• The Publishing Post

Upskilling for Publishing: Back to Basics

By Annabella Costantino, Maria Dorado, Misha Manani and Rowan Groat


Publishing is a dynamic and fast-paced industry, continually evolving. Whether you are new to publishing or looking for a career change from another industry, there is a place for you. There is a broad selection of sectors, each unique in strategy. In this issue, we wanted to get back to basics and outline some of the sectors, departments and roles that exist, as well as professionals in the industry to follow and engage with.


Publishing Sectors


Trade: Written for a non-specialist readership, this sector includes everything from fiction novels in the fantasy genre, to non-fiction books in biography form. The ‘Big Five’ include Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, but there are also many emerging independent publishers.


Academic: This sector distributes academic and scholarly research in journals, theses and books, having become more prominent in recent years. Elsevier, SAGE and Taylor & Francis are some of the key publishers in this field.


Children’s and Young Adult (YA): This sector consists of fiction books, poems and memoirs for those aged 5-19 and parents alike, filled with compelling stories and loveable characters. Some popular children’s publishers are Nosy Crow, Penguin Random House (with imprints Ladybird and Puffin), Bloomsbury and Walker Books.


Audio: Audio publishing is growing rapidly, working alongside sales, rights and distribution departments. This includes producing podcasts and audiobooks, acquiring rights and liaising with different teams.


Publishing Departments


Editorial: Editors are often strong project managers, balancing heavy workloads and competing deadlines. When it comes to in-house processes and out-sourcing to freelancers, the editorial department deals with commissions and acquisitions.


Publicity & PR: Publicity and PR materials are part of marketing activity, representing a brand’s positioning across different platforms and adapting them to market. This can look differently depending on the focus of the publisher’s strategy.


Sales and Marketing: The sales and marketing departments often work on campaigns with the publicity and PR department, handling the different variables of a book’s selling points. Marketers have to segment the market to understand the consumer and therefore appeal to them.


Design and Production: Design teams need to have strong time-management skills and an excellent eye for detail, as they negotiate a lot of practical book elements. Some of these include typesetting, budgeting, supplier communications and admin.


Rights: Those that work in rights have to understand how readers in different territories will respond to content, as well as be confident with copyright laws and contracts that help those like authors, agents, publishers and illustrators work together.


Entry-Level Jobs


Editorial Assistant: Solid administration skills, a firm grasp of spelling and grammar and good attention to detail are essential. You should also demonstrate a passion for the publications that make up your publisher’s list(s). The next career step is typically Assistant Editor.


Publicity & PR Assistant: Being versatile when handling digital campaigns is all part of a publicist’s job. Project management and social media skills are also important. Rising through the ranks, you would gain the skills needed for Publicity Manager.


Sales and Marketing Assistant: A strong creative mindset and an ability to adapt market strategies are equally important in this job. Time-management skills are also key when negotiating deadlines and communicating with team members on a regular basis. A common career progression often leads to Marketing Executive.


Design and Production Assistant: Designers work directly with the physical book, involving coding, typesetting and cover design. You need to be familiar with scheduling and costings, as well as collaborating with others to curate a final product. Usually, the position of Production Controller follows this role.


Rights Assistant: An analytical eye is needed to draft legal contracts. It will also be your responsibility to liaise with departments and customers, which will help further business relationships. You may also be a representative when travelling for book fairs and selling translation rights. After a few years, you could become a Rights Executive.


Social Media Accounts


@AinChiara: An award-winning publishing professional currently working in Events at Penguin Random House. She has a blog and YouTube channel full of career development tips and specialises in how to grow your personal brand.


@ElliePilcher95: Marketing Manager at Avon Books, with a debut novel coming out in June. Ellie runs #MarketYourMarketing workshops which aim to support the publishing community. You can find more about her on her blog.


@SYP_UK: The Society of Young Publishers is an organisation for publishing hopefuls and juniors who run exciting and informative events including departmental insights and virtual book clubs. Check out their website here.


@pubinterns: This is supported by a blog that is filled with top tips for those aspiring to break into the industry. There are regular CV, cover letter and interview masterposts with valuable tips on how to secure an internship or work experience.


Thank you for reading our Upskilling Tips for Publishing: Back to Basics. Before we move on and cover Upskilling Tips for Networking in our next issue, our top tip would be to make LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, so you can connect with publishing professionals!


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