Publishing

The UK Publishing industry is the number 1 exporter of books in the world. The market continues to grow with another record breaking year in 2018. The value of the UK publishing industry reached £6bn for the first time - with digital growth (up 3%) offsetting print decline (down 5%). A large proportion of this growth was again fuelled by export sales, rising to 59% of total sales income for 2018 (£3.5bn).

Physical sales dropped by 5% on last year to £3.4bn. Overall digital sales were up 3%. Consumer audiobook sales grew in 2018 by a massive 43% to £69m.

Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association said:

“UK publishing continues to satisfy the insatiable consumer appetite for books in all forms. Investment in digital is paying off, driving growth and meeting reader demand to access books at any time in the format of their choice. Despite good top line revenues, there are some areas of real concern. School textbooks sales have taken a hit as the continuing squeeze on school budgets mean that teachers simply can’t afford the learning resources children need."

(Source:The Publishers Association)

Current topical issues in the world of publishing you might find it interesting to research include:

  • Disruption of traditional models of publishing via self-publishing online and Print-on-Demand.
  • Publishers selling direct to the public through their own websites, rather than using a retailer.
  • The power of the largest retailers, particularly Amazon and the large supermarkets and role in, and impact on the book trade.
  • Start up contributors to the digital side of the industry: Scribd, Oyster, Bookmate, Lulu etc…
  • Piracy and open-access journals and their impact on publishing.
  • The effect Brexit may have on the industry.
  • How publishers can address the challenges in increasing literacy and accessibility to books.
  • The challenges of copyright and IP protection abroad.
  • News of the ‘Big Five’ trade publishers – Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette Livre and Simon & Schuster.

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 within 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

Book publishing falls into three broad areas:

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.

Editorial

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.

Marketing

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 vital to demonstrate your motivation and skills for a career in publishing.

Internships and work experience

Many of the larger companies run internships or work experience, for example;

  • 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.
  • Oxford University Press has a similar 8-week summer internship scheme which due to open for applications in December each year. Daily expenses are paid in line with the Real Living wage.
  • Hachette run 'Fresh Chapters', 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 1 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.

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. Keep up to date by following their individual Twitter feeds.

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:

  • 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.
  • Join the Oxford branch of the Society of Young Publishers, who organise a series of talks and other networking opportunities.
  • 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. (The Oxford Literary Festival seeks voluntary stewards each year).
  • 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.
  • Attend the Insight into Publishing programme at the Careers Service.

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.

Entry-level jobs

Most publishers do not recruit through graduate trainee schemes, but rather they recruit individual entry-level jobs, such as editorial assistant or rights assistant.Graduate schemes in publishing are rare, therefore, but include:

  • The HarperCollins BAME graduate scheme offers a twelve-month rotational traineeship around the business in London. Applications tend to close in mid-April but the scheme has been put on hold for 2020 due to Covid-19.
  • 'The Scheme' from Penguin Random House UK. The 2018 programme was a 6-month paid editorial traineeship, open to applicants from a BAME community or from a socio-economically disadvantaged background. Last year applications opened in March and closed in 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 definitely 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 received and from networks/contacts.
  • 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. Vacancies are usually for immediate 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 and Hachette, for example, use Twitter to advertise UK career opportunities, and 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. bookcareers.com 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. 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.

Books

The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • How to get a job in publishing, Alison Baverstock et al.
  • Inside book publishing, Giles Clark and Angus Phillips
  • The Beginner's Guide to Getting Published, Chris McCallum

Useful podcasts about how the publishing industry is coping during lockdown

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

  1. The Society for Young Publishers (SYP): How the Coronavirus will change the Publishing Landscape
  2. The Bookseller’s Jobs in Books: Hiring in a Time of Corona
  3. The Society of Scholarly Publishers (SSP) Early Career Development Podcast

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 ready for when the industry emerges. 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) offers thousands of free courses including: InDesign, Excel, coding. See our recommendations in the Online and self-directed skills development briefing.

Remembering that all of publishing is operating from people’s homes at the moment, think about how you can be invaluable in a future virtual internship or graduate role. Get to grips with apps such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and become the useful intern who can take the pressure off a future manager.

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 when the jobs do start coming up again you are ready to craft a convincing cover letter.

Explore opportunities outside trade publishing; not all publishing has contracted. 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 form a distance.

Networking and information interviewing are excellent ways to beocme 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 Insight into Publishing programme in Hilary term will know that the academic or scholarly publishing market is 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

Publishing recruitment agencies

Associations, societies and news

A number of major graduate recruiters have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting graduates from diverse backgrounds. To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they offer ‘Guaranteed Interview Schemes’ (for disabled applicants) or are recognised for their policy by such indicators as ‘Mindful Employer’ or as a ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’.

Specifically for publishing:

The UK law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act 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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