How is this career? Anyone doing it full time? What's it like?
What do you know about this career?
Do you mean copy editor? Or do you mean the editors responsible for compiling chapters in advanced texts from numerous authors?
Copy editing is a career, but doesn't (to my knowledge) require so much of a background in the texts you edit as it does the publicaiton process, and grammar and language skills. This person's job is to ensure that the book gets published properly, but generally has a minimum of responsibility with respect to content. Essentially the job is to ensure that the final product is what the author and publisher want.
Editors that put together compilations have a high degree of recognized specialization in their respective fields, but don't generally do this as a full-time career. Usually they are scientists/professors who take on this kind of activity secondary to their academic responsibilities.
I was thinking of editors that check the correctness of the content in textbooks. The textbooks could be primary, secondary or 1st year University level.
I have several friends who do this for a living. They work from home, doing grade school textbooks, sometimes math , sometimes science, history or geography. The tasks required vary too. It may be no more than copy-proofing, all the way up to overseeing the content that does into a book. They sometimes even call on their artist friends to draw up illos and cover designs.
What qualifications does one need to get such a job?
How much do they earn?
Who hires your friends? Who to contact to ask more about such jobs?
You might want to consider "physics abstracting". I applied for a job in this area several decades ago and was accepted for the post, but took an MSc course instead. Sometimes I wonder where this path would have taken me as, in retrospect, I think it might have been a better path than the one I took! I just found out Arthur C. Clarke actually got the job I was aiming for, with the company that accepted me (though he started one rung higher up the ladder than the job I actually got!) I applied for the job by writing to the company directly. Besides my physics qualification I had also worked for the student newspaper. I think it helped. Anyway, info on Arthur C.:
Not job. They are freelance. That is the way the public textbook industry works around here (Canada. I can't speak for elsewhere, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were the same).
You don't tend to find this kind of thing as a full-time position because it's based on publication cycles. They'd lose money while you sat and waited for work to come in.
As for qualifications, you will be in-demand based on your skill and speed. If you're fast and know your grammar, you'll be called more. Some subjects are in high demand like, for example, math.
Up to you to set a value on your skills. $25 - $50 per hour is the common range.
School textbook publishers. Find ones in your area, send them a blurb about what your specialty is, maybe some samples, then wait. Then send again.
What is physics abstracting?
Interesting. Even if I end up not being an academic, I do know that I want to get a Physics PhD and I also want to see a lot of ideas cross my desk. Abstracting seems like an interesting way to do it. And even textbook editing would keep my mind sharper than sitting around.
Tgt - follow the link it's about how Arthur C. did physics abstracting...
DofD - the job interview I had was interesting. Just getting to see abstracting in action was intriguing. It took place in vast room with dozens of subject specialists sat around tables beavering away. I even got to do some beavering - as part of the interview process I was asked to 'abstract this'. Note that you might have to abstract in an area that you aren't mostly interested in, I was told I would probably be doing solid-state physics. No doubt cosmology was taken by the guy who just missed getting a first at Cambridge :-)
I reapplied after taking my MSc and wasn't reappointed! So show some commitment if you apply...
If you want to stay in physics, like writing, don't fancy school teaching, not great at maths, all thumbs at experiments, can't get a research post, ... it could be a way to go.
One of my reasons for applying was your idea of getting to see lots of cutting-edge ideas without wasting time in the lab or ploughing through calculations. Who knows, I thought, maybe I could come up with some new ideas through serendipity. So I was fascinated to find out, just yesterday, that this had indeed worked for someone -- how else do you explain the wealth of ideas that came out of Arthur C. Clarke?! One wonders if working in a patent office also gave Einstein an "edge" through exploring many ideas at a very high level in a slightly "off the beaten track" job that still involved some physics.
Given that my MSc course was rubbish I'm sure I'd have learned more in the abstracting office, and would have been paid more as well!
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