Gaining editing experience with American Journal Experts

By Ken Wannemacher [ ]

I was aimlessly exploring on LinkedIn earlier this year when I saw that a connection of a connection was a contract editor for American Journal Experts (AJE).  As I am interested in careers in writing and editing, I did a quick Google search and learned that AJE is a company that specializes in helping non-native English speakers prepare their manuscripts for publication by providing editorial services and peer-reviewed comments.  While AJE is based in Durham, NC, much of their work is done by remote contract editors/reviewers located throughout the U.S.  All contract employees are working towards or have an advanced degree and have an affiliation (past or present) with an elite research institution; Penn is one of the top 25 universities specified by AJE.  I have been a contract editor for the past 3 months and it has been a great experience thus far.

In my opinion, the best part about being an editor at AJE is the flexibility.  Editors are able to choose their areas of study (i.e., biochemistry, cardiovascular biology, etc.) and set their own workload, which is defined as the number of 6000-word manuscripts you are willing to edit per week (minimum of 1).  In addition, editors are able to make themselves unavailable to receive any assignments if they are particularly busy and can change their status back to “available” when their schedule permits.  When an editor is available and is assigned a document, they must accept or reject the assignment within 12 hours.  However, AJE expects that if an editor is available and their workload has not been met, they will accept any assignments given to them within their specified area(s) of study, although exceptions can be made for extenuating circumstances.  If the editor accepts the assignment, they download the manuscript as a Word document, make changes using track changes and upload the file back to AJE.  The turnaround time for a manuscript is usually 72 hours from the time it is assigned.  All submitted edits are reviewed by a managing editor prior to delivery to the author.  Managing editors provide feedback to the editors to help them improve their editing skills.  Editors are paid a flat rate based on the length of the assigned manuscript (i.e., 1501-3500 words pay $30, 3501-6000 words pay $40, etc.)

While my experience with AJE has been positive overall, there are aspects of the job that are challenging.  Because the manuscripts are written by non-native English speakers, they can often be very difficult to decipher, which makes it even more arduous to meet the 72 hour deadline.  As a new editor, it takes me a relatively long time (about 6-8 hours for a 6000-word manuscript) to edit a manuscript to be in accordance with the AJE style guide (a document that clearly defines what an editor should and should not edit); as a result, the compensation, if considered on an hourly rate, is not very competitive.  However, I joined AJE to improve my editing and my writing skills; therefore, money is not my prime motivation and is simply icing on the cake.

In addition to the benefits that I’ve outlined above, working at AJE can show potential future employers that you are interested in careers in writing and editing.  When transitioning to a career outside of the lab, you will undoubtedly be asked why you want to leave the bench.  By taking the initiative to seek out opportunities to improve your skills as a writer/editor, employers will be convinced that you are sincerely interested in a career in writing and editing and that you are not simply seeking any alternative because the academic job market is dismal (See Bethany Brookshire’s article in this issue).  Working at AJE can also highlight the ability to meet deadlines, a skill that is highly coveted by employers in many professions (especially in medical writing).  Tangible evidence for such ability may be lacking for postdocs in an academic setting where many deadlines are flexible.

If you are interested in journal editing or medical and/or technical writing, working for AJE is a great opportunity to build valuable experience.  According to their website, AJE is currently looking for additional contract editors.

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3 responses to “Gaining editing experience with American Journal Experts”

  1. Amber Kerr says :

    I’m curious as to whether your positive impression of AJE has continued as the months have gone by. I also worked as an AJE contract editor (from 8/2011 to 4/2012), and although I initially shared your optimism, I never ended up earning a reasonable wage. At most I made $12 per hour; I averaged more like $7, and for the really difficult papers, sometimes I made less than $4. This was despite completing dozens of edits and putting in a lot of effort to follow the “speed tips” provided by management. Very frustrating! I ended up feeling pretty exploited by the end of it.

    • Dharma says :

      Amber, I agree with you. In order to meet their strict editing guidelines, I sometimes make only minimum wage. I sometimes sense that some MEs follow their own subjective guidelines. On more than one occasion I’ve had one ME write one comment only to implement that suggestion and have it vetoed by another ME. I also feel that they are disingenuous about their core mission of helping non-English speakers publish. Some of these papers are literally gibberish. If AJE cared about these authors, they would never accept their money. Those papers will never be published in any respectable journal. Overall, I would say that the only good thing about AJE is the flexibility. Other than that, you will make more money tutoring.

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