Considering a career in publishing? Impeccably written English, an error-free CV and some relevant work experience will all help you to gain your first job in this competitive industry. However, you’ll also need determination and a thick skin, as the number of applicants hugely outweighs the number of jobs on offer.
Editorial roles are the toughest to land, so why not look beyond this department and consider an alternative area of publishing? Here’s our guide to the variety of roles on offer.
Marketing and Publicity
Fancy developing marketing campaigns for new books? Then you’ll enjoy working in this department. Tasks include promoting books to consumers and booksellers, as well as obtaining media exposure. This could involve arranging author signings and radio or television interviews.
To break into marketing, you’ll need to be an excellent communicator with a high standard of written English, as you’ll be working closely with the publisher’s editorial team. If you’re studying marketing or business and you enjoy working in a fast-paced environment, this could be your ideal career.
Book designers create the artwork for book covers and any related marketing materials. The role often includes commissioning freelance illustrators and photographers, as well as casting models, arranging photo shoots and checking image rights.
Confident with computer programmes like Indesign, Quark Xpress and Photoshop? As a book designer, you’ll need to be. Communication skills are also crucial, as you’ll be having regular discussions with editors and freelancers.
A typical day as a designer could include meeting with art directors and editors to refine your ideas, mocking up designs and commissioning editors to assist you. The designing process can take months, so plenty of patience is required!
Interested? You’ll need a degree in graphic design and an excellent portfolio.
Work in production and you could be the very first person to handle new books. This department is responsible for choosing and buying paper, typesetting, printing, binding, arranging delivery and shipping.
To enjoy working in book production, you’ll need to be organised, good at negotiating and able to multi-task while meeting strict deadlines. Most graduates start as an assistant production controller, overseeing the scheduling and delivery of books.
Are you outgoing, energetic and a good communicator? Then a career in book sales awaits you! You’ll be selling to bookshops, wholesalers, supermarkets, libraries and school suppliers. Become involved in export sales and you could also be travelling overseas to sell titles.
Because sales reps give presentations to the staff of major and independent bookshops, candidates need to be excellent communicators. Work experience in a bookshop is also valuable.
Having a law degree is a definite advantage when it comes to working in this area of publishing. The contract department is responsible for drafting contracts between companies and authors, acquiring publishing rights and negotiating deals. It also handles copyright, litigation and other legal issues, working closely with the editorial team.
Interested? You’ll need to demonstrate excellent attention to detail, superb organisational ability and strong communication skills.
Finance departments are responsible for credit control, forecasting, budgeting and book profitability. They also deal with cash payments to publishers and invoices from suppliers.
To work in finance, you’ll need to demonstrate excellent attention to detail and be able to explain complex financial issues clearly. Opportunities for new graduates include becoming a sales ledger clerk or a purchase ledger.
Commercial awareness, numeracy and a love of travel are all important skills for anyone wanting to work in the rights department of a publishing house. A graduate starting out as a rights assistant can expect to be involved with selling licenses for books, films, TV, merchandise and translations.
Travel to trade fairs is part of the job, as is negotiating contracts for serialization in a paper, film or translation. Being able to speak one or more foreign languages is a definite advantage.
Finding your first job
When it comes to publishing, experience is the key to getting your foot in the door. Many publishers including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette UK offer internships and shorter periods of work experience. Temporary jobs are also on offer from time to time.
When you’re ready to hunt for jobs, make sure you look in the right places. Start by registering with the CV Clearing House on the bookcareers.com website. Aimed at people looking for jobs in book publishing, this register is regularly searched by employers and recruiters. You’ll also find publishing vacancies in The Guardian and The Bookseller.
Don’t forget to check out some of the recruitment agencies used by publishers. These include Judy Fisher, Inspired Selection and atwoodtate. We also recommend signing up to the online creative industry network Creativepool.
Forging a career in publishing often involves sending out speculative applications. Aim as high as you like, but don’t forget to target a few small independent publishers, as working for these will give you the chance to experience a variety of tasks.
Whichever department you settle on, if you work hard and demonstrate a willingness to learn, you’ll be rewarded with a long and enjoyable career.