Literary & Communicators

Editors deal with the business side of producing a publication. They select, review, arrange and prepare material before it is printed or published. Editors work in book publishing or for newspapers, magazines and journals, including online versions.

Work Activities

Editors deal with the business side of producing a publication such as a book, newspaper, magazine or website. They select, review, arrange and prepare material for it. They are also responsible for style and content, as well as identifying gaps in the market.

Editors who work in book publishing spend a lot of their time reviewing and reading manuscripts. They select those that are suitable and then commission the authors to write them. They monitor the progress of the author's work to agreed deadlines (or 'milestones').

Editors who work for newspapers or magazines might be responsible for the whole publication or a particular section, such as the sports pages.

They decide which articles will be included and how they will be laid out. Depending on the publication, they might also review and select submissions or new article ideas from freelance writers.

Editors of some newspapers and magazines also write some items themselves, for example, for the opening or editorial comment article.

On large publications, there might be specialist editors, for example, picture editors, commissioning editors and production editors.

Editors who deal with authors and freelance writers are responsible for negotiating contracts and creating clear briefs. This will include how much they will get paid, when they should have the work completed and how long it should be.

Editors also manage budgets and hire staff. They normally oversee the work of sub or copy editors who are responsible for checking the written work for accuracy, spelling and grammar mistakes (or, there might be an in-house proofreader), adherence to house style and potential legal issues.

They might supervise one or more editorial assistants, and work with people such as in-house or freelance designers.

They might also need to communicate with other departments, for example, production and marketing, as well as organise meetings.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for features editors

  • Good general and current affairs knowledge
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • IT skills
  • Creativity
  • Confidence
  • Organisational skills
  • Determination and resilience

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of editors

Publishing companies employ editors, either on an employed or freelance basis. These are either large organisations that cover a wide range of publications, or small, specialist firms that deal with just one or two publishing areas, for example, children's books or educational publishing.

Opportunities for editors occur in towns and cities throughout the UK. However, publishing companies are concentrated in London, the South East, Oxford and Cambridge.

Editors can work as self-employed freelance editors. There are also opportunities to work from home.


Entry routes and training

Although you do not technically need a degree to become a features editor, entry into the profession without a degree is now unusual.

The role is not available to entry-level candidates, so previous experience and training is usually essential. Recent graduates typically enter in the role of editorial assistant. An English or media studies degree or a qualification accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) may be advantageous. The NCTJ offers a qualification in magazine journalism that covers many of the fundamental skills required for the position. Working on a student magazine can often provide a good introduction to magazine journalism. Specialist knowledge or a scientific or technical background may be required for some vacancies. Prior relevant experience is essential.

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