Thursday, 30 August 2012

On Becoming an Editor

“There's no way a person becomes an editor. One simply decides that one is, and sets about doing it.” (courtesy of

Umm, if I'd known this when I set about seeking contributions for my first anthology Brown Eyes, I may have been heard screaming, that can't be right – but there's some truth in those words.

I can't speak for other editors out there; my reality has to be different. Why? Because it wasn't until my publisher Jeremy Thompson (of Troubadour) sent me the Brown Eyes front cover proof, which stated my name in fairly large print followed by 'Editor'. At first, I was a bit taken aback having perceived myself as a writer first and foremost and an anthology creator at best (yeah, I was driving in fog!).

So I immediately got on the phone and called Jeremy for clarity – the conversation went something like this:

“Hi Jeremy, how are you?”
“Hi Nicole, I'm fine, you?”
“Yes, I'm good, look Jeremy, the book cover's great but it says I'm the Editor.”
“Well, you are the Editor, Nicole, as in you've commissioned the work and had overall responsibility along with the control of book design and so on and so forth.”

It didn't take longer than a few seconds for the penny to drop and for my somewhat slightly embarrassed self to say, “Of course Jeremy, I just hadn't quite seen it but, you’re right!”

Not wanting to continue driving in fog by this new revelatory discovery, I still needed more clarification (yeah I know!) so I browsed the Internet and lo and behold, I found this to be absolutely spot on. Jeremy was of course 100% correct and I felt reassured when I saw before me a list of an Editor's Role:
  • Developing a clear vision for the book
  • Appointing contributors and editing and approving their contributions
  • Liaising with Publishers re: publishing and/or marketing contracts
  • Deciding on book title, what text to use, book cover design, book size, number of copies printed and book leaflets, etc.
  • Checking the book proofs and preparing the index
  • Keeping the project on schedule and to length
  • Assisting in the marketing of the book

Yet behind the scenes of the Editor Role, I have to add it helps a lot if you also love (or at least like a lot) language, words in any form, i.e. books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. I've definitely got a passion and that's why I've often got my head in a book – yeah it helps if you read extensively. Funnily enough, in the 80's I used to teach typing at an Adult Education Institute and would spot an error a mile away, much to the dismay of my students. This in-built word radar approach helps a lot when you're proofreading.

My route to Editor-hood was through the freelance writer one, although that's not essential of course, but I'm glad that's how I stumbled into editing. There is definitely an art to editing, except you're much more business-like about it, ensuring there's an acceptable structure and that the end product is worthy of a space on the book shelves. Adopting a schizophrenic-like approach that embraces creativity and business can help, as you really need to wear both these hats simultaneously, but it's a different artistic process this editing lark, especially when editing creative works like poems and personal writing as was the case for me. Guidelines need to be followed, criteria developed and strongly adhered to particularly as two of my books were funded by the Arts Council England, and so you learn on the job. By my third book though, I had enough experience to confidently enjoy the whole artistic and business-like process as I knew so much more this time around.

I'd really like to hear from any Editors or would be Editors out there, so please do feel free to make a comment or ask me a question. I'll do my best to answer your queries!

For more on becoming an editor – check out:


  1. Thanks for this Nicole. Very inspiring and insightful. Can't wait to read the fourth book!

  2. Hey Danni,
    You're most welcome - it's good to know it was helpful. Umm a fourth book, I think it'll be something completely different. Watch this space...