The Career Leap from Proofreader to Editor
Welcome Cassie Armstrong of MorningStar Editing, a self-styled “newbie” copyeditor who has had the wisdom, generosity, and humility to chronicle her career leap into copyediting. She also provides more resources than I thought it was possible to cram into so few words! Aspiring freelance copyeditors: read, click, and learn. Your career is limited only by how hard you’re willing to work for it.
If you visit my website, you’ll see I offer proofreading, fact checking, copyediting, and manuscript evaluations. From the very beginning, though, I focused on proofreading. For the past four years, I presented myself as a proofreader and marketed myself that way. I thought I was a proofreader because I was able to get proofreading projects, and as I got my foot in the door, I was happy to be identified with any aspect of editing. At first I even assumed proofreading and copyediting were the same.
It’s nice to discover after all this time that I do indeed have the characteristics of a proofreader, personally and professionally. I pay attention to detail, love reading every word of every manuscript, and notice typos, spelling errors, and inconsistencies. Up until I took a proofreading class a year ago, everything I knew came from on-the-job training, other proofreaders and editors, and books.
I also learned that proofreading and copyediting play in different stadiums. And I decided to pursue copyediting. So I researched books, websites, people, and groups to help me make the decision and the leap in my career.
A copyediting class from Media Bistro filled in many blanks, and its self-paced format was perfect for me. Media Bistro offers several other editing and copyediting classes for reasonable fees. The Editorial Freelancer’s Association (EFA)–which I joined–offers an online Copyediting I & II combo, among others. Editorium and McMurry, Inc.’s Copyediting offer classes, too. Several universities also offer editing classes, and even certificates.
I read Copyediting: A Practical Guide by Karen Judd, The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications by Amy Einsohn, and The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller. The last is worth the price if only for the detailed reading list at the end. All three are fantastic resources, filled with tips and examples. By the end of The Subversive Copy Editor, I knew I wanted to be a copyeditor, but I also knew that wanting to wasn’t enough to make me one.
Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, long-time freelance editor at KOK Edit, is my mentor. She has presented and discussed resources, opportunities, and possibilities for copyediting careers in her book, Getting Started As A Freelance Copyeditor, and her Copyeditor’s Knowledge Base is a repository of excellent resources.
Next, I did a lot of online networking. Besides the EFA, I also joined the lively Copyediting-Listserv ( “for copy editors and other defenders of the English language who want to discuss anything related to editing”), and the regional Bay Area Editors Forum and Rocky Mountain Publishing Professionals Guild. I also opened accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn, where I’ve connected with many copyeditors, managing editors, writers, project editors, and publishers. Launching and maintaining an active website has gone a long way to helping me make connections, establish, and position myself as well.
Just as I did when I was trying to land my first proofreading client, when I put on my copyediting hat I examined my favorite books, interests, and hobbies so I can market to those types of publishers. I make lists and visit bookstores looking for publishers of interest, noting which genres I gravitate to and the books that catch my eye. I read The Literary Marketplace and Writer’s Market at the library as if they’re bestsellers. Both are invaluable and provide excellent information about publishers.
Online, John Kremer’s Bookmarket does a great job of listing publishers in different genres, and Publishers Weekly and newsletters from Media Bistro are regulars in my e-mail. I google and visit publisher websites, and follow several on Twitter. I consider it treasure hunting, and time flies.
While it’s a cliché, I think a career in editing—and any other field—really is all about the journey, not the destination. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but right now, for me at least, the only way is up.
Enter your email to get random special notes from me about marketing copy, language, and grammar you can put to work as soon as you read them. It’s not a newsletter–it’s your chance to pull me aside for answers to your own questions, too!
Well done, Cassie!
Thanks for mentioning that there are differences between copyediting and proofreading. They are specialized skills in a related field, and I've found that it can be difficult to take off my editing hat when I'm asked to wear my proofreading hat.
Oh, and thanks for the shout-out to EFA and CE-L!
Cassie is one of the hardest-working mentees I've ever had. She takes every bit of advice to heart, uses the parts that make sense for her, and then works nonstop to put them into practice. I have seen her go from "Oh, my goodness--what do I do to set up my business?" to "Just got my next project!" She's gone from retired teacher to editorial pro without ever having been an employee in the publishing industry. She did it by lots of study and by never giving up. I am awed by her persistence. Go, Cassie, go!