Careers in Publishing

If you have a passion for books and a genuine interest in the industry, exceptional communication and organisational skills, then publishing could be the route for you.  

Publishing is a massively diverse industry and roles will vary depending on the type of publishing you go into. Areas include educational, fiction, professional, academic and STM (scientific, technical and medical). 

Types of publishing jobs

Typical entry-level roles in publishing include:

  • Editorial Assistant
  • Production Assistant
  • Marketing Executive
  • Publicity Assistant
  • Rights Assistant
  • Graphic Designer
  • Sales Executive
  • Social Media Assistant 

To find out more about different roles in publishing visit the Publishers Association, which has lots of information on areas of marketing/communications, digital development, design, editorial and publicity. Penguin Random House have also produced a handy guide on working in publishing.

Larger publishing houses are typically based in London/South, however smaller companies are located in other parts of the UK. 

Entry routes into publishing

Most people enter the publishing world through entry-level roles. Experience is almost always essential and can be a good way in, as can taking a temporary contract. Graduate schemes in the publishing sector are rare, with a small intake.  

The Publishers Association advises: “If you were looking for an entry level job, the kind of job titles you should be looking for are editorial assistant, publicity assistant, production assistant, marketing assistant, publishing assistant, sales assistant.”

Postgraduate courses such as the ‘Masters in Publishing’ courses are available but it’s not a requirement, and is no substitute for work experience. If you’re thinking about postgraduate study, reflect on what value it can add, and whether you can achieve the same goals through work experience. This article Postgraduate qualifications in Publishing gives an overview of different courses, what you will learn and other points to consider. 

There is no one way of entering the publishing world. You can find out about some of the career journeys of UoB alumni. 

Getting work experience in publishing

Many large companies such as Penguin Random House, Oxford University Press, Hachette UK and Bloomsbury run internships. Although many schemes were cancelled due to Covid-19, regularly check their websites and social media platforms for the latest news and updates.  

Widen your search for work experience and jobs, and look beyond the well known names. As well as advertised vacancies, there are numerous smaller and independent companies that you can contact speculatively. Find ones in your area and send a targeted CV and cover letter. It’s crucial that there are no mistakes – everyone in publishing is good at proofreading and will be sure to spot the slightest error on your CV. Use the member’s directory on The Publishers Association’s website to find publishing houses to contact.

Creative Access provides opportunities for paid internships in the creative industries for talented people from under-represented backgrounds and communities. They have a series of recorded inspirational talks from high profile figures in the creative industry. 

The University of Birmingham offers work experience bursaries for any student in their first, second or penultimate year of study. For more details visit the internship funding pages.

You can also find work experience opportunities on Careers Connect.

Alternative ways to gain experience in publishing

Work experience in a publishing house isn't the only thing you can do if you want to find out more and get ahead in this field. 

Here are some suggested activities and opportunities both on and off campus:

  • Working in a bookshop will allow you to gain awareness of customer reaction, and a retailer’s eye view on the market.
  • Get involved in university publications, such as Redbrick, which will deepen your knowledge of the area and the production process. Writing or editing is also excellent experience.
  • Create a blog or write guest posts for other blogs to show that you can write for different audiences. If you are new to blogging, you can undertake short courses through LinkedIn Learning
  • Volunteer at events such as the Birmingham Literature Festival (scheduled for October 2020) to find out more about the industry and make useful contacts. Learning about marketing and the events side of the industry will also be excellent experience. By getting involved with book-related festivals, charities or author events you will have more to draw on when attending interviews.
  • Find alternative ways to engage with the book community, especially during Covid-19. This article has some suggestions to help readers, authors, libraries and booksellers work more creatively together. 
  • Develop your digital skills and knowledge. Spend some time learning how to use a range of programs and platforms e.g. Excel, Indesign, ePublishing software or coding. Again check LinkedIn Learning or other websites such as Code Academy.
  • Keep up to date with industry trends and developments. In particular, make sure you have a broad awareness of how the pandemic has affected the world of publishing, and what are the growth areas (e.g. medical and educational publishers have been particularly busy). Use social media and networking platforms, e.g. Twitter and LinkedIn, to follow companies and experts with access to the latest research. Develop relationships and connections through online events and forums. You can also identify UoB alumni working in the publishing industry through the LinkedIn Alumni Tool.

Finding a job in publishing

Useful publishing websites

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