4 Surprising Side Effects of Being an Editor

by Lesley-Anne Longo

Published at 2014-06-03

So, you’ve decided you want to be an editor. You love books, working with words, and maybe even enjoy all the grammar rules that might drive other people insane. You have visions of working on beautiful manuscripts, possibly while sitting in front of a fire, or at a great big desk stacked with books. I know you’ve had these visions, because I had them too.
Working in the wonderful world of publishing is a great career to have — on most days, I find it doesn’t even feel like work at all! However, working as an editor DOES have some “side effects” that you might not have considered when you were busy dreaming about manuscripts and glitzy launch parties and roaring fires. I know, because they took me by surprise.
Side Effect One: “… Can You Do Me a Favour?”
The first side effect I noticed started appearing when I was still in my publishing course. Friends started sending me things résumés, essays, all sorts of stuff asking if I wouldn’t mind just “quickly taking a look” at the document and making sure all was as it should be.
I never mind doing these sorts of things; as a perfectionist, I like ensuring a document is the best it can possibly be. But this meant that the documents my friends received back might not have been what they expected! I start off by correcting a misspelling or two, then maybe polishing up some sentence structure, then perhaps suggesting some extra explanation here, more descriptors there, and before I know it I’ve presented them with a complete overhaul. Oops.
Side Effect Two: Errors, Errors Everywhere
The second side effect I noticed is one that I expect will plague me forever: I started to spot errors.
In the newspaper, on my morning commute.
On a menu, on a nice evening out.
In the books I read to relax on the weekend.
Unfortunately for me, a critical eye the very thing that might make me a fantastic proofreader isn’t something I can just turn off at the end of the day!
Side Effect Three: Everyone’s Got a Story
The third side effect is something that creeps up slowly. It looks like this: I find myself out at a dinner, or a family gathering with a new beau, when friend-of-a-friend or an eccentric aunt asks me what I do for a living. “Oh, I work as an editor,” I unwittingly reply. For a split second, I notice a strange gleam in my conversational partner’s eye, and then they burst out “REALLY?! I’ve actually written a book! It’s about …” It is strange how often this happens.
Side Effect Four: Failure to Launch (Party)
The last side effect is sometimes a tough one. I find that most of the editors I have met are introverts, to some degree. In this sense being an editor is an ideal career choice. You work with other introverts or, in some cases, on your own. However, if you work on trade books, you might be expected to go to a launch party or two. I find this can be stressful, as introverts don’t normally do well with … mingling.
The thing I try to remember is — everyone there is there for one thing: the book. If we go to a launch party, we love books, right? And, in the end, the reason I became an editor is that same reason: the love of books. So let’s get out there and mingle!
At the End of the Day …
Most of the time, I find these side effects funny. Every career comes with them, to a degree. Work as a doctor? You might get people asking you about the weird cough they’ve had for weeks. An accountant? You’ll probably get asked whether or not you really have to declare something or other.
In the end, I count myself lucky to do what I love I work with books and words all day. Working with authors can be a very special experience, and it’s satisfying to know that I had a hand in creating a wonderful book that people will enjoy reading.
At the end of the day, that makes it all worth it.