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Media careers

Publishing: Print

Why get into print publishing?

It’s fair to say that most people who truly love books would enjoy working in publishing. The industry is an intensely exciting one and a broad range of roles are available. An enormous range of different companies are looking to hire talented people in a variety positions that will suit almost every interest.

There’s nothing more thrilling than being involved in the process that sees a book go from being a simple idea in someone’s head to being a product on a bookshelf. It’s even more exciting when you know that people will get pleasure, or information, or both, from reading the manuscript that you have played a part in creating.

What is a print publishing career all about?

The purpose of publishing is to take material and present it in a readable and usable format for people. The breadth of book publishing ranges from medical and science journals, fiction and children’s picture books, to encyclopaedias, “coffee table” books and cookery books.

In recent years, publishing has taken more of a leap into the digital realm and a lot of companies are beginning to put more resources into building up their e-book backlists and ensuring that future titles will be available in this format.

Traditional methods of publishing and selling books are also beginning to be challenged. In response to this trend, the industry is adapting to newer, faster and more global channels to market. There is no doubt that publishing is in a great state of flux and even the biggest industry names are having to simply wait and see what the market will do.

Although all companies are different, there are some main areas of publishing which will be integral to almost all publishing houses.

What does an editorial job in publishing involve

This is perhaps the most famous of all the aspects of publishing. Although publishing houses organise these departments differently, it’s fair to say that the editorial staff have the most input into the actual content of books.

The roles may range from editorial assistant right up to the glamour jobs of acquisitions editor or commissioning editor and may incorporate aspects of proofreading, fact checking and taking in corrections from all directions, to ensure that the title is the most accurate and effective it can be. A keen eye for detail is virtually essential for this type of work.

What does a production job in publishing involve?

This department is involved with the book once it has become a manuscript. Once it has been edited and argued over, it comes to the production department who deliberate over the book’s size, the quality of the paper for the pages and the extent of the title (in terms of page length).

These decisions are all based on margins, costs and how much time can be allowed for these processes to occur. It is essentially one large balancing act, which involves making sure that the book has gone through all the necessary stages (i.e. editing, proofreading and typesetting) to ensure that it is published on schedule.

What does a marketing & publicity job in publishing involve?

These departments are often merged together in smaller companies, but larger businesses have different staff dedicated for each area. They are actually quite different in subtle ways. Marketing is more concerned with strategy and the readership and audience of the book. It’s their job to effectively target the markets who will find the book irresistible.

They make vital decisions about the book, such as making sure that jacket images and formats (e.g. hardback or paperback) fit with the overall image of the title, in order to make it the best selling product it could be.

Once the market has been identified for the title and the intention of the book is clear, the publicity department are needed to ensure that the book reaches its intended market. Typical publicity duties involve: phoning or emailing magazines, papers and TV shows incessantly to try and get the book reviewed.

You might also be setting up book launch events and arranging author appearances at book fairs. Publicity staff often work closely with their clients, so it’s imperative that they are outgoing, persuasive and sensitive to the whims and frailties of authors!

What does a rights job in publishing involve?

If you work in this area of publishing, you will deal with the issues that relate to where the title can be sold, who it can be sold by and in which way it can be sold. In the larger publishing houses, this department most famously earns its stripes when it comes to selling film or television rights for the title.

This department often engages in negotiations with the author over rights issues. It may be that the author has published the title before in another country, or in another format, and it is the job of the rights staff to negotiate and assess the value of contracts to the business.

Rights can sometimes be contentious when an author wants to move publishing houses. More often than not, deals are brokered between authors’ literary agents and publishing houses; with both sides wanting to own the rights, because that’s where the money lies!

What does a sales job in publishing involve?

These departments tend to be run differently in different companies, but generally sales teams negotiate with the sales representatives that go out into bookshops, schools and libraries to promote the forthcoming titles. They are often also involved with the catalogues, liaising with distributors and wholesalers and ensuring that copies are available for those who need them for promotion (e.g. the publicity department).

Sales teams might also deal with invoices (this is usually the case in smaller companies without dedicated finance teams) and authors wanting to buy copies or order copies for their own supply.

Written by Ruby Bamber
Production & Sales Assistant @ Robert Hale Publishing