Guest blog: Seven Cracking Careers in Publishing

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.

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Careers in communications – upcoming events!

If you’re interested in a career in communications, you won’t want to miss these events below, taking place over the next 3 Tuesday evenings. Click on the links to register your place.

Career Conversations: Exploring Careers in Public Relations – Tuesday 28th Feb, 6.15 – 7.30pm

handshake-440959_960_720We are delighted to have QM alumni Lisa Quinn who is Director of Communications at Hearst Magazines and Suraj Bhanot who is an Account Manager at leading PR agency Weber Shandwick.  Lisa and Suraj will each give a short case study presentation on a PR project that they have been involved with – to help you get a better understanding of the role of PR in different contexts.

We will also be joined by Kate Turner, Public Affairs and PR Consultant at The PR Office.
After the presentations, Lisa, Kate & Suraj will then answer questions about building their careers, ‘top tips’ for getting in to PR and what recruiters are looking for in entry level/graduate recruits.

Career Conversations: Exploring Careers in Publishing – Tuesday 7th March, 6.15 – 7.30pm

books-1204029_960_720This is a great opportunity to explore how to start to build a career in Publishing.   This will be a panel discussion with recent graduates.

The aim is that students will gain a clearer insight into some of the different ‘early career’ roles within Publishing and so be able to better identify their ideal job and target their job search accordingly.  Our panellists work in different sectors of Publishing – fiction, educational & academic.

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Getting into Publishing

9192994978_9629401864_oGetting into publishing is often less structured than other industries; advertised entry level positions and graduate schemes are few and far between, but don’t be disheartened. If you are sure about publishing, as well as determined and resilient, you will find your way in. We have compiled a list of top tips so that you can get your foot in the door.

Know your area

Publishing is an enormous sector and, like any division, there are subdivisions. Googling ‘jobs in publishing’ will return a sea of information that is both daunting and difficult to sift through. Before you start your search, identify the area of publishing you want to get into. Firstly, identify the kind of media that interests you. This could be: magazines, newspapers, blogs, websites, books, eBooks, comics or even B2B. Secondly, identify content. For example, if it is magazines you have in mind, what kind of magazines? Is it women’s lifestyle or political satire? Once you have identified both the format and the content, then you can roll up your sleeves and start doing some research! Grab your laptop and open Google and an Excel Spreadsheet. Make a list of all the women’s lifestyle magazines – or whatever it is – that you can see yourself working at. If you can, try and establish a contact at each of these publications. To continue with the women’s lifestyle magazine scenario, nearly all physical publications will include a list of the editorial staff and, often, a contact email address or telephone number.

Know your role

In publishing, an editorial role tends to be the most sought after and, consequently, the most difficult to secure. But editorial roles are not the only roles in publishing. There are roles in rights, sales, design, PR, marketing, audio and so on. As Martha Ashby, editor at HarperCollins advises, “Find an author you love and research their team – who designs their books, who does their PR, who is their agent. And, without sounding creepy, do some online stalking and then politely send some enquiries out to different areas of publishing.” Once you have established a role that you feel is for you, you can start thinking about how to develop a skillset that is applicable. If you can’t decide what role is for you, it can help to have a detailed conversation with somebody. The Careers and Enterprise Centre can offer you this, so book an appointment if you need help!

Get some experience

Before you can start applying for graduate jobs in publishing, you will need some experience that can demonstrate both an interest in the sector, and those all-important transferable skills: excellent written and verbal communication, attention to detail and interpersonal skills to name just a few. There are lots of ways you can gain experience to prepare you for a publishing graduate role.

  • Because publishing is becoming increasingly digitised, why not demonstrate passion, commitment and digital literacy by opening a blog or website? Sites like WordPress and Wix provide free blog hosting, and are incredibly easy to navigate. Your blog could be on anything at all, from gardening, to film reviews, as long as you post with some regularity. Ensure that your content is both interesting and well written with impeccable grammar, and you will have a portfolio of work to show to employers. Link your blog to social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, to increase your digital presence and author profile.
  • The student media outlets on campus can offer not only a vibrant and talented community of people to befriend, but also valuable work experience. You can get involved by attending pitching events, submitting content for publications or even going all out and applying to be a section editor. Find outlets, contact and event details here:
  • Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre run a number of schemes designed to provide students with work experience opportunities. QProjects, for instance, places students in challenging roles at local charities, giving them something solid and meaningful to put on their CV. Past projects have included marketing and PR for an arts centre and digital content development for a sports charity. For information on the roles available and how to apply, please visit:

Working in Publishing


Publishing – it’s one of those industries that lots of graduates want to work in but it’s also changed rapidly in the last few decades. So if you are interested in working in this field, maximise your chances of getting a job by understanding just how publishing works.

It’s not about how much you enjoy reading

It sounds like a cliché but we’ve seen the evidence – some graduates think that because they enjoy reading they will enjoy working in publishing. Or that because they are good at reading they will be good at publishing. But publishing is about selling a product (a book/journal/magazine) to a buyer (the public/a university/a business). It’s about knowing what the audience wants, what they would like to read about and, ultimately, what will make the business money. It’s not about your personal tastes, or enjoyment for that matter. One industry professional I have met told me that any job application that started with ‘I want to work in publishing because I like books’ was more than likely to end up in the bin.

Get some commercial awareness

Once you understand that publishing is a business like any other (ie there to make money), you need to understand how it makes money and what might affect this process. This is known as commercial awareness and is the one thing that employers tell us graduates lack. Why is one publisher doing financially better than another? Who is a publisher’s main competitor/rival? What effect might an industry award have on a publisher? How are traditional publishers dealing with the rise in self-publishing? You might get asked these type of questions at interview, so be prepared. Also, extra brownie points if, at the end of an interview you ask a question that involves some commercial awareness, like….

‘I know that (name of competitor) have (recent publishing news). How do you think this might affect your profits/marketing strategy/talent retention?’

It’s more than just being an editor…

So most people have heard of an editor but do you know the range of people that are involved in making a book? From the designer who creates the cover to the marketer who plans the marketing campaign to the sales person who makes sure the book is stocked in bookshops. Understanding the sheer number of people involved in publishing is important – you will need to talk knowledgeably at interview about these other roles. And you might come across a role that you hadn’t heard of before but that catches your fancy.

…Or working in fiction

Think of publishing and you might think of Waterstones. But there is more to publishing than ‘trade’ (the term for fiction and non-fiction books that are sold in bookstores to a general audience). There is ‘educational’ publishing (which includes ‘academic’ and ‘schools’) and ‘business’ publishing too.  And because these are generally not as well known to graduates as trade, these areas of publishing might be slightly less competitive to get into.

Get skilled

Whether a job description asks for it or not, having specific skills related to publishing will only be a benefit in terms of putting you ahead of the competition and will help to convince employers that you are serious about working in this industry.

The Publishing Training Centre offers short courses on things like proofreading or editing. You can also build your skill-set by finding volunteer work related to publishing, setting up a blog or getting involved in one of the student publications like CUB magazine. Have a think too about improving your digital skills in relation to publishing – understanding XML or HTML, for example, would be an asset.

For more information on working in publishing check out these these useful sites:

The Bookseller:

Essential reading for anyone interested in working in publishing.

The Society for Young Publishers:

Great organisation for networking and finding out more about the industry. Take a look at the careers information under the Home tab.

The Publishers Association:

Lots of useful tips and info.


Careers in Publishing during digital times – how to impress employers

The future of publishing is changing. Like most industries to stay relevant it has had to embrace the digital age.

Publishing employers now look for digital awareness in graduates as well as a passion for reading and literature.

With the rise of popularity of the Kindle and other electronic reading devices, the gap between conventional publishing and digital media has closed.

In addition to a passion for books, graduates considering a career in publishing also need to possess an understanding of the selling and marketing process.

For publishers who are hoping to survive the transition from traditional to digital, the ability to market and deliver their products over a variety of digital mediums is essential.

It is a good idea if you are applying for publishing roles to make the most of your digital and social media skills. Engaging with social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook can give you an idea of how employers use social media to interact with their market and it is useful experience to add to your CV.

Jane Tuppuni, business development director at Publishing Technology spoke of how the change is good news for graduates in a Guardian Q&A.

“Publishers are hungry for this knowledge, and will be keen to hear from anyone who can maximise their chances of embracing, and profiting from, the digital age.”