Juli Parrish is the director of the writing center and a teaching associate professor at the University of Denver. She has been reading the work of students and colleagues for over 20 years.
Parrish began her work as an editor when she was a grad student at the University of Pittsburg. The teaching stipend she received was not very much, and she thought that editing might supplement her income.
According to the bureau of labor statistics, as of 2016 editors makes about $57,210 a year, but from 2014-2024 there’s an expected 5 percent decrease in the amount of jobs that are available for editors.
These statistics may seem a little foreboding, but it’s important to note that their figures don’t take freelance editing into account. Freelance or self-employed editors can expect to charge about $20 per hour when they’re beginners, but once they establish themselves, they can increase the price to upwards of $25, depending on the kind of editing that needs to be done.
Parrish’s first freelance job was with a grad student of education who needed her dissertation edited. Her needs were too much for the writing center to handle.
When the grad student asked if Parrish knew any editors, Parrish said, “I could do it.” And then word of mouth spread and she spent the rest of her time at the program doing freelance work.
These days, Parrish does most of her editing for a journal called Literacy in Composition Studies, or LiCS. LiCS is a peer-reviewed, open access journal which publishes twice a year. Parrish is one of six other editors who vet the submissions for that journal.
Although all six editors work together during the vetting process, each have their own specialized role. Parrish’s role is to manage the copy-editing, meaning she makes sure that the language of the work is clear and consistent.
She prefers working with scholarly articles, but she’s careful to mention that there are two kinds of editing: “There’s the kind [of editing] that does the work of intervening in someone’s language, and then there’s editing which is the process of vetting and improving scholarly work to go out into the world.”
There is a specific process to doing this: After selecting the article for publication, the article is sent to the reviewers; then the reports that they make are given back to the author; finally, the author sends it back so that the last edits can be made and it’s published. These factors determine the timeline of Parrish’s editing.
However, this can only happen after the piece is vetted, which, for Parrish, is the most difficult part of the job. She and her fellow editors want to maintain a certain level of quality, but they see the potential in a lot of projects.
The difficulty comes from deciding whether the author has enough potential to justify all the time and work that the editors would need to put into the project to get it up to the journal’s standards. But that is why vetting is such an important part of the job.
But Parrish, and many like her, take these challenges in stride. Ultimately, an editor’s task is to make the literature read as smoothly as possible. For her, the work of editing is the most important, valuable part of her job.
As David Kudler says, editors do what they do because they love books and they respect the effort that authors put into these books. If you feel the same way about literature, editing might be the thing for you.
Luckily, Parrish has some advice for beginners. When it comes to editing academic works for pay, she advises that you either affiliate yourself with a university writing center or get yourself on a writing center list.
But for people who are interested in scholarly editing, find a journal that you like to read and ask them if you can review a book. This is especially effective with independent journals like LiCS. This allows you to get published and it gets your name out to the public.
Arlene Prunkl, a freelance editor and member of the Editors’ Association of Canada, advises doing exactly what Parrish did: go to conferences. Put yourself out there. Network. Get an editing internship or volunteer your services for free, just to get your foot in the door.
It is imperative that you network if you want to become an editor. Word of mouth is extremely helpful when establishing connections or finding work. The Internet makes it easy; you can put out your credentials for the world to see.
But networking can have its cons. Parrish says that networks can be both inclusive and exclusive.
For example, LiCS is looking for a book reviewer, but they want to make their team more diverse. Looking for people outside of your network is a struggle; it’s hard to find new talent when your reach has heretofore only stretched so far.
The tips for getting your start are simple, but the only thing you need is an in. An in is all you need to get those valuable connections. That’s what allows you to do what you’re good at: perfecting literature.