Work in the publishing industry incorporates a wide variety of jobs centred around editing, commercial production of books, magazines and journals and selling.
The range of careers areas are broad and you will need to research the variety of opportunities available using the resources provided by the Careers Centre (including our plethora of books on publishing) and then discuss these with a Careers Adviser who will be able to help you ‘interpret’ the possibilities based on your skills, motivations and interests.
AGCAS, the professional body for higher education careers advisory services, has produced Industry Insights for Publishing which provides an overview of what it is like to work in this area.
The following occupational profiles come from AGCAS too and provide an idea of the type of work available in this area. They have been written and researched by staff working within careers services across the country. They contain a lot of useful information that will help you with your initial research. These are just a sample, you can look for more on the Prospects website.
|Publishing rights manager|
British publishers produce approximately 133,000 new or revised titles every year. Many of these would and could not be defined as ‘bestsellers’, but a lot will have supported the interest, education, or sheer enjoyment a broad range of their readership. Book publishing offers you opportunities where a large range of skills can be used in a plethora of career areas. You should expect long hours of work to meet the deadlines expected of you whatever your role. But this varied and demanding sector of work often satisfies students who enjoy working under pressure, varied work combined with the blend of creativity and team work which could often be described as an esprit de corps.
General - or consumer - books: including mass-market paperbacks and accounting for 60% of the industry's sales in the UK. Consumer publishing produces the most widely known titles: best selling fiction and non-fiction; those most frequently reviewed; those featured in the media; and those prominently displayed in retail outlets.
Children's book publishing: a lively and growing sector of consumer book publishing. It has been estimated that fifty per cent of all children's book sales in the UK are made through non-traditional trade channels such as children's school book clubs and fairs.
Journals, educational, academic, reference, scientific and technical, professional, and medical publishing: in these areas, publishers are far more likely to be involved in initiating a book, journal or series, so opportunities can arise for graduates in specialised subjects.
The processes of book publishing are generally divided into editorial, design and production, marketing (sales and publicity), distribution, the handling of contracts and rights, and administration (which includes the accounting and general computing functions).
Commissioning editors decide which manuscripts they would like to publish and whether to commission specific books and projects. A number of titles and series of books, particularly in educational and academic publishing, are commissioned by editors with specialist knowledge of the state of current research and of the market. Many general titles, however, will arrive from literary agents or direct from the authors (including, sadly, an enormous number which are rejected). All manuscripts received have to be read and given an initial assessment, often by readers employed for the purpose; a number will then need a second opinion, perhaps from a specialist. The opinions of both editors and readers, plus, in many case, sales and marketing staff, will be taken into account in deciding whether to proceed.
Once accepted, manuscripts have to be prepared for the printers. Copy editors need to have an exact eye for such details as repetition, contradiction, spelling mistakes, punctuation and grammar. Occasionally they are asked to undertake more extensive revision. All changes have to be discussed and agreed with the author. The copy editor will also have to discuss details of manufacture and presentation with the production, design and marketing departments.
An efficient distribution service is vital to a publisher's success in competitive markets. Distribution covers invoicing, order processing, stock control, credit control, warehousing and shipping, and can range from hand-typed invoices and a single packing bench to sophisticated computer systems with a high degree of automation in a large warehouse. Book distribution is extremely complex and its success is crucial to the profitability of book publishers.
Contracts and rights
Many larger companies have departments concerned solely with the contractual side of publishing, including the drawing up of the initial contract between the publisher and the author, and the handling of subsidiary rights, such as translation, book club and serial rights. The understanding of how contracts work is essential in these departments and a knowledge of other languages can be a particular asset in dealing with translation rights.
Administration: accounts and computing
Skills in accounting and financial management can lead to top executive positions in publishing companies. The accounts department is responsible for: the preparation and analysis of management information, including budgets; the company's regular accounts; profit and loss statements; balance sheets; the administration of the payroll; the extension of credit to customers and collection of payment; the recording and payment of authors' royalties. It is also frequently involved in the costing, pricing and purchasing of books for publication.
Adaptability can be the key to finding employment in book publishing: it is worth trying - and working hard at - whatever is available in order to gain experience. General duties within a small publishing house can be the most effective way to learn the business. On the other hand, the larger houses not only employ more people, they use more sophisticated systems and are able to give specialised, in-depth experience in specific areas.
Read book pages in the press; follow book-orientated programmes in the media; visit good stockholding bookshops. Read several current issues of trade publications such as the Bookseller. Book Careers.com is also very good source for information.
The publishing and media industries represent a popular choice among graduates who recognise a sector that offers the opportunity to develop ideas and be creative, often getting enormous amounts of job satisfaction from seeing something through the entire creative cycle. The publishing and media sectors are seen as exhilarating environments to work in and as a consequence job openings are fiercely contested. The most sought after positions tend to be in the print and broadcast media.
As a graduate there are four distinct areas where you can find a job in publishing:
- Editorial - researching, writing and editing text
- Design - creating and illustrating pages
- Production - preparing the product for the printer
- Sales and marketing - selling the product and anticipating the market
There are a number of specialist jobs within publishing, which may be attractive for graduates such as indexers, who compile the indexes of books and periodicals; lexicographers, who are concerned with the writing of dictionary texts; picture researchers and picture editors; and rights management, which is a department that negotiates publishing deals and draws up contracts.
Large book and magazine publishers generally have openings for junior staff such as researchers or sub-sub-editors, but more demanding or experienced (especially those within online publishing) roles are harder to come by. Training and recognised qualifications can be offered by organisations like the National Council for the Training of Journalists, which validates courses. Highly attractive yet competitive schemes are offered by the big media broadcasting companies or consumer and business publishing firms. In recruiting terms the media is often seen as a revolving door; to get a foot in, the best advice is often to aim low and see what is on offer locally with newspapers, radio and TV stations being the first destination. Once you gain a placement or some temporary work you will have to build a reputation, experience and contacts through a combination of networking and freelancing.
A clear career structure exists in larger publishers from: junior editorial level to senior commissioning editor; production assistant to production controller; marketing assistant to marketing manager. In smaller publishers, these roles will be blurred and even crossover. A small employer may provide a more varied role. A number of publishers employ people on a freelance basis for many of the routine tasks such as proofreading and copy-editing. Publishing is a meritocracy. Those with talent and ability can progress very quickly as they prove themselves on successive projects.
Graduates can also find employment in media planning/buying, sales and research within media agencies, owners and consultancies. Research jobs in the media is the process of collating and analysing data in order to help the planners, buyers and sales people at the media owners do their jobs. A media researcher would, for instance be involved in defining the exact target audience for a campaign and determining their exact media consumption. The research is primarily quantitative so you need to be good with need numbers and be familiar with certain statistical software packages. Media planners will research potential target markets and assess what might be the best media mix to use to reach the required target market in the brief. They will then liaise with the creative department to decide what form the advertising campaign might take, what is the most suitable media channel to use and how often the advert should appear. Once a media campaign has been planned and agreed a media buyer will then buy the appropriate spots.
Salaries in publishing and media are relatively modest initially (starting at around the £13,000 - £15,000 mark) due to the popularity of careers in the industry. Nevertheless, career progression can be quite rapid and successful individuals can expect to be earning between £25,000 and £30,000 after five years. After several years in the industry individuals, if they have not done so already, typically start to specialise within a particular field or genre.
If you do decide that a career in one of these industries is for you then you'll need plenty of determination to succeed. Due to the competitive nature of the industry many you'll have to persevere and remain optimistic if you want to achieve your ambitions or career goals.
Check publishers websites for details on current vacancies or if they offer work experience. Prepare a curriculum vitae (CV) and apply promptly in writing, enclosing a CV, for any job vacancies relevant to your current qualifications and interest. If you are called for an interview research the company to give you details of the publisher's range of publications and help prepare you for the interview
Qualifications and skills needed
For all publishing sectors, it is essential to have gained some experience of the industry prior to applying for a post. Your interest will need to have run alongside your academic studies. If you have not gained work experience during your studies then you might give serious consideration to postgraduate study. Whilst these do not guarantee entry into the profession at a higher level they do endow students with the skills and awareness to get their first job.
Generally if you are looking for graduate employment in the media sector it would be advisable to follow these basic guidelines:
- Get relevant work experience to put on your CV
- Develop your practical skills
- Join media societies and take advantage of any opportunities they offer for basic insight, training and networking into the industry
- Build up a list of contacts and network your way into a role
- Acquire good secretarial and computer skills
- Persevere with all your job applications. Being determined and strong willed is a key asset
Every year, new recruits within the broadcast media industry show that there are no rules about 'relevant' university qualifications for getting employment. Usually strong grades and a good degree, usually Art, English, Modern Languages, Business or Media may seem the obvious choice for employers. However these degrees may not be of great help to you in the longer term as a specific academic background won't guarantee you work. At least half of the 'career starters' come from backgrounds with no obvious links to the broadcast meda. There are many different entry routes into the media industries so plan your route carefully. Many people, whatever they've studied, have to start at the bottom as a 'runner' making the tea, building their experience and making contacts for future work.
Graduates should be very motivated, have excellent communication and negotiation skills, good attention to detail and be able to multi-task. Having an interest in the "written word" and broadcasting would help and perhaps some relevant extra curricular activities to put on your CV would be an advantage. Secretarial skills, such as touch typing and basic spreadsheet knowledge, will give you a head start as an assistant. A familiarity with Quark and other desk top publishing programmes may also look good on your CV, as will any experience on Apple Macs.
Across all the publishing sectors, editorial is the most competitive area to break into. There are few opportunities and competition is stiff. For specialist publishers of any sector, specific knowledge at degree level may be a necessity. This is particularly the case in academic publishing.
Most designers will have studied graphic design and have obtained formal qualifications prior to entry into publishing careers. Website design is becoming increasingly important.
Entry into sales and marketing relies less on knowledge of publishing and more on business and personal skills. There are a number of training schemes with publishers in sales and marketing, particularly in the magazine and newspaper industries. You must be able to cope in a fast paced environment, have a good head for business and a be able to demonstrate a genuine interest in this sector at an interview.
The following websites should be of substantial help to you in relation to careers information, work experience and job hunting within the publishing industry.
- Independent Publishers Guild: provides advice on jobs and getting published
- Book Careers.com: provides a substantial amount of practical advice on finding a career in publishing. Excellent links to careers information, publishing houses etc. Probably the ‘best’ practical website on publishing.
- The Publishers Association: an excellent source of careers information, advice on work experience and jobs. Some of the careers information is two years old but has very good FAQ section.
- The London Book Fair offers you the opportunity to meet with over 23,000 publishing professionals Has a leading trade organisation serving book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK. Excellent careers advice and publications available.
- The Recruitment & Employment Confederation is an excellent source of careers recruitment agencies. Look under publishing/printing/packaging
- The Bookseller: an excellent source of vacancies in the publishing industry. Do not think this is just for those interested in book retail; it includes but goes beyond this part of the sector
- The Society of Young Publishers contains a feast of careers information and job vacancies.
There are a number of general sources of information and advice which might be of assistance in your search within, related and beyond your current course of study or research. You can search these websites for specific courses as well as find out more about the funding opportunities available.
- The Publishing Training Centre
- London School of Publishing
- Society of Editors and Proofreaders
- Imago Group - Publishing Training
- Marketability - Publishing Training
- Society of Indexers
- Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
- Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals
Colleges and University Courses:
- City University
- University of the Arts London/London College of Communication
- Kingston University
- Loughborough University (Dept of Information Science)
- Middlesex University
- Napier University
- Nottingham Trent University (Dept of Design)
- Oxford Brookes University (School of Publishing)
- Robert Gordon University (School of Information & Media)
- Thames Valley University
- University College London
- University of Bedfordshire (Media)
- University of Plymouth (Faculty of Arts)
- University of Stirling
A professional body (could also be referred to as a professional association or society) is an organisation which seeks to further a particular profession and provides support for individuals working within that profession. They work collectively for the interest of the members and the industry as a whole.
The following organisations may be of help to you and provide some levels of careers information about the publishing profession:
- The Publishers Association: careers information, advice on work experience and jobs. Some of the careers information has not been recently updated so please treat aspects with some levels of caution.
- The Society of Young Publishers: careers information and job vacancies. Representatives attend careers talks at Durham so look out for these on the Careers Centre website and emails that we send to you.
- The Society for Editors and Proofreaders: primarily information on courses for editors and proofreaders.
- The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers: mostly associated body for academic publishing. Useful for gaining knowledge of what is happening in this sector of the publishing industry.