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Publishing industry
careers guide

Fancy a career in the publishing industry? We have all the knowledge and tips to help you become a publishing pro.

What is Publishing?

“The occupation or activity of preparing and issuing books, journals, and other material for sale.”

In the UK alone, 42 million people (two thirds of the UK population) read a newspaper every week, in digital or print format. Traditionally, publishing referred to the dissemination of information and making it available to the public, through forms of primarily books and newspapers. However, we’re in the 21st Century, where technology has taken over. This means that industries have had to adapt, and as a result publishing has become increasingly about digital platforms. Currently, almost 200,000 people are employed within the publishing industry. Customer publishing in the UK is one of the world’s most developed publishing industries, worth over £1bn each year, find out what it takes to be part of this booming industry!

How does Publishing work?

Essentially, publishing is the act of making information publicly available through different mediums, or platforms. Publishers are the intermediary between the publication’s author and consumer market. Within the publishing industry, there are different sectors that target varying consumer audiences for each publication.

Consumer publishing is known as that ‘famous’ end of the magazine industry. This includes magazines such as Vogue, Heat, and Cosmo. The consumer magazines are generally targeted towards a large audience, with a title that appeals to every style of life. The main reasons involved in reading these magazines are entertainment and information.

Specialist publishing is literally when magazines focus on a very specific topic. They get into a huge amount of detail about the topic and provide great insights, therefore, to work in this field, it is important to have an expert level of knowledge on a particular topic, any topic. Then you can work on a creative an innovative approach to this topic, to make it appeal to the audience.

Customer publishing involves engaging and inspiring content that tell stories to market a particular brand, through the magazine which is a popular marketing tool in the current days. They can come in business, consumer or professional title forms, and there is no particular approach to these magazines, as they are specific to the brand.

Business Media publishing is also known as B2B as it connects groups of professionals. This sector is driven by accurate information. They are rich in providing data that business people will pay for to gain insights on competition within the market. This type of publishing comes in various forms, including news, features, analysis and data.

Directories and data publishing offer value added information and a source of listings. It involves a list of names and contact details that can be used to form a directory that can be sold. On the other hand, the sector consists of buyer’s guides that give information on specific business sectors.

Online publishing represents the revolutionary era of technology that we are adapting to. Ten to fifteen years ago, publishers released copies of the printed publication online, hoping to drive sales. However, today, publishers have realised they have to adapt to this online trend, and act as content publishers, creating content across many digital platforms to make money.

By organising events, working with targeted communities, liaising with the press, creating online viral campaigns and securing sponsorship, PR officers help to make sure that the public’s opinion of an organisation is positive. An immense amount of research is involved to best understand the public’s wants and needs, and it is this information which is then used to implement new strategies to engage audiences and improve an organisation’s reputation.

Helping to represent politicians, celebrities, businesses and charity organisations, a career in PR is one of the broadest and most exciting modern professions. Ranging from writing up a press report to responding to a ‘crisis’ and working out the ‘party line’ to best represent your client, no two days are the same.

PR agencies are broadly split into two categories: in-house and consultancy. Whereas in-house departments work exclusively for one organisation, focussing on a long-term programme which will follow its future development, a consultancy provides an independent service for several clients, and is usually much shorter. For PR officers, in-house agencies require their employees to have an in-depth knowledge of the company and the market it operates in, compared to consultancies, which have to manage numerous accounts and learn about a variety of different organisations and their respective markets, but in much less detail.

Publishing examples

  • Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography / Author: Walter Isaacson

  • COSMOPOLITAN magazine

  • BBC News

Jobs in publishing

Publishing agencies look for people passionate about communication and all things media. In order to be employable, it is important to know as much as possible about the process of publishing.


When a manuscript has been created, the editor takes over. The editor works with the author of the manuscript to edit it in terms of structure, characterisation or plot. If it is an illustrated publication, the design department will be collaborated with to edit photographs or illustrations, and source them. Editors have an influence on the entire publication, from the design of the front cover and layout, to the content. This is then followed by an involvement with the sales, marketing and publicity teams.

Skills required:

  • Commercial awareness
  • Communication and negotiation skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Passion for reading
  • Excellent command of English language


  • Editorial assistant
    £15K - £40K
  • Editorial Director
    £35K - £76K


The role of the events department is to raise money, but also raise brand awareness. They are usually responsible for running conferences, and awards and forums. The aim is to gather sponsors for an event, delegate ticket sales and make some profit on top.

Skills required:

  • Incredible organisation skills
  • Able to keep on your feet all day
  • Ability to plan forward
  • Good attitude under pressure


  • Events Co-ordinator
    £16K +
  • Account Manager
    £25K - £35K


As legalities are required to achieve pleasant terms between members involved, drafting and negotiating contracts for each publication is required. The contracts department works closely with the editorial department, however a thorough understanding of the entire publication process is needed in order to effectively communicate terms in the contract, and in negotiations.

Skills required:

  • Organisation skills
  • Impressive attention for detail
  • Interest in legalities of publishing
  • Sound negotiating skills


  • Contracts director £25K - £45K


Like any other industry, the finances have to be carefully managed so that money is made. The finance department ensures that budgets and project appraisals are appropriate, to cover the costs of running the business, but also make a profit. It also overlooks that the business is operating well and performance within the market and amongst competition is carefully monitored. Employees in finance, deal with several other departments including Editorial, Sales and Distribution.

Skills required:

  • Excellent head for figures
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Patience
  • Communication skills


  • Finance Assistant £18K +
  • Accounts Assistant £18K +


Literally how the publication looks and feels, where words and images come together. The design includes everything from the size, the cover, to the type size and typeface. All these factors are planned within the design department, which then collaborates with the editor and the author to finalise design decisions. The design department is also responsible for commissioning freelance illustrators and arrange photo shoots to capture covers and internal pages of print publications.

Skills required:

  • Eye for and understanding of design
  • Empathetic approach to target audience
  • Good communication skills
  • Great understanding of design software


  • Design Assistant £21K +
  • Junior Designer £21K +
  • Head of Design £50K - £80K


When you’re looking at a publication, whether it is a magazine, book, journal, online article etc. there is a physical process that creates the specific piece of work, this is production.

Similar to a project management role, the job involves producing the initial costing, overlooking design and layout, making decisions on mediums, communicating with editors and authors, to organising and printing the publication (online/offline) and ensuring delivery to the warehouse. Production holds the responsibility of managing all the tasks in time, to ensure the publication date is met. The production team is the first to see the finished product, a great chance to feel special!

Skills required:

  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Strong organisational skills
  • Interpersonal and negotiation skills
  • Diplomatic ability
  • Excellent project management


  • Production Planner £20K - £55K
  • Production Assistant £15K - £40K


In order to get consumers to buy new publications, they need to be aware of them. Media is the most effective way to get across to people, therefore the publicity department is responsible for media exposure. This can be through online or offline mediums. Publicists spend a fair amount of time with the authors, attending interviews and events with them. It is important to establish contacts within the world of media, and meet with journalists to share ideas with them on a regular basis.

Skills required:

  • Enjoy networking
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Good knowledge of media industry
  • Good organisational skills
  • Ability to thrive in a busy environment, and under pressure


  • Publicity Assistant £20K +


Getting consumers to engage with publications is where marketing comes in, and in this department, possibilities are endless. Innovative and imaginative marketing strategies are constructed within this department to target consumers.

Skills required:

  • High level of creativity
  • Strong copywriting skills
  • Good understanding of retail, consumer habits and trends
  • Good budgeting skills
  • Highly organised with an ability to multi-task


  • Marketing Assistant £21K - £24K
  • Marketing Executive £20K - £35K


Publications need to be sold to consumers, but can be done through various means; either through the company’s websites or through third-party retailers. The sales department deals with these divisions in order to maximise sales. They are financially aware, and motivated to beat their target sales.

Skills required:

  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Good numeracy
  • Presentation skills
  • Target-driven
  • Sociable, enthusiastic and energetic


  • Sales Assistant £20K +
  • Account Manager £30K - £40K


Unless you’re a lawyer, everyone needs advice on the legalities of certain operations within businesses. The media legal department is a team of legal affairs for employees to refer to whenever needed. It also holds the responsibility of communicating complicated legal terms and concepts in comprehensible english to the staff involved in publishing, in order to be able to spot potential issues.

Skills required:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Law degree or equivalent


  • Business Affairs Executive £30K +


When outside of the UK, not everyone understands english as a language, so International Licensing focuses on translating content, and making it more relevant to the particular audience. To extend the success of a particular publication in a different country, publishers can partner with foreign publishers to license the brand or content abroad.

Skills required:

  • Foreign language skills
  • Strong negotiation, communication and interpersonal skills
  • Flair for selling


  • Rights Assistant £20K - £24K


As popular belief goes, a brand is only as good as it’s employees. In order to get the best outcomes, a company needs the best input from it’s employees. The HR department overlooks this area by recruiting and developing employees and managing everything that is people related. This involves everything from performance management, to employment regulations, to providing benefits.

Skills required:

  • Interpersonal and organisational skills
  • Effective verbal and written abilities
  • Commercial awareness


  • HR Assistant £17K - £22K

Publishing companies

  • Pengiun Random House
  • Hachette Livre
  • HarperCollins
  • Pan Macmillan
  • Pearson Education
  • Oxford University Press
  • Bloomsbury
  • John Wiley & Sons

  • The Insider's Guide to A Career in Book Publishing by Carin Siegfried
  • Copywriting for Beginners: Crafting Quality Content, Understanding the Market, Networking with Clients and Building a Freelance Career (Copywriter Guide, Marketing, Creative Writing) by Martin Price
  • Steps to a Rocking Self-Publishing Career by Simon Whistler
  • The Publishing Business: From p-books to e-books by Kelvin Smith
  • Publishing 101: A First-Time Author's Guide to Getting Published, Marketing and Promoting Your Book, and Building a Successful Career by Jane Friedman