Publishing offers careers in a dynamic, fast-moving industry, with great opportunities in a huge variety of roles. The majority of the large book-publishing houses are based in the South, with Oxford and Edinburgh being significant regional centres. Smaller publishers exist in many locations within the UK.
The ‘Big Five’ publishers in the UK – Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster make up a significant portion of the market, although there are many small companies with small staff numbers.
Publishing is a popular and competitive industry and you will need a genuine love of books, and the right combination of skills and experience to succeed.
Types of publishing
Book publishing falls into three broad areas:
Consumer publishing is very varied – eg novels, non-fiction, cookery, children’s books, celebrity biographies, travel books, self-help, and graphic novels. An increasing amount of consumer publishing is happening in the digital space, such as ebooks, apps and games.
Educational publishing supports anyone learning anything - key areas include producing textbooks and revision guides for schools, online platforms and learning tools.
Academic & professional
This area includes: academic texts, mostly sold to individuals; monographs, journals and other digital products, mostly sold directly to libraries. STM Publishing falls within this field and stands for ‘Scientific, Technical and Medical’. As the content is technical, having related experience or a relevant scientific or technical background can be useful when working in STM publishing. STM, as well as other elements from this area, serves the ‘professional’ market as well as the academic – consumers are doctors, accountants, and lawyers, for example, as well as those studying.
For information about newspaper and magazine publishing, visit the Careers Centre journalism web page.
- The UK book market is the fifth largest in the world according to the International Publishers Association, after US, China, Germany and Japan. 2016 was a record breaking year for the publishing industry, sales of books and journals reached £4.8bn, their highest ever level.
- Publishing is a popular career and the number of applicants far outweighs the number of jobs on offer. Give yourself an edge by gaining some form of work experience, either during the summer break or immediately after you graduate.
- Digital publishing is a growing field, especially in academic, educational and scientific, technical or medical (STM) publishing.
Within the three areas above, roles are generally divided into editorial, design and production, marketing (sales and publicity), distribution, the handling of contracts and rights, and administration (which includes the finance and IT functions). Opportunities are numerous and include:
- Commissioning Editor
- Editorial or Publishing Assistant
- Copy Editor and Proofreader
- Picture Researcher
- Book Production Controller
- Public Relations/Promotion/Events
- Sales and Marketing Manager/ Digital Marketer
- Rights Manager
- Graphic Designer
- Web Developer
- Consumer Analyst
- Digital Marketing Assistant
Job role descriptions can be found on:
Publishing attributes/skills profile
| Key attributes/skills needed for the role||Where you could develop these skills or attributes|
|Strong organisational skills and an ability to prioritise and adapt to varying workloads.
||This is most likely to be developed and evidenced through your academic studies and work experience.
|A high degree of literacy and strong basic writing skills, with an excellent attention to detail and an analytical approach when working with data.
|Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential, as are innovative problem solving skills.
|Ability to work under pressure and to deadlines.
|Excellent time management skills.
CAPOD regularly runs courses covering these skills within its Professional Skills Curriculum.
Using the University’s subscription to the Microsoft IT Academy can help to develop your skills with programmes such as Excel
Taking on positions of responsibility in student-run societies or writing for student publications, raising funds and organising events for your school, halls, a charity, drama or sports group
|Strong listening skills are essential.
|Good interpersonal skills, be personable, presentable and relate well to people.
Other key attributes/skills demanded for the role: do you possess them?
- Roles are generally divided into editorial, design and production, marketing (sales and publicity), distribution, the handling of contracts and rights, and administration (which includes the finance and IT functions).
Networks - why and how to use them
Why are networks important?
Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information to back up your case for why they should employ you.
Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (many organisations have their own page) to connect with organisations.
Where alumni work now
Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for Arcadian Lifestyle Publishing, Turquoise Morning Press and Co-ordination Group Publications (CGP), to name but a few organisations. Alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews.
There are several ways to make contact with alumni.
- Saint Connect- The Careers Alumni Network for St Andrews which allows you to connect with University of St Andrews alumni and join discussion groups. Find out how to use Saint Connect by selecting the 'Take a Tour' button (in the top right-hand corner of the Saint Connect screen under the profile icon dropdown).
- Organisations at which alumni are currently working in a publishing capacity who are happy to offer advice: CGP (Coordination Group Publications) and Palgrave Macmillan.
- Groups - Publishing - by joining this group you will receive updates on events, competitions, jobs and other sector related news.
- LinkedIn – Alumni Tool. This feature shows the career paths of 40,000+ alumni. Watch the YouTube video on how to use this resource. By using the search field, you can find alumni working in a particular organisation eg Bloomsbury, Taylor & Francis Group, Harper Collins Publishers and Elsevier.
- Graduate recruiters - ask if they can put you in touch with any alumni now working for their company.
- Friends and family - ask around your immediate social network for any contacts in the organisations which interest you.
- This networking video produced by Cass Business School gives excellent tips on effective networking.
- Have a look at the Network with Alumni section of our website for more advice and information.
- Transition Tradition – ‘online community, magazine and resource directory for creative students and graduates’
How to gain experience/internships
Relevant experience is essential to demonstrate your skills and motivation for a career in publishing. Work experience in the sector constitutes anything from interning or volunteering at publishing houses, carrying out freelance work (submit your projects and articles to publications or manage your own blog), publishing articles for magazines or student newspapers, submitting entries to writing competitions, working in a bookshop to understand the retailers’ position in the market, involve yourself in book and literary festivals (such as the Edinburgh Book Festival) and author events to learn how they operate and to make contacts, do publicity for university societies, develop IT skills through CAPOD courses, etc.
Internships and work experience
Some of the larger companies run internships or work experience,eg
Other relevant resources:
- The Bookseller, BookBrunch and The Publishing Training Centre normally advertise available positions.
- The vacancy section of our website occasionally has details of vacation work opportunities in publishing, but external websites are more likely to advertise such vacancies.
- Consider making speculative applications to companies and think about any contacts that you might have.
- Don't underestimate the value of networking as it may be crucial to getting your foot in the door.
- If you are planning to enter book publishing you might also approach bookshops for weekend or vacation work, where you are likely to begin to gain an awareness of the market. Getting involved with a university or college newspaper/publication as a writer, editor or publicist will also provide good experience.
- Read the Guardian Careers blog 'Top tips for finding publishing placements'. The writer of this article has her own personal blog called 'Diary of a Publishing Intern', which has a lot of useful links/information on finding publishing internships.
How to get a (graduate) job
- Entry-level jobs are rarely advertised – you may have to persevere to identify an opening and be prepared to start at the bottom and work up.
- The Society of Young Publishers website has information on finding a job in publishing.
- The sector is very competitive to get into, and for this reason jobs can often be poorly paid but still draw large numbers of passionate graduate candidates.
- Don't underestimate the value of networking and making speculative applications. The Publishers Association’s list of publishers is good for speculative applications.
- Prospects – how to get into publishing https://www.prospects.ac.uk/jobs-and-work-experience/job-sectors/media-and-internet/how-to-get-into-publishing
A small number of publishers operate a formal graduate training scheme including
Other publishing vacancies
Here are a few publishing companies who do not run graduate schemes, but may have occasional vacancies in publishing:
Job vacancy websites
Many publishers use recruitment consultancies to fill both permanent and temporary roles. The ones that specialise in publishing are:
Applications, interviews and assessment centres
- Make sure to thoroughly research any company you apply to so that you can tailor your CV and cover letter to tie in with their values, ideals, their business strategy, and to prove that you meet the requirements outlined in their job specification.
- Target Jobs - Five things you need to know before your newspaper or magazine publishing interview
- The Nosy Crow's blog entry on 'How to apply for a job in publishing'
Relevant postgraduate study
Although a postgraduate qualification in publishing is not essential to be successful in the industry, it will strengthen your knowledge in the subject and prove to employers that you are serious about a long-term career. However, some employers will favour relevant work experience over further study.
Universities that offer Masters in publishing include:
- City, University of London
- Edinburgh Napier University
- Kingston University London
- Plymouth University
- University College London (UCL)
- University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)
- University of Derby.
Search postgraduate courses in publishing
Key UK links and resources
Careers Centre resources
Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:
- Book an appointment with a careers adviser
- Search for vacancies (Job Shop, internships/work experience, graduate jobs)
- Register for events
- The Careers Centre subscribes to GoinGlobal, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide.
Related Careers A-Z page
- Publishing Scotland Yearbook
- Writers' & Artists' Yearbook
General publishing careers information
The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.
The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The link below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.
Internships in the US - Publishing
This list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply designed to serve as a starting point:
- HarperCollins Internships As a HarperCollins summer intern, you will gain a broad introduction into the world of book publishing while immersed in the daily activities of a specific group. Unpaid internships.
- Meredith Click "search for jobs, then select the option "temporary" under Employment Status to bring up all internship opportunities currently available.
- Penguin Group internships Offers paid internship opportunities in various business areas such as contracts, editorial, finance, graphic design, managing editorial, marketing, online marketing, production, publicity, sales, subsidiary rights, and operations. The internship program consists of three 10-week long sessions. During the spring and fall, interns work 14 hours per week. During the summer, interns work 28 hours per week.
- Random House Summer Internships NB The Random House paid internship scheme has been temporarily suspended. They will update the page linked here as soon as there are any developments.
- Rodale Offers a 13-week paid academic internship program that will run from September through December. Sophomores, juniors, seniors and recent graduates will gain real life exposure to different aspects of the organization.
- Time Inc. Summer Internships Open to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Paid and unpaid opportunities. Variety of 9-10 week internships available.
- Wiley Offers a structured ten-week summer internship program for students typically between their junior and senior years of college who aspire to careers in the publishing industry.