9 min 41 sec

The 50 Shades of Editing Romance Novels

A corporate recruiter pursues a steamy side business editing romance novels.
Editing Low Startup Potential Service Writing

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What It's About

A steamy side hustle editing romance novels.

Business Model
Skills Required
Editing & Proofreading
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Jessica reflects that the desire to learn, professionalism, strong networking skills, and authentic marketing are all vital to building and maintaining a client base. Perfectionism, timeliness, communication skills, and project management are also necessary skills for all editors.

Fun Fact

Romance novel sales total more than a billion dollars a year. They sell as much as sci-fi, mystery, and fantasy combined. More than 70 million people in the USA alone read at least one romance novel per year, and most of them read many more.

Notes from Chris

Episode 808

We sometimes assume that being in the right place at the right time is all luck. Today’s side hustler, Jessica Snyder, encountered some serendipitous opportunities, but she also played an active role, putting herself in a position to take advantage of those opportunities.

Jessica has been a corporate recruiter for over a decade, but her true passion is passion—in the form of romance novels. A voracious reader, she never considered that "books" could be a career for anyone other than authors. She knew that writing wasn't the right fit for her, but she was always happy to help a friend work through plot issues or proofread a classmate's research paper.

In 2012, Jessica’s long-standing love of romance novels led her to attend a romance writers conference. She discovered a whole industry of professionals she never knew existed—editors, agents, and publicists, among others.

In a true moment of luck, Jessica won a prize at the conference that included breakfast with an editing team from a well-known publishing house. She took advantage of the opportunity to ask how they had started their jobs and what the requirements were to be an editor or proofreader or anything that would help get her foot in the door. One of their suggestions was to start following agents and editors on Twitter, so that’s what she did.

A few months later, Jessica noticed a tweet calling for interns at a publishing house for romance fiction. She expressed her interest with a direct message to the senior editor, and they chatted online briefly. A couple of weeks later, she was officially an unpaid intern. At the time, it felt like the best. job. EVER!

While continuing to work full time, Jessica soaked up expertise from her part-time, unpaid internship. She learned to analyze manuscripts for what the market supported rather than her personal preferences, and what in a "not perfect" manuscript could be salvaged or improved—like structure and conflict—and what was harder to "fix”—like voice or lack of storytelling ability.

After six months, the publishing company promoted Jessica to Editorial Assistant, where she received a modest side income and continued to hone her skills.

Eventually, Jessica decided to start freelance editing on her own. She got her first client by referral.

For a while, Jessica juggled both freelancing and her part-time projects with the publisher, alongside her day job. In her first year, two clients brought her multiple projects, bringing in $1,400 in revenue.

Projects due to her publisher always took precedence over her hustle to find new clients, so after a year, she opted to resign from the publishing house. This allowed her to add more freelance clients, with revenue increasing to $7,700 in the second year and $15,000 in the third year (2018).

Editing projects are highly time intensive, and Jessica has to live by her color-coded calendar with constant reminders of what she has to do next. She says she doesn't love scheduling every hour of her day, but she’s willing to do it for the right projects.

The temporary sacrifice is worthwhile because, as it turns out, Jessica has fallen passionately in love with her side hustle and hopes to pursue it for the rest of her life. She plans to transition from recruiting to full-time editing and author coaching. When that day comes, she’ll pack up her computer and her dog, and head off into the sunset to travel the world.



Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"Though I've been a voracious reader my whole life, I never considered that 'books' could be a career for anyone other than authors."
—Jessica Snyder #SideHustleSchool

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Chris Guillebeau