Wanna Know What an Editor Does?

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez has a job posting for DC editor, plus commentary.

Once upon a time, I’d written up a lengthy list of all the things an editor was expected to do at one of the big superhero comic publishers, but I’ve lost it, which is a shame, because it showed just how little of it involved creative work. An editor is primarily a traffic manager and talent hand-holder, only they aren’t generally selected for or trained in those skills. (The only “training” I’ve seen take place is by aversion therapy, when you quickly learn what NOT to do based on when your boss goes bonkers.)

Let’s look at some of the disturbingly bureaucratic phrasing used:

minimum of 5 monthly titles. … Ensures that schedules and budgets are met and product quality is at or above DC’s standards. Seeks ways to keep ongoing series fresh and exciting. Identifies and develops new editorial products for the DC Universe. … Ensures that other DC staff members have the materials required to maximize service to the product.

“… maximize service to the product” — I don’t even know what that means! Supporting marketing, I guess. (KC says “must play well with others”.) I also like the way that they say you have to be able to meet deadlines TWICE in the part I haven’t quoted.

This is many people’s dream job, and best of luck to them. It won’t be if you get it. The reality’s just too different.

12 Responses to “Wanna Know What an Editor Does?”

  1. James Schee Says:

    I wonder how much it pays? (enough to make it in NY?) Not that I’d probably go out for it just curious.

    Especially since my work place (Postal Service REC) is likely announcing on Tuesday that we will be closing by November 1. No idea if we’re up for transfers or not, so I’m looking into any job opportunities now.

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Apr. 20, 2007: That’s “Hate-fueled multiple Eisner nominee” to you, pal… Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson notes that the actual duties of a New York corporate-comics editor probably aren’t very similar to what people applying for such jobs imagine them to be. […]

  3. Johanna Says:

    At a guess, it’s probably somewhere in the 35-60,000 a year range. (With the high end being for lots of experience.)

    My sympathies with your job struggles. There seems to be a lot of that going around.

  4. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

    James: Not sure if you saw Tony Isabella’s comments over on my post, but he makes a couple of good points worth considering. And Johanna’s salary range sounds about right, though I’d guess the high end tops out @ $50k, if that, for this particular position; decent enough for a single person to get by on in NYC without making too many compromises, but if you have a family of any size to consider (and any qualms at all about the work-for-hire world), it’s probably not worth relocating for.

  5. Stuart Moore Says:

    Speaking as someone who, admittedly long ago, moved to New York on a salary of $11,400: If you want to live here, you’ll figure out a way.

  6. Kristy Valenti Says:

    I’ve always thought of editors as basically moms. You’re judgmental, nagging and nitpicking, except you give the words a professional spin, like “making sure people meet their deadline,” “proofreading,” “copy-editing,” and being “detail-oriented.” That’s just my take on it.

  7. Kristy Valenti Says:

    I just realized that makes moms sound bad. I meant something more like what you think your mom is like in high school, not like how she probably really is.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Kristy, I didn’t think it was that bad… I like the image!

  9. James Schee Says:

    Well they moved up the annoucement to today, since local media and government found out and pressured for answers. I will find out in the coming weeks what my transfer options will be. (very bad timing as after a promotion last year I bought a house)

    The editor thing is really just a curiousity. A few years ago it would have been a dream job as I had such a passion for the characters and even knew a lot of the people through working with DC Online as a chat host.

    Just about all of those people are gone now, and I just don’t have the passion.(though I have kept up with everything for the most part) So would look at it as a job in a field of interest, in a city that I’ve always wanted to live in. Yet in reality probably wouldn’t be worth all the trouble for me.

  10. Jonathan Baylis Says:

    When I was an Associate Editor at Topps Comics, I made around $35,000 in 1997. Before that, Valiant gave me a $10 stipend as an intern. I had to work at a no-longer existing Waldenbooks on Wall St. a few days a week so I could work for no money at Valiant/Acclaim.

    Even though it’s 10 years later, I can’t imagine that comic book editors’ salaries have gone up too much. But I’d love to be proven wrong. It’s not an easy job wrangling artists and writers to keep to a deadline. But it’s a dream job in the sense that they do pay you money to be surrounded by an industry you love. I miss comics.

  11. Ali Kokmen Says:

    As perhaps-useful comparison drawn largely from the book publishing industry, the most recent Publishers Weekly salary survey claims that the median salary for editorial positions varies from $40,500 to $66,000, depending on the size of the company.

    Presumably, editorial positions at all levels, from the entry-level editorial assistants to the high level editors-in-chief factor into this median calculation. I note that the DC Comics job listing asks for 3 to 5 years experience, so its salary is certainly not at entry-level standards of meagerness, but I really wouldn’t want to guess where it might fall in the range.

    Ah, well. I’m sure this position’s “salary is commensurate with experience” as the saying goes…

  12. Flaming Dork Says:

    Sooner or later we all have to grow up and learn that a job is nothing but mechanical, faceless and sterile business. Let’s see how business is going…

    – Minimum of 5 monthly titles.

    Really? Is that a problem with DC? They don’t have enough titles?

    – Ensures that schedules and budgets are met and product quality is at or above DC’s standards.

    Late? Check! Rape? Check! Overpriced? Check, check and double check!

    – Seeks ways to keep ongoing series fresh and exciting.

    Right, right. That’s why we have Infinite Crisis and Captain Atom in Monarch Armor. I guess that’s why god invented the crossover.

    – Identifies and develops new editorial products for the DC Universe.

    Make money.

    – Ensures that other DC staff members have the materials required to maximize service to the product.

    Somebosy needs to rush out a buy a new box of talent! STAT!

    But if previous comments are any indication. The comic book industry gets what it pays for.




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