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  • Writer's pictureToni

So what exactly is an editor?

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ve probably seen and heard the word editor everywhere. Published authors talk about “my editor,” the newspaper has a section for Letters to the Editor, there’s an editor listed on the cover of a short story composition, and then there are copyeditors, developmental editors, substantive editors... all the editors!

The truth is, editor is a general term that refers to a variety of different jobs within words-based industries. Let’s take a look at the different types of editors we’re talking about when we say “editor.”

Image text: Note: I'm not using actual job titles here. These are just categories I made up!

The Curator Editor

Some editors function more like curators in their roles. It’s their job to know their magazine, newspaper, or publishing house’s vision, style, and identity, and they choose which articles or stories to publish based on this identity. They only allow the ones that fit to make it into the final publication. These are the editors that freelance writers are always pitching to, and these are the editors who choose which stories are collected in a short story compilation. You’ll find them working in all kinds of publications, but their influence is strongest in news, magazines, and on the web.

The Project Manager

These editors oversee a piece of writing from its acceptance all the way through its publication. Their main job is to make sure that the piece goes through the editing, marketing, and publishing process at a steady rate, meeting all its deadlines as it goes. These editors are often also in charge of liaising with the author. In fact, they may be the author’s only point of contact at a publishing house. These types of editors are most often seen in the book publishing industry, where manuscripts go through a fairly long editing process before being released to the public.

The Personnel Manager

Many editors have risen through the ranks to a managing role. Rather than working directly on manuscripts themselves, these editors are often in charge of other editors, particularly freelancers. Their job is to ensure that the other editors are doing their jobs on time and with the quality expected by the publication. These editors also help writers and other editors brainstorm editorial solutions, come up with catchy titles or pitches, and deal with writer-editor communication issues. These types of editors work in any place where many editors are employed, including in book publishing, news, and magazines.

The Text Editor

If you’re an indie author, a blogger, or a business with a website, then you are likely most familiar with text editors. These are the editors who work directly with the words on the page (or screen) to make them more understandable, more appealing, and more entertaining. These are the copyeditors, developmental editors, content editors, and many, many more who are often hired on a freelance basis by individuals, companies, or publications.

Image text: These days, many publications actually outsource their text editing to freelancers because it's less expensive than maintaining a full in-house staff.

Now, I have to tell you that there are usually no clear boundaries between these different types of editors. The Curator Editor might sometimes do some text editing, and The Text Editor might be occasionally tasked with project management. There are even some (very, very busy) editors out there wearing all of these different hats for their publications, which I cannot even begin to fathom.

What type of editor you end up working with depends highly on the type of publication or business. If you write articles for web, news, or magazines, then you’re most likely to encounter Curator Editors. If you’re trying to get a book traditionally published, then your agent will usually submit to Curator Editors or Project Manager Editors. Freelance editors who work with publishers will probably be in touch with Personnel Manager Editors. And indie authors, along with small businesses, are likely to be working directly with text editors.

As for me...

As you’ve likely surmised through reading this article, I am a text editor. I work directly with indie authors like you to make your stories the best they can be. I also work with publishers on a freelance basis.


Need a text editor for your manuscript? Feel free to get in touch! I’d love to help you make your writing the best it can be.


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