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Publishing

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If you're interested in pursuing a career in publishing, you're in the right place.

Read below for information about the sector, hot topics, how to get work experience and information on the employers and roles you might want to start thinking about.

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PhD or masters students

In certain areas of specialist or academic publishing, a masters or PhD may be either a requirement or advantageous. See the  Qualifications section for more details.

 
Lydia Weigel

I found out about the marketing assistant vacancy at Penguin Random House through networking with people at the company and signing up for the latest jobs through their website.

Lydia Weigel, BA American Studies and English

Read how networking helped Lydia get her first job in publishing

 
 

Exploring the publishing industry

What does the industry consist of?

The Publishers Association divides the publishing industry into three broad categories:

  • consumer – also known as trade publishing, this includes the books you see in bookshops
  • educational – creating interesting and engaging ways to enhance learning
  • academic and professional – producing textbooks, journals and innovative online resources

While digital publishing used to be considered separately, it is now integral to all three categories.

As publishing is such a popular area of employment, there are several detailed resources offering advice and guidance about careers, including:

While book publishing is a familiar area, there are many other formats within the industry, including databases, business media, directories, journals, newsletters, magazines and audio publishing.

What's next in the publishing industry?

Research shows the UK exports more physical books than any other country in the world. The industry employs close to 70,000 people, accounting for 1 in 10 jobs in the UK’s creative industries.

Academic publishing is important to the sector’s overall performance, generating the majority of the industry’s turnover growth since 2010. However, a changing climate within academia and research means that traditional journals could potentially face a threat from Open Access, which requires academic publications to be made freely available.

In recent years, the growth of digital technology has fundamentally changed how authors design their content, and how readers engage with it.

Audio publishing has been growing since the shift to digital, outperforming ebooks, which were once tipped to be the next big thing. Audio continues to be the fastest growing sector in digital publishing with sales more than doubling (+148%) since 2013.

The Guardian features an interesting article about how developers are experimenting with technology to publish books with elements that simply wouldn't work in print. VR and AR are being explored to provide a more immersive reading experience and tech-forecasters cite the comeback of mobile apps as a trend that traditional publishers need to respond to. For an alternative perspective on multi-channel publishing, take a look at this blog on Ingenta.

Disruptive trends in the publishing industry include the expansion of Blinkist, which publishes boiled-down versions of non-fiction books which can be read or listened to in minutes. Self-publishing and online marketplaces, the chief being Amazon, are also changing the way the publishing industry works.

 
 

What are the main employers and roles?

Employers

Employers in the publishing sector include:

The big five publishing houses

Small independent publishing houses

Academic publishers

Newspapers and magazine publishers

Amina Youssef, an English with Creative Writing Nottingham alumni produced a blog about her work experience at HarperCollins.

Read Amina's blog 

 

Roles

There are many different roles available within the publishing industry, from editing to contracts and rights.

Some key roles are highlighted here, along with useful websites for further research to allow you to explore jobs in the sector more widely. Entry-level routes often have 'assistant' in the job title, e.g. editorial assistant, marketing assistant, production assistant, etc.

The Publishers Association has a useful YouTube video detailing the life of a book, from concept through to final publication, which showcases the various roles involved at each stage.

Editorial

Digital

Design

Rights

 
 

How can I find work experience and my first job?

Finding a job

The popularity of the publishing industry means that competition for entry-level roles is strong, so relevant experience is important – even if it's only for a short period, e.g. two weeks.

Paid experience can be difficult to find, so many students work voluntarily at first. This isn't a financially viable option for everyone especially as many publishing houses are based in London, but The Spare Room Project may be able to help. This is an organisation which matches interns from outside London with publishers who can offer a spare room. 

There are also other ways to obtain experience that will be interesting to employers and allow you to build a useful network of contacts, for example:

  • Work on a student newspaper or magazine.
  • Produce a departmental student newsletter.
  • Join the Society of Young Publishers.
  • Be active on Twitter: lots of publishers have dedicated careers channels and advertise vacancies on social. One alumna got her first editorial job through a Twitter vacancy…
  • Work in a bookshop to find out what consumers think/want. You can learn how to write copy, what is selling, and what competing publishers are doing. 
  • Attend events that will expose you to the publishing industry. Find out which events the Careers and Employability Service is running.
  • Create a relevant blog.
  • Freelance as a copy editor or proof-reader. Big publishing houses will continue to curate content, and employ an ever-increasing army of freelancers.
  • Consider Creative Access internships.

The Publishers Association provides links to a range of blog posts about working in publishing.

Recruitment processes

Entry-level jobs are usually obtained through networking and word-of-mouth, rather than advertised vacancies. Occasionally, publishers will advertise vacancies on their own websites.

Large publishing companies may recruit more formally. Penguin Random House runs The Scheme, a 13-month entry-level programme which aims to attract the marketers of tomorrow. The scheme invites applications from a BAME (Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic) community, and/or from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Social media channels and blogs are also recommended places for finding out about entry-level opportunities and networking with people in the industry.

Don't be put off by a temporary contract, this is a way to build your experience and make useful contacts.

Skills

Skills requirements will vary depending on the role, but key skills include excellent spelling and grammar, enthusiasm, flexibility, self-motivation, and good interpersonal and communication skills.

Data collected from employers in the industry identifies gaps in:

  • sales and marketing skills
  • technical skills
  • business skills
  • leadership and management skills
  • skills in using software packages
  • skills to develop content for multiple platforms

Skill sets are changeable and have changed dramatically in five years. Identifying trends and technical skills are important today, especially in editorial work.

In an online world awash with content, the publisher is arguably even more important, as it has a role as curator. 

Qualifications

Most entrants are graduates, and for the majority of editorial roles, degree subject is not important. However, in areas where specialist knowledge is required, e.g. scientific or engineering-related publications, a relevant qualification will be an advantage.

Relevant experience and appropriate skills are more important than qualifications, and postgraduate-level study is not usually a requirement. However, some postgraduate courses include industry placements which can provide useful networking opportunities and give you the advantage of structured experience.

For students with language skills, these can be an advantage when combined with good commercial awareness and a love of reading. Get a job as a translator, and seek work with a literary agent or publisher. 

You can shadow authors who come to the UK, or do this abroad. One World, for example, have staffers who speak and read Italian, German and Russian. A language is a boon, but you need to know both markets – UK and foreign. They don't always follow each other, so what works in one country, doesn't necessarily work in another.

 

Vacancy sources

As well as the speculative approach, there are a number of online sources and recruitment agencies advertising publishing jobs, including:

The Guardian

The Bookseller

BookCareers.com has a useful list of relevant recruitment agencies.

While specialist qualifications are not a requirement, there are a number of well-respected training providers offering a range of courses to suit different needs, including:

The London College of Communication

London School of Publishing

Publishing Training Centre

Finding work experience

As relevant work experience is an expectation across the industry, the majority of employers offer work experience or internship opportunities. For example:

In most cases these employers ask for a CV and covering letter with no particular deadline.

This will also be the case for smaller publishing houses. Prepare a focused CV that demonstrates your commitment to the industry and has no typos in it, and send it speculatively to the organisations that interest you.

Employers expect to be contacted this way.

 
 

What to do next at Nottingham?

  • Research the sector. Investigate current trends, develop your opinions about what works and what doesn't, and investigate the roles that interest you.
  • Take a look at our digital marketing information for advice on working in an increasingly digital workplace.
  • Get experience and increase your knowledge of the book supply chain by finding work in bookshops.
  • Find out about opportunities with local publications such as LeftLion and Impact Magazine.
  • Use social media to connect with key organisations and individuals in or commenting on publishing and the markets that you’re interested in working with. Their Facebook and Twitter feeds will give you a good insight into their work and current issues affecting the sector.
  • Develop your LinkedIn profile and join groups.
  • Start to build your network as this will really help you find work in this sector.
  • Gain some practical experience through working on student, departmental or University publications.
  • Build your administrative skills by getting a job in an office or volunteering to do the admin for a student society. These skills could help you get a 'foot in the door'.
  • Prepare your CV. Make speculative applications for work experience. Consider how you will finance your experience if it is unpaid. 

Local publishers to submit your work to:

  1. The Tab - Writing for The Tab can be a great way for you to gain experience in the field of journalism. This publication has its own University of Nottingham branch and they do not require you to have any previous experience. You can apply at any time. Submit a sample of your written work and a list of topics you wish to write about.
  2. The University of Nottingham Creative Writing Society blog - Creative Writing Society blog is a student run group you can participate in. They accept a wide variety of writing and will showcase your work on their blog. You can apply anytime via their website.

  3. The Letters Page - The Letters Page is a great publication run by the School of English. All their submissions take the unique form of a handwritten letter, which gives you great experience of writing in a specific genre. Applications for Volume 5 are open and require you to send a letter.

  4. Nottingham New Theatre - If you’re interested in performative writing, the Nottingham New Theatre is ideal. It is the only student run theatre in the UK. You can gain a wide range of experience, such as writing, directing, producing and acting. You can apply at any time through their website.

 

 

Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
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telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
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email: careers-team@nottingham.ac.uk