good book. 

19. Editing is easier when there are no distractions.

20. There are some changes you’ll never make as an editor, and that’s really okay. People can say snuck all they want, but I will forever correct it to sneaked

21. Know when to fire your client. 

22. Take your eyes off the screen every twenty minutes. Your eyes will thank you later.

23. You will edit a book that will speak to your soul like no other book has. Tell the author how it touched you.

24. Network, network, network. 

25. Do an outstanding job. Every. Single. Time.