Monday, April 13, 2015

So you want to be a Content Editor? | Content Editing (2)

I received the amazing opportunity to interview Sara Raasch and Jennifer A. Nielsen in conjunction with a career research project as well as share my knowledge surrounding the career of Content Editing.

“It was a dark and stormy night when the man entered the house. A flash of lightning lit up the room as he raised the knife that had been hidden in his jacket and stuck it into her heart.”

When one hears the word “editing,” one may immediately think about punctuation, spelling, or capitalization. Indeed, these are important elements of writing, yet there is more to consider if one is attempting to make their work “good.” This is demonstrated with the passage above. It contained cliche phrases, zero suspense, and a laughable excuse for horror meant to elicit reader’s reactions. To improve this, the author needs a content editor. It’s interesting to think how different one’s favorite book would be without the editor’s invaluable contribution.

In the grand scheme of a book’s creation, the content editor is the person to see a manuscript after it has been accepted for publication. Their job is to question every aspect of it, from the sequence of events, to character development, to fact-checking, and believability.

The need to be independent, take initiative, and tolerate high levels of stress are some of the skills and personality traits that are seen as preferable for a content editor to have. As an author, one may consider their content editor as a well-meaning parent in charge of making responsible decisions and suggesting revisions to the text that will help the quality of the finalized project. Without a doubt, reading comprehension and conceptual thinking is valued so one possess the ability to recognize patterns, zero in on seemingly minute details, and evaluate problems. It is critical that they can visualize where the text should or should not go so the author is taken seriously when the finished product is seen by the public.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and that somewhere in this particular career would be as an intern or editorial assistant. The duties they carry out are the ones full-time editors consider tedious or mundane, such as answering queries from authors and literary agents or reading through the “slush pile,” which is comprised of the physical (or virtual in the 21st century) stacks of manuscript pitches. Once an editor proves that they are adequate for the position, they may be promoted with the task of negotiating book deals with authors or going to literary conferences.

The lifestyle of a content editor may not be one of a millionaire, but it comfortable with decent benefits. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary is $62,800 per year (NP). Content editors working for a publishing house work regular hours with the chance of health benefits, retirement funds, and vacation days to be negotiated.

The typical day of a content editor will vary greatly depending on a books stage of development. Directly after a publishing deal is negotiated, an editor will meet with the rest of the team to discuss the publication timeline, including turn-in dates for revisions, copy-edits, advanced reader’s copies releases, and the actual launch of the book. In the middle of this lengthy process, a content editor may be solely focused on the structure of a particular scene, dissecting word choice, the use of figurative language, and how the scene would play out in real life. When the publication date draws nearer, the editor may be suggesting titles, working with a graphic designer for the cover, or even going to literary events such as BEA (Book Exposition of America) to create hype for its release.

As it is inevitable with anything in life, a career in editing has several negative and positive elements that the researcher has thoroughly considered that are fitting or at least tolerable to her work style and personality. The largest benefit to this profession is the reason the researcher was drawn towards the career in the first place; content editors have the control over whether or not an author gets a manuscript they may have been working on for years out to the public. In addition, content editors undergo the pressure of having to be depended on to aid the author in the development of their work. A considerable drawback is the fact that the particular text has to be read and analyzed dozens of times before publication which can get tedious. Lastly, they must be prepared to cooperate and meet with all of the people involved in the making of the book such as the author, marketer, agent, publicist, etc. Even though many editorial skills may be independently acquired through repeated reading and writing, a Bachelor’s degree in English, Communications, or another field related to publishing, which is seen as preferable from potential employers.

Emerson is a private college in urban Boston, Massachusetts and the only college in the United States where one may obtain a degree in publishing. The medium-sized liberal arts college strives to incite and aid creativity as well as assist its students in becoming inspirational, ethical leaders. It is ranked as the 11th highest college in northern regional universities by the US News and World Report in Education (NP).

The environment and atmosphere at Emerson College is extremely accepting and welcoming of diversity. The ethnicities of students currently attending Emerson is two-thirds white and 10% hispanic (Big Future: Emerson College NP). This is important to this researcher because of her Asian heritage and may prove slightly advantageous when applying.The college is named as the third most-accepting college towards in the LGBT community by the Princeton Review (NP).

Emerson is a somewhat selective college that accepted 48% out of almost 9,000 applicants in 2014 (Big Future: Emerson College NP). When applying, one's academic GPA, application essay, standardized test scores, class rank, and recommendations are taken into account. The applicant’s geographic location, extracurriculars, and volunteer work may influence her admission. General SAT scores of 650 and above are the average expectations to be accepted.

According to Emerson College, annual tuition is $36,650 with an estimated $15,000 room and board cost per year. 65% of the student body receives financial aid from the college itself, for which this researcher would be eligible. Another option the college offers is an Honors Program scholarship to approximately 50 students per incoming class; they are required to write a short essay along with their application to receive half of their tuition for free for up to four years. There is also other scholarship money provided by private organizations this researcher may apply for offered by organizations such as New York Women in Communication, the Asian and Pacific Island Scholarship Fund, and even Burger King.

Ideally, the aspiring content editor would graduate from Emerson in four semesters or less with the 40 credits required to obtain both a Bachelor of Arts focused on Writing, Literature, and Publishing as well as a Bachelor of Science in Marketing Communications (Emerson College NP). A strong focus on publishing and communications is a good combination for the desired career in editing, especially if the researcher would like to progress in the publishing house to positions of more authority and possess some expertise on the marketing side of the publishing world as well. In the duration of time spent at Emerson, she might take courses such as “Principles of Management in Publishing,” “Social Media: Connectivity, Interaction, and Buzz,” “The Editor/Writer Relationship,” and “Visual Literacy.” In order to obtain an education from Emerson, the potential student must start working hard in high school to gain the needed academic and social skills.

[High School] is where the researcher will be educated for the majority of her time in high school. It is the ranked [#]th in the state of New York with less than 900 students attending as of February, 2015 (US News and World Report in Education NP). The high school requires a total of 22 credits and a score of 65% or above on all regents in order to graduate. This particular place of education has many courses, electives, and extracurriculars the researcher believes will be beneficial to her future career.

There are many honors, advanced placement, and even courses offered by the [Name] University Project Advance made available to her in all of the core subjects. In addition to this, there are a wide range of supplementary classes and electives to choose from that will make the researcher seem diverse as well as give her valuable academic experiences. The electives and extracurriculars offered at the high school that will specifically benefit the researcher creatively, educationally, and professionally for a future career in publishing are public speaking, journalism, creative writing, drama, and mock trial, just to name a few.

The researcher’s most prominent extracurricular is also a defining factor she believes will make herself desirable to colleges. Sofia Li is the sole content producer of both the blog and YouTube channel eponymously named Loving the Language of Literacy which provides in-depth reviews and discussions of books, from a wide variety of genres. She believes the experience gained by working closely with authors and publishers to spread the word about their upcoming releases as well as the skills gained by reading books critically will help her with her future career. Both the blog and YouTube channel, Loving the Language of Literacy have been active since 2014, when the researcher was in 7th grade, providing bloggers, readers, and authors alike with her opinion on 21st century literature.

Volunteer work and part-time jobs are also symbols of reliability throughout high school. To begin with, a plausible option for the researcher is volunteering at [Name] (a home for the aging) on a weekly basis. Secondly, there is the possibility of helping out with [Name] Library’s many events for children such as story time. Additionally, Wegmans Supermarket is also an option for part-time employment because they hire responsible adolescents as young as fifteen years old.

“The night was black as pitch, illuminated only by the sporadic flashes of lightning. The drip, drip of blood clashed with the uneven claps of thunder and rain. The man grinned maniacally as he slid the rusted blade into the woman’s chest, savoring the expression of fear that remained plastered on her face long after breath had left her body.”

Evidently, the contrast between the original phrase and the modified one speaks volumes about how much of a difference a content editor can make. The researcher has loved reading from a young age and has come to realize what tropes authors use that do and do not work and would like to help authors in the process of perfecting their own voices. To do this, she needs to excel in all core subjects as well as participate in diverse extracurricular activities to seem desirable to colleges. In particular, the researcher would like to attract the attention of Emerson College to gain invaluable knowledge about the publishing field. Eventually, she would like to get a full-time editorial job at one of the Big Five publishing houses (Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins) so that she can aid the bestselling authors of tomorrow. And perhaps by doing this, she will use the knowledge to become one herself.

***Personal information has been excluded in order to protect the author's privacy***

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