Getting into Publishing


In the next of our ‘Getting into’ series Jessica Henderson, one of our Careers Consultants, explains the ins and outs of Publishing and how to give yourself the best chance for success.

What is it?

Careers in publishing encompass a range of roles and sub-sectors. The main focus of this post is book and magazine publishing, but content is largely transferable to related areas such as industry journals or periodicals and academic or educational publications. Publishing is becoming increasingly digitised with many publications now being made available in digital format/s.

This Careerplayer video provides a good overview of the publishing sector:

Video supplied by CareerPlayer: Graduate Careers Advice on Video.

Other significant areas of publishing include music publishing and software or computer games publishing.  There will be overlap with some of the content in this article for such areas, but we recommend you check out the more specialist information from the links below if these are of interest.

Society of Music Publishers has information on their Careers pages

Skillset: Computer Games Jobs (scroll down for Publishing roles)

What jobs are there?

The range of job roles within publishing is substantial and, with the growth in digital publishing, is likely to continue to grow.  Specialist digital roles within the main sub-sectors outlined below are increasingly common.


Editorial departments are responsible for sourcing and selecting work to be published and working and negotiating with authors to develop their work. Entry-level roles are likely to be as an Editorial Assistant, from which you may progress to more senior roles such as Assistant or Associate Editor, Sub-Editor, Editor or Commissioning Editor.

Excellent English language skills, attention to detail, interpersonal skills and ability to work to deadlines are essential.


Production departments are responsible for project managing the whole process of producing the publication. This can include everything from initial budget forecasting, liaising with all other departments, typesetting, choosing stock, liaising with printers, negotiating with suppliers and arranging delivery.  Entry level roles are likely to be as a Production Assistant.

Good organisational, project management and negotiation skills are essential.

Design/ Art

Design or Art teams are likely to be closely linked with Editorial and Production and are responsible for the look and feel of a publication.  This might involve actual design work as well as organising photo-shoots or commissioning illustrations. Entry level roles will vary depending on the exact nature of the role, but could be as Junior Designers or Assistant Picture Researcher.

A keen eye for design, often with knowledge of design software, creativity and interpersonal skills are essential.

Publicity & Marketing

Publicity departments are responsible for the marketing of the finished product. This involves co-ordinating the entire publicity campaign and is likely to involve both traditional advertising; billboards, print, TV and radio, as well as online, digital campaigns and promotion. Marketing are also responsible for maintaining market intelligence about consumers and using this to inform campaigns.

Creativity, communication and copywriting skills as well as an interest in consumers are essential.


Sales departments are responsible for selling the finished product, generally to trade customers; for example, to bookshops, online retailers and newsagents or other outlets.  Some publishers may also sell directly to consumers, for example, online book sales, or via magazine subscriptions.

A related area in magazines, newspapers and online will be advertising or media sales with responsibility for selling advertising space within publications.

Strong interpersonal skills to develop business relationships, outgoing and enthusiastic personality and being target driven are essential.

Rights & Contracts

Responsible for maximising a publication’s profitability and the legal side of publishing. This can involve selling rights for publication in other languages, or abroad, or, particularly in the case of books, merchandising or film or TV rights.

Strong attention to detail, organisational and negotiation skills required.

For more information on careers in publishing see Skillset. 

Getting in

Gain relevant experience

Work experience is pretty much essential to break into this competitive field. Some of the larger publishing houses and publications regularly recruit interns, but it is really worth approaching publications or publishing houses speculatively as well. For example, smaller organisations may not advertise opportunities, but may well be willing to take people on for work experience.

Whilst the publishing industry is notorious for unpaid internships, this trend is changing slowly with paid internships increasingly being available.

Diary of a Publishing Professional blog is an excellent place to start when looking for experience. The author Steff Lever is a recent graduate who has charted her experiences from internships to professional life and sources internship opportunities from a range of organisations.

Know the sector

Getting an understanding of the sector; trends, job roles and key issues, as well as your particular interests within it is really important. Potential employers will be looking for enthusiasm and commitment. Researching the sector in depth, and considering your interests and motivations for getting into the industry means you will be more likely to be successful.

Be flexible

Whilst having a good understanding of the sector and your interests within it is important and likely to help you land jobs or internships, don’t be too rigid. Most people are attracted to the Editorial aspect of publishing, but do consider the other options as well. Not only might you find them easier to break into, but it will be much easier to move into different areas once you’re ‘in’ the industry. You also may inadvertently find something you really enjoy doing!

Skills & Qualifications


A degree is generally required for publishing and whilst English, or related subjects, are common, they are not essential.

A postgraduate qualification may improve your chances of getting in, but does not guarantee anything, and may not give you any strength over relevant work experience.


In addition to the skills mentioned under each job area above, digital and media skills are increasingly sought-after by employers in the publishing industry.  The diversification of the industry means that applicants with skills in, or knowledge of, relevant software, as well as more generic digital skills will be more attractive to potential recruiters.  See this article from The Guardian.


You can find relevant books and publications in section Y of the Careers resource library.

Information on Careerweb about Publishing and Printing

Skillset has lots of useful information and advice in their Publishing section

Society of Young Publishers has loads of useful careers information and advice.

Prospects Media & Publishing sector overview

Penguin Guide to Careers in Book Publishing

Institute of Professional Publishers on getting into Magazine Publishing

This blog post has a list of various LinkedIn groups you may wish to join (of varying degrees of relevance), but is useful to have a look through.

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