Editor: Suzanne Arnold Number of years in editing: Over 20 years. My aim was always book publishing, but I've been lucky enough to have some other opportunities along the way. I worked on F1 Racing magazine for a while—I'm a fan and went from paying to read the mag to being paid to read it. I've also worked for City lawyers and accountants. And yes, I've spent some of my time working for book publishers
Tell us a little about yourself, including how you got started as an editor?
I was doing an English degree and planning to do the law conversion afterward and become a solicitor. Along the way I realized that law may not be for me, so I started looking around for other options. And I discovered you could get paid to read, which sounded much more "me."
What is your area of focus, and why did you select this niche?
General non-fiction for adults. I love the variety and the opportunity to learn a bit about something I wouldn't otherwise have read about, and seeing new perspectives. Over the past few months, for example, I've read about volcanos, the air force, psychology, digital media, education, travel...
Walk us through a typical workday. How do you manage your time?
My ideal day is to sit down in peace and quiet and focus on the text. I generally deal with the most urgent emails first thing and then a couple of times through the day. I have notifications for most things switched off, to avoid interruptions and let me focus.
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
Reading in peace and constantly learning. Like many editors, I'm introverted and don't like having lots of meetings or dealing with the non-editorial aspects of life and business. (I used to find days in an open-plan office exhausting—constant noise and interruptions and having to be "on" all day.) I have friends who'd hate it, but for me a clear day with no meetings, knowing that I've got hours and hours free to concentrate on the text, is my ideal—and is where I perform at my best.
What is your biggest challenge, and how do you work through this?
Confidence and marketing. I know I'm a good editor, but we Brits aren't brought up to blow our own trumpets. It's very easy to look at everyone else and think they all know how to do it and they're all really good at it, and be scared into inaction by the perceived comparison. That's where groups such as ACES and the CIEP (in the UK) are so valuable—not just exchanging ideas and learning from each other, but also discovering that many other people have the same fears and doubts, and it's okay to feel that way. I was chatting with a group recently about feelings of imposter syndrome, and we discovered that we all have those fears and we could all name someone else in the group who's so confident and together and we wish we could be like them, and that person said they feel the same way.
What are you currently working on?
I've just finished an academic book and am about to start on some corporate reports. Then I'm doing some work for a counsellor, and I may have a children's book coming up soon. As you can see, that mixed CV pays off in feeding my love of variety.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
Get involved with organizations such as the Society for Young Publishers (SYP; in the UK, which is where I am) or whatever the equivalent is where you are. I served on the committees of both Women in Publishing and the SYP even though I found the roles intimidating and had that "but I don't know anything" fear, because I knew I'd learn a lot and I got so much out of both experiences (and made some wonderful friends).
Also, join groups such as ACES, if you're not already a member, or the CIEP. There's so much information and constant learning, but also a friendly and supportive community. Whatever question you have, someone has faced it before, and people are very generous in sharing their knowledge.
And find other editors on Twitter. Again, it's a friendly supportive community, whether you work in-house or freelance, and it's another source of moral support and community. Look for #AmEditing, where you'll find a lighter look at the typos that brighten our day, and #StetWalk, which is a way of motivating ourselves to get away from the screen now and then to get some exercise and fills your feed with pretty scenery.