1. What are the functions within the Publishing field?
2. What skills are necessary for a successful career in publishing?
3. What positions are available in Publishing?
4. What Publishing resources are available?

1. What are the functions within the Publishing field?

Editorial: Book editors come from a variety of educational backgrounds, although most are liberal arts graduates with degrees in English, communication, or journalism. If you major in a non-liberal arts field (like biochemistry or economics) you should ensure that you get experience in writing and editing.

The most valuable experience for editorial jobs comes from internships with publishing firms or positions at small nonprofit, college, association, or online publications where you have the opportunity to write a lot and to edit other people’s writing. Getting a good internship often requires that you have worked on the campus magazine, newspaper, or yearbook, preferably in a responsible editorial position.

Extracurricular activities that involve writing and editing are also valuable, as are any part-time positions that involve the business side of publishing. Jobs at bookstores, for instance, can teach more than you might think about how the retail part of the publishing industry works. And read as much as you can; stay current with what’s hot in the market.

Marketing: Business majors are useful for prospective book marketers, although English, journalism, and communication concentrations are more common. Courses in public relations are especially helpful. Experience in handling publicity is extremely useful, as is any general marketing experience involving writing marketing copy, buying advertising, and/or working with retailers. Event management is also helpful; try to get involved in running book signing events, handling speakers, etc.

Production: Art and design programs give a solid foundation in the principles of graphic design and typography. You should also work in production for a college publication (newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, etc.) Any work that will help you to fill out your portfolio is useful training for a graphic arts production job. These days you need fluent mastery of digital tools, so get experience with design software, scanners, and digital cameras wherever you can. Get this experience under your belt and have examples of your layout and artwork to show. Any familiarity you can gain with printing terminology and processes by working at printing firms or copy shops doesn’t hurt either.

2. What skills are necessary for a successful career in publishing?

  • Excellent written and oral communication
  • Teamwork
  • Interpersonal
  • Organization
  • Multi-tasking abilities
  • Analytical
  • Knowledge of literature
  • Flexible

3. What positions are available in Publishing?

Editorial Assistant is the entry level position in publishing. An unspoken rule is that the level at which you assist has a great bearing on how far you will go and how quickly you will get there. Assisting lower level associate editors, some of whom have just been promoted and given their first-ever assistant, may include more menial tasks and doesn’t allow for the direct experience you’d get assisting someone on an executive level. Approximate salary: $43,000

Production Assistant maintains the deadline schedules of the magazine and follows up on all internal delays, in addition to typical administrative duties. The production department focuses on all stages of editorial production from beginning concepts, page numbers, and budgets to final approvals by editors and editors-in-chief. Approximate salary: $45,000

Copy Assistant is responsible for maintaining records of what pages and projects have gone through the departments as part of the production process. The copy assistant may also line edit short copy and fact-check on credits as well as perform administrative duties, usually for the Department and Copy Chief. Approximate salary: $47,000

Research Assistant is responsible for the department’s administrative duties as well as any research requests that come in from other editors. The research assistant also makes certain that every fact published is correct. This is a great position for someone who loves detail, research, and fact-finding. Approximate salary: $48,000

Photo Assistant logs in and returns film and portfolios; corresponds with photographers; assists with travel arrangements for shoots; orders prints; prepares expense reports, invoices, and budgets; sends issues to contributing photographers; and organizes countless files for the department. Approximate salary: $33,000-52,000

Art Assistant does administrative follow-up and page proof trafficking and finds pictures and photographs for relevant pages. Computer knowledge and use is essential; most art assistants use InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. Approximate salary: $49,000

4. What Publishing resources are available?

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Penguin Random House
Simon & Schuster
Book Jobs
Publishers Lunch
The Association of Magazine Media
Columbia Publishing Course
NYU Summer Publishing Institute
University of Denver Publishing Institute
OPCD Webinar with alum Jane Bianchi
Agency Pimp

For a timeline of the job and internship search process and publishing industry recruiting, click here.