Ferman is the son of Joseph W. Ferman, the publisher and sometime or who established F&SF in 1949. He took over as or in 1964 when Avram Davidson could no longer practically continue, as a resident of Latin American locales with unreliable postal delivery. (Joseph Ferman was listed as or during 1964–65, however, followed by Edward from January 1966 through June 1991.) Edward Ferman would take on the role of publisher, as well, by 1970, as his father gradually retired. He continued as or until 1991, when he hired his replacement, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and continued as publisher of F&SF until he sold it to Gordon Van Gelder in 2000. During Ferman's tenure, many other speculative fiction magazines struggled or went out of business. His magazine, along with Analog, continued to maintain a regular schedule and to receive critical appreciation for its contents.
During 1969 and 1970, Ferman was also the or of F&SF's sister publication Venture Science Fiction Magazine. Together, the Fermans had also ed and published the short-lived nostalgia and humor magazine P.S. and a similarly brief run of a magazine about mysticism and other proto-New Age matters, Inner Space.
Ferman won the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor three years in a row, from 1981 through 1983. F&SF had previously won four Hugos as the best professional magazine under his orship. At least in the last decade of his tenure, he worked from a table in the family's Connecticut house. He ed or co-ed several volumes of stories from F&SF and co-ed Final Stage with Barry N. Malzberg. It is probable that he also ghost-ed No Limits for or with Joseph Ferman, an anthology drawn from the pages of the first run of Venture.
Ferman was recognized by a special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1979 and by the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1998. He was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009.