The UK publishing industry is the biggest exporter of books in the world and supports 70,000 jobs in the UK. The market continues to grow despite the pandemic.

Employer overview

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

Types of publishing

There are three broad areas of publishing: 

Consumer or trade publishing

Consumer or trade publishing produces the most widely-known fiction and non-fiction. Products are sold largely through bookshops and online. One in three books is aimed at the children's market, and 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 products include textbooks, online teaching resources and revision guides for schools, and ELT (English Language Training) material mainly aimed at overseas markets. 

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

Academic and professional publishing

This is the largest of three broad areas of publishing. This area includes: academic texts, mostly sold to individuals; monographs, journals and other digital products, mostly sold directly to libraries. STM (scientific, technical and medical) publishing falls within this field. 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
  • 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, as do Hachette in their free virtual presentations known as Opening the Book, each discussion focussing on a role or division within publishing. 


These are busy roles requiring excellent time management skills. To work in editorial you will need to be collaborate with colleagues and motivate yourself to work on multiple projects. Companies will look for a high degree of literacy and strong communication 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 - is there a demand for this product or a gap in the market? 
  • 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 a deadline.

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 is required, to enable you to quickly prepare communications to sell your products.

A marketing coordinator role may include:

  • Helping on specific marketing campaigns to a budget (this may include social media campaigns, e-marketing campaigns, subject catalogues, leaflets, trade promotions, London Underground campaigns etc.).
  • Building knowledge of authors and an awareness of competitors 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 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. Previous examples 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, including but not limited to:  

  • Penguin Random House ran 9 paid, eight-week summer internships in 2023 for those from a lower socio-economic background, with a closing date of 11 April 2023.
  • Hachette offer a free virtual work experience programme via the website Springpod.
  • Harper Collins offer three ways to experience the company: their 12-month traineeship for individuals from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds; an 18-month early careers programme; and virtual learning days in editorial, marketing and publicity.
  • Blake Friedmann, literary agents, run the two Carole Blake Open Doors Projects: a ten-day work shadowing scheme for students from backgrounds that are under-represented in publishing and a six-month mentorship. Application deadlines are usually in May
  • 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 usually one month prior to its start. The agency also offers a mentoring scheme.

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. The Book Trade Charity offers financial support to people looking to enter the book trade but who may struggle to afford the costs of attending interviews and undertaking internships or entry level positions.

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 for Oxford students, there are lots of other ways to develop your knowledge and prove your interest in the world of publishing that can impress publishing recruiters:

  • 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 The Oxford StudentIsis or Cherwell, to gain knowledge of the publication and production process in general, and develop your attention to detail and communication skills.
  • Watch free virtual presentations organised by publishing companies, such as Hachette's Opening the Book series of 10 panel discussions each focussing on different roles within publishing. 
  • 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.
  • Volunteer at the annual Oxford Literary Festival. It takes place each March, at the end of Hilary Term, and is a great way to meet authors, see how books are promoted and improve your publishing industry knowledge. You can apply directly to the Volunteers Coordinator at

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 WageThe Book Trade Charity offers financial support to people looking to enter the book trade but who may struggle to afford the costs of attending interviews and undertaking internships or entry level positions.

Graduate schemes vs. entry-level jobs

Most candidates get into publishing through an entry level (junior) role than a structured graduate scheme. Graduate schemes in publishing are few and far between (particularly compared to sectors such as law or banking) and they include:

  • The HarperCollins Traineeship, for those from a black, Asian and ethnic minority background. This scheme offers a twelve-month rotational traineeship around the business in London. 
  • '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 and/or socio-economically disadvantaged background. 
  • Hachette offer a 12-month traineeship in partnership with literary agents Curtis Brown and Waterstones.  It actively seeks applications from candidates from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds and particularly men from both of these backgrounds, to improve the representation of these groups in Hachette UK’s staff base. 
  • In the past, Pearson, Wiley, Cambridge University Press have offered graduate schemes. Follow them on social media to find out when they open.

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 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, rarely formally advertise vacancies, but rely on recruiting from speculative applications.
  • Don’t let lack of direct work experience hold you back. Write a persuasive cover letter explaining your suitability for the job role, citing relevant experience for as many of the skills they are looking for as possible. Perhaps you have had work experience in  a different industry that required communication skills or you work in teams, using your attention to detail, on one of the Oxford student newspapers. 
  • 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, meaning Trinity term can be busy time for publishing applications.

Job hunting strategy

  1. Use the vacancy websites listed in our resources section to find individual jobs. Bear in mind that individual roles are usually advertised a few months before 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/X 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, and has a very active Twitter/X feed (@bookcareers) and podcast series about getting into publishing.
  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/X. 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.

Keep up-to-date with publishing news

Anyone who has 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.

Journo Resources is a useful website for aspiring journalists as well as those wanting to go into publishing, communications and content writing. Sign up to its weekly newsletter for useful tips, job vacancies and lists of graduate schemes. 

Also, don’t forget to follow the Society of Young Publishers and your favourite publishers on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

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 that are aimed at specific groups and many are being recognised for their approach to being inclusive employers.

Try the following to discover more about the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in:

Specifically for publishing:

  • Equality in Publishing Network
  • Creative Access provides opportunities for paid internships in creative industries for talented people from BAME backgrounds.
  • Carole Blake Open Doors Project – a two week, all-expenses-paid work shadowing scheme for students from backgrounds that are under-represented in publishing.
  • Internships and graduate schemes offered by Penguin Rando House, HarperCollins and others that are proactively recruiting from diverse backgrounds (see the Getting Experience and Entry Points sections of this briefing)  

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, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s webpage on the Equality Act and the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

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