Finding your niche as an editor

Finding your niche as an editor

Over the years, I have often been asked, “what sort of things do you edit”? When I first started, in my complete naiveté, I found this puzzling. I’m an editor; I edit everything.

Through trial and much error (we call it a learning curve), I discovered that this is the wrong answer to the question. I can edit anything you throw at me; years of experience make that relatively easy, but I have preferences and areas that I’m particularly good at editing.

You can be a natural at spotting grammar mistakes and run-on sentences. You can even have a natural talent for reading something and being able to intuit what is missing or what might tighten up a scene. However, that is your base talent; that’s what drives you and what helps you push forward, and, yes, that instinct enables you to find your niche.

Because editing is a honed skill, there are usually genres at which you are particularly adept. I, for example, am very skilled at editing academics papers because of my academic background and familiarity with a wide range of style guides and disciplines. I am adept and skilled at doing Developmental Edits of Fiction.

A better answer to the question of “what do you edit” can in part be found in restating the question. “What do you prefer to edit” or “what is your area of expertise in editing” are the more informative questions to ask. And if talking editor to editor, “what is your niche?” and how do you find it?

In an earlier post, The Beginning of the Blog, I briefly talked about how I grew up in the Academic world. If a particular discipline surrounds you, that does tend to steer you in a specific direction. What you learn along the way is that it is crucial to dabble in other areas, maybe areas that you are not as comfortable with or haven’t experienced. Or, if, like me, you are a writer, you will find that you can become proficient in the areas you write. That said, some people cannot edit their genre, so if that’s you, you’re neither alone nor a rarity.

What we, as editors, must do as we explore our chosen career and try to decide what our specialty or niche is, is accept that we cannot be the best at everything and understand that having a niche can be a great benefit. Knowing what you are most passionate about and your area of expertise can open up doors for your business as a freelancer. It also can help you hone your skills in ways you never imagined.

My personal example is that while I specialize in academic editing and fiction (specifically Romantic Suspense), and you could easily call either of those my niche market, an area that I’m focused on is Poetry.

Poetry? That’s a niche, a specialized skill?

Why, yes, it is, and a surprise to me, too. (That journey will be another blog post, I am sure.)

So, for me, I actively seek out poetry manuscripts to edit. As a poet myself, I know that there is a particular skill to be able to edit poetry and RESISTING over editing it. The Poet’s voice can be more important than whether or not you used proper punctuation. My favorite example of why editing can be a very different experience when editing a poet is to suggest you read a few of his poems (https://hellopoetry.com/e-e-cummings/). Yes, there is structure; yes, he does stick to most grammar rules, but not always.

Sometimes, with poetry, the rhythm is more important than whether or not you use a period at the end of the sentence.

I have a fellow editor friend who specialized in children’s books for kids between 5 and 7. She enjoys working in a narrow field and loves what she does. She finds working on this limited genre best serves the publishing community. Other editors specialize in Technical Editing/Writing. 

In our way, each of us picked Freelance Editing as a career and had something we preferred to edit, just as authors have a genre preference. Yes, you will find that you will edit outside this desired niche or your specialty. For the most part, once you are truly up and running, you can fuel your job as a Freelance Editor with your chosen niche and enjoy the process with all the passion you have for that area of expertise.

And that’s enough on that subject. Have a fantastic day!

Galen

An Editor’s Journey

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