The UK publishing industry is the number 1 exporter of books in the world and supports 70,000 jobs in the UK. The market continues to grow with another record breaking year in 2019. The UK publishing industry had an overall sales income of £6.3 bn in 2019, growth of 3.5 % on 2018 figures, according to the Publishers Association latest yearbook.

Annie Callanan, president of the Publishers' Association and CEO of Taylor & Francis said about how publishing has reacted to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic: 

'Looking back, I am impressed by how we, as an industry, have fared. We have endured the crisis and have contributed hugely to society during this incredibly difficult time. We adapted, re-focused, experimented and found ways to keep delivering what people need from us. We have delivered books to comfort, provide a temporary escape and generate conversations even when we are apart from each other. We have put high quality resources into the hands and onto the screens of those who suddenly had to continue their education remotely, and we have continued to provide access to robust, peer-reviewed research, the importance of which has never been clearer.'  

(Source: The Publishers Association Annual Report 2020. To research how the industry has fared in terms of revenues and data, see the The Publishers Association Annual Yearbook, published in July each year)

Employer overview

The majority of the large book-publishing houses are based in the South. London is the major hub with Oxford and Edinburgh being significant regional centres. Smaller publishers exist in many locations around the UK.

The 'Big Five' publishers in the UK (Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette Livre and Simon & Schuster) make up a significant portion of the market however there are many other employers ranging from the large Bloomsbury and Faber & Faber to the thousands of small companies operating in specialist areas such a poetry, art and local interest.

Types of publishing

There are three broad areas of publishing: 

Consumer or trade publishing

Consumer or trade publishing produces the most widely-known titles: best-selling fiction and non-fiction; those most frequently reviewed; those featured in the media; and those prominently displayed in retail outlets. It also includes children’s publishing: it's worth noting that one in every three books is aimed at the children's market.

Consumer publishing is mostly sold through bookshops and online, e.g. via Amazon however a high proportion of children’s sales are made through non-traditional trade channels, such as children's school book clubs and fairs.

Big recruiters include: Penguin Random House, Pan Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins

Education publishing

Key areas include producing textbooks, online teaching resources and revision guides for schools, and ELT (English Language Training) material mainly aimed at overseas markets. Locally, Oxford Dictionaries is an important example of ELT books.

Big recruiters include: Pearson, Oxford University Press (OUP), Cambridge University Press (CUP) and Hodder Education (part of Hachette)

Academic and professional publishing

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 students.

Big recruiters include: Lexis Nexis (RELX), Springer Nature, Informa, Taylor & Francis, SAGE, Elsevier, Pearson and Wiley.

Expand All

Publishing roles are generally divided into editorial, design and production, marketing (sales and publicity), distribution, contracts and rights, and administration (which includes the finance and technology functions). Some of the specific job titles 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
  • Illustrator
  • Consumer analyst
  • Digital marketing assistant

The Publishers Association's careers pages break down the various roles in publishing well.


These are busy roles requiring excellent time management skills. To work in editorial you will need to be personable and relate well to people. Strong listening skills are essential. Companies will look for 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 project management skills are also crucial. Work may involve briefing and managing freelancers.

Tasks might include:

  • Commissioning and chasing readers' reports for new book proposals and scripts.
  • Market research.
  • Drawing up and sending out author and contributor contracts.
  • Preparing scripts for handover to production.
  • Liaising with authors, agencies and in-house production, marketing, sales and rights teams.
  • Producing a project to time.

Design and production

The increasing use of new technology particularly affects the design and production of the finished book or journal. If you are considering a role as a production editor you will need strong organisational skills and an ability to prioritise and adapt to varying workloads. These roles demand an ability to work under pressure and to deadlines. Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential, as are innovative problem solving skills.

A production editor will take responsibility for managing the whole end-to-end production of new titles from typescript through to delivery of the final product.

Tasks might include:

  • Commissioning external suppliers.
  • Preparing material for external project managers, for copy-editors, proofreaders, indexers, text designers and illustrators.
  • Copy-editing, proofing and approving cover artwork and blurbs.
  • Preparing initial and final costings for approval.
  • Controlling production budgets.
  • Communicating with a large range of teams, from the editorial teams to the printing teams.


The marketing team create innovative marketing strategies to engage audiences with the firm’s products. The ability to prioritise and adapt to varying workloads is important, as well as adaptability and flexibility. A good level of reading and editing skills are required, to enable you to quickly prepare communications to sell your products.

A marketing coordinator role may include:

  • Helping on specific marketing campaigns – carrying out to brief and within budget (this may include e-marketing campaigns, subject catalogues, leaflets, trade promotions, tube campaigns etc).
  • Building knowledge of authors and an awareness of competitors and your own performance (strategy/revenue/profitability etc) in order to develop marketing plans accordingly.
  • Supporting authors (including author letters, assistance with events and launches, invites etc).
  • Approaching companies to join up with for promotions.

As with every industry, experience is useful to demonstrate your motivation and skills for a career in publishing. But it needn't be a formal internship programme - there's plenty you can do while at Oxford to gain publishing experience. One of the easiest ways to keep up to date on which publishing companies are offering work experience and when is to follow their careers feeds on social media. 

Summer Internships and Micro-internships via Oxford Careers Service 

The Internship Office (part of the Careers Service) has successfully brokered summer internship programmes (2-12 week internships in the long vacation) and Micro-internships (2-5 days experiences in 9th or 10th week of each term) in publishing for Oxford students. Examples in 2021 include: 

  • Writer and content creator at Bimble
  • Editorial assistant at Dinosaur Books Ltd
  • Fiction editor at Everything with Words 
  • Marketing intern at Lantana Publishing 

Keep an eye on CareerConnect for publishing internships or sign up to email updates form the Internship Office

Internships and work experience direct from publishers 

Many of the larger companies run formal internships or work experience. UPDATE: Covid-19 has led to publishing companies closing their offices temporarily and staff working from home. Many publishers have decided, therefore, not to run their summer internship programmes in 2020 or 2021. Keep up to date by following their individual Twitter feeds.

  • Penguin Random House runs a 10-week paid summer internship programme (applications usually close in April) and 2-week paid work experience placements year round. It also runs The Scheme, its 6-month internship for candidates from BAME or lower socio-economic backgrounds. Closing date of 16 May for 2021 applications. 
  • Hachette run an 8-week internship programme in editorial, marketing or publicity. In 2019 they ran two internships (in March and in the summer) with applications for the March programme opening in December and the summer one closing on 10 May. And ongoing one-week placements (advertised on Facebook and Twitter).
  • Harper Collins offer 4-week work experience opportunities throughout the year and an internship programme of up to 6-months.
  • Bloomsbury offer 16 three-month long paid internships, with four intakes each year in January, April, July and October across their marketing, publicity and editorial teams.
  • Hearst Incubator Initiative is an 8-week internship, in 2018 applications opened in June for an Oct-Dec programme.
  • Blake Friedmann offer-3 month internships (with May deadline) and work experience on a rolling basis. They also offer scholarships and run the Carole Blake Open Doors Project – a two week, all-expenses-paid work shadowing scheme for students from backgrounds that are under-represented in publishing.
  • Felicity Bryan Associates, the Oxford-based literary agents, offers a regular 3-month, paid internship programme. The internships run from January – March, April – June, July – September, and October – December. The deadline for each placement is one month prior to its start.
  • Wiley runs the Wiley Future Leaders Internship Programme, a paid 10-week programme in areas such as Editorial, Marketing, Sales Support, Technology, and Operations (including HR and Finance)
  • Sage internships usually last between one and twelve months and are paid. They are offered part-time during university terms, and full-time during vacation periods.

Also check on individual publishing house websites to find more to apply to, and don’t be afraid to approach the organisation directly to ask.

Both CareerConnect and The Oxford Brookes' Masters in Publishing webpages have listings of work experience opportunities.

Alternative sources of experience

Although experiencing publishing directly is often a primary goal, there are lots of other ways to develop your knowledge and prove your interest in the world of publishing:

  • Attend the Insight into Publishing programme at the Careers Service in Hilary term.
  • Gain awareness of customer reaction, and a retailer’s eye view on the market by getting work in a bookshop.
  • Get involved with a university or college publication, such as Isis or Cherwell, to gain knowledge of the publication and production process in general, and develop your attention to detail and communication skills.
  • Join the Oxford branch of the Society of Young Publishers, which organises a series of talks and other networking opportunities. Oxford SYP regularly recruits student representatives from Oxford.
  • Attend The London Book Fair, (free for students) in April, to find out more about the industry and make useful contacts. 
  • Learn about the marketing and events side of the industry by getting involved with book-related festivals, charities or author events. 
  • Pursue an independent project to demonstrate and deepen your interest. This could be creating a blog about the industry, arranging industry-themed talks or events, wider reading about the industry, or supporting a friend or student through e-publishing online.

There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer and also the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the Government’s webpages on the National Living Wage.

Graduate schemes vs. entry-level jobs

Most graduates get into publishing through entry-level jobs rather than graduate trainee schemes.  Graduate schemes in publishing include:

  • The HarperCollins Traineeship, for black, Asian and non-white minority ethnic aspiring publishers. This scheme offers a twelve-month rotational traineeship around the business in London. The scheme opens for applications twice a year - in October and in the Spring. 
  • 'The Scheme' from Penguin Random House UK. The programme is a 6-month paid editorial traineeship starting in September, open to applicants from a BAME or socio-economically disadvantaged background. In 2021, applications opened on 20 April and closed on 16 May.
  • Cambridge University Press host a 15-month programme where you will work on a variety of projects across the business. Last year applications opened in January and closed in February.
  • Hachette offer a 12-month BAME traineeship, of which 6 months will be spent in editorial, last year applications closed in early July for an October start.
  • In Spring 2019, Pearson recruited graduates into roles with job titles including digital and content learning specialist, digital content specialist and marketing executive.

What's an entry level job title?

You are more likely to get into publishing through an entry level role than a graduate scheme. The Publishers Association advises:

 “If you were looking for an entry level job, the kind of job titles you should be looking for are editorial assistant, publicity assistant, production assistant, marketing assistant, publishing assistant, sales assistant.”

Is a short-term/temporary contract worth doing?

Taking a non-permanent contract is a common way to get a ‘foot in the door’ in publishing, and can lead to a permanent job. It’s definitely worth considering.

Do I need a postgraduate degree?

‘Masters in Publishing’ courses are available (Oxford Brookes has three well-known courses, including one focused on digital publishing), but it’s not a requirement to work in publishing, and it’s no substitute for work experience.  If you’re considering the Masters' course, think about what exactly you could gain from the experience, and balance it against other ways to attain the same goals.

For those looking for a role in publishing that  would use technical skills (e.g. illustration or software development), then other technical courses would be more appropriate.

Advice for job hunters

  • It is important to look widely for routes into publishing and not focus solely on vacancies advertised by large publishers.
  • Don’t rely solely on advertised vacancies. Many publishers, particularly smaller ones, never formally advertise vacancies, but rely on recruiting from speculative applications .
  • Don’t let lack of direct experience hold you back. If this is the only criterion on which you lack, do not let it stop you applying, but write a persuasive cover letter explaining your suitability for the job role.
  • Don’t worry that there’s not a lot advertised in Michaelmas term. Vacancies are usually for immediate entry-level opportunities, with few employers advertising more than six weeks before the posts need to be filled.

In the academic year 2018/19, CareerConnect published 594 vacancies to Oxford students in media, journalism, publishing, advertising, marketing  and communications sectors. Roles ranged from internships and graduate trainee schemes to editorial, rights, design, IT, sales and web-based roles.

Job hunting strategy

  1. Use the vacancy websites listed in our resources section to find individual jobs. If you can, save the search to get email alerts of new vacancies. Bear in mind that individual roles are usually advertised with a few months of the potential start date. You could still start looking earlier in the year to gain familiarity with selection criteria, but the months immediately before you hope to start work would be the key time.
  2. Visit the websites of individual publishers – occasionally jobs will be advertised only on the organisation’s pages.
  3. Check social media – Wiley, HarperCollins and Hachette, for example, use Twitter to advertise UK career opportunities. Setting up a free LinkedIn profile can give you access to jobs advertised on this professional social network. Join LinkedIn ‘groups’ to see more roles discussed and listed. has a very active Twitter feed (@bookcareers).
  4. Talk to people! The more people who know your career ambitions the better – ask your tutors, friends, family if there’s anyone in the industry that they can put you in touch with. Join the Society of Young Publishers. Ask people questions on Twitter. Come along to events organised by the Careers Service, such as 'Insight into Publishing' in Hilary term or 'Introduction to Publishing' most terms. At the very least a conversation can build your knowledge and confidence, and you never know when an unadvertised position might come your way as a result. For more information see our guidance on networking.

Useful podcasts about how the publishing industry is coping during the pandemic

Listen to publishing professionals give their views on the current job market in the following excellent webinars/podcasts:

Use this time to develop skills relevant to publishing

We've seen many publishing internships and graduate schemes postponed due to the virus. But that doesn't mean you can't keep developing your skills and experience. Most publishing roles require you to be handy with Excel, for example. LinkedIn Learning (which can be accessed for free via the university’s IT Services using your SSO) offers thousands of free courses including: InDesign, Excel, coding. See our recommendations in the Online and self-directed skills development briefing.

Use this time to do your research into publishing

This is a temporary situation so use this time to do your research. Be interested in the publisher you want to work for. Find out where the successes have been in publishing over the last year so you are ready to craft a convincing cover letter.

Some publishers have been busier than ever: scientific and medical publishers are key in this period so they are hiring in order to get their Covid-19-related research published; educational publishers have been quick off the mark to provide resources for teachers educating their pupils from a distance; and many trade publishers have noticed sales increases as people have turned to reading during lockdowns.

Networking and information interviewing are excellent ways to become knowledgeable about the publishing industry and, without their daily commutes, some professionals have more time during this pandemic to share their tips and experiences with future applicants.

Keep up-to-date with publishing news

Anyone who attended the Careers Service's Insight into Publishing programme in Hilary term will know that the academic or scholarly publishing market is a bigger market than trade and educational publishing combined. Subscribe and follow The Scholarly Kitchen to keep up to date with what’s happening in academic publishing. The Geyser (a subscription blog, but some of it is free) is also very insightful.

If you’re considering journalism as well as publishing, Journo Resources is an excellent website for aspiring journalists, communications and content editors. Sign up to its weekly newsletter and you’ll notice that some companies are still hiring in those roles.

Also, don’t forget to follow the Society of Young Publishers and your favourite publishers on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, as lots of them are linking to useful podcasts and recruitment updates.

General vacancies and industry information

Two blogs that academic publishers who visit the Careers Service all recommend are:

  • The Geyser - a subscription blog but some content is free
  • Scholarly Kitchen - great for keeping up to date on news in academic publishing

Publishing recruitment agencies

Associations, societies and news

Recruiters are keen to have a diverse workforce and many will have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. An increasing number of recruiters are offering traineeships, internships and Insight events and many are being recognized for their approach to being inclusive employers. To find out the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in, explore their equality, diversity and inclusion policy. Search their website to see if they have any specific staff networks, look out for external accreditation such as whether they are a Disability Confident employer, a Stonewall Diversity Champion or part of the Mindful Employer charter promoting mental health at work. Check to see if they are partnering with organisations such as Rare Recruitment, SEO London, MyPlus Students' Club (disability), EmployAbility (disability and neurodifference) and there are many more that are working for specific communities. A key place to look is to see what they do to celebrate diversity on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Specifically for publishing:

  • Equality in Publishing Network
  • Creative Access provides opportunities for paid internships in creative industries for talented people from BAME backgrounds.
  • Rare recruitment connects exceptional people from diverse backgrounds with great jobs in top organisations. Their clients include Hachette Livre.
  • Carole Blake Open Doors Project – a two week, all-expenses-paid work shadowing scheme for students from backgrounds that are under-represented in publishing.
  • 'The Scheme' from Penguin Random House UK, the 2018 programme was a 6 months paid editorial trainee-ship, open to applicants from a BAME community or from a socioeconomically disadvantages background. Last year applications open in March and closed in May.

The UK Equality Act 2010 has a number of protected characteristics to prevent discrimination due to your age, disability,  gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs, sex or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act 2010 and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

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