You Might Be an Editor If...

by Erin Brown

Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2008

Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2008

If you watch the tickers at the bottom of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX and yell at the screen, “It’s ‘Obama campaigns in Canton, Ohio, in front of 30,000’ not ‘Obama campaigns in Canton, Ohio in front of 30,000!!!!’ God, can’t you people hire someone that knows about comma placement? Sheesh!” might be an editor. 

If your boss asks you to read the 500-page manuscript he just received in the next four hours and report back about whether he should buy it, at what advance, and to make sure that at least ten colleagues read and concur in the same amount of might be an editor.  

If every neighbor, relative, casual acquaintance, and random person on the street who finds out your profession asks you to read and comment on the 200,000-word memoir they’ve been writing for the past twenty might be an editor. 

If you’re stuck somewhere, anywhere without a book or manuscript, and you start to panic, sweat, feel faint, and get heart might be an editor. 

If reading the following sentences make you want to tear your hair out and commit hara-kiri—“Your making me want to scream,” “Its the best way to get a manuscript thrown out,” and “I past out after reading that line.” might be an editor. 

If you have no idea what year it actually is because you are constantly thinking one or two years ahead of time in terms of future book might be an editor. 

If you would rather read the ingredients on the bottle of shampoo twenty times in a row versus reading nothing at might be an editor. 

If you can use one hand to hold a 400-page manuscript, a hot cup of coffee, and a pencil to mark up the novel, while using the other hand to hold onto a subway pole and make an obscene gesture at the creepy guy who is standing way too close to might be an editor. 

If you give every friend and family member books for the holidays because you can order them free from your publishing might be an editor. (If any of my former bosses are reading this, of course I am just kidding—like I would ever do something like that...hah*runs away and hides*) 

If you think that hardcover sales of 30,000 copies are embarrassingly low and you get drunk on vodka gimlets to drown the sorrows of your failures... you might be an editor at a BIG publishing house. 

If hardcover sales of 30,000 copies get you a promotion and a brand new mouse pad from the boss that says, “You’re SUPER!” might be an editor at a SMALL publishing house. 

If you struggle to suppress murderous thoughts when someone says to you that their all-time favorite literary writer is Nicholas might be an editor (**Please send all angry letters to the Web site editor). 

If you’ve ever gotten an email with the subject heading: 
ancethankyou.” might be an editor.

If you know that the New York Times Bestseller List is emailed between 5:06 and 5:32 every Wednesday afternoon and you stare at your screen non-stop until it comes through each week with a “ping” might be an editor. 

If Publishers Weekly is like crack to might be an editor. 

If you see your favorite agent more than your favorite might be an editor. 

If you go into every Barnes & Noble and Borders you can and make sure all of the books you’ve edited are pulled and facing outward on the might be an editor. 

If you read manuscripts during vacations, weekends, coffee breaks, morning commutes, and while waiting in line to buy might be an editor. 

If you’ve ever become ridiculously exasperated because the person whose magazine you’re surreptitiously reading over their shoulder is turning the pages too damn might be an editor. 

If you experience extreme pangs of jealousy and your eyes well up with tears when you see people who have so much time that they can “read books for pleasure” might be an editor. 

If you love your work more than words can say and could never, ever, ever conceive of doing anything else with your life, no matter if the pay was exponentially better, the stress levels significantly lower, and the degree of sanity much might be an editor.



Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her website at

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