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Working in Publishing

About the publishing industry

The UK's vibrant publishing sector sits at the intersection between the creative and technical worlds to produce beautiful books, electronic publications, newspapers and magazines. There are four main types of Publishing:

Trade Publishing

Non-fiction, novels, children’s books and audio books sold on the high street or via online bookshops.

Academic Publishing

Textbooks for students and professionals, journals and online resources for academics. Some of the most innovative product development and best business models have developed in the academic publishing field.

Educational Publishing

Books and resources for schools. Educational publishing identifies the needs of teachers and students and aims to support this with high quality design and excellent value.

Newspaper and Magazine Publishing

Newspapers, consumer interest magazines, periodicals and online news and lifestyle platforms.

There are lots of different aspects to publishing that require very different kinds of people.

The editorial department acquires and edits books, as well as developing relationships with literary agents, giving feedback to authors and editing books to get them ready for publication. 

The production department is responsible for the manufacture of a book, including cost, typesetting, paper and quality, and then getting it delivered on time. They will work with the design department who supply artwork for the cover, arrange photo shoots, research images and commission illustrators and photographers.

Marketing and publicity is a key part of the publishing business in order to generate sales. With the explosion of the internet the possibilities around marketing and publicity have opened to include trailers and online campaigns. Digital technology has changed the relationship that publishers and authors have with readers and social media means that campaigns can have a global impact.

Other departments include Sales, which gets the books into shops and libraries, Rights, which sells licenses for the book and negotiates TV or Film adaptation deals, and the Digital and Multimedia departments, who deal with translating content into different online formats.

Develop your skills

In addition to academic qualifications, employers are looking for skills and experience you will have been developing over many years. They seek energetic people and those with passionate interest in something they have pursued. They want to see what you’re capable of and how you might develop, and the best indication of that is what you have already achieved. Think about how you can display your talents and your ability to work as part of a collaborative process. As well as a physical portfolio, you can create an online portfolio, or build an interactive community as a swarm on Hiive, the professional networking site for creative people.

Facts and Figures

The UK has the second-largest book publishing sector in Europe. Publishers in the UK have played a leading part in the development of the international market for works in English from other cultures, such as African, Caribbean and Indian literature.

The publishing industry in the UK is also recognised as an international leader in the production of scientific, technical and medical research journals. The UK’s education sector also relies almost entirely on learning resources supplied by publishers from within the UK.

The UK's magazine sector is one of the most competitive and vibrant in the world, and has historically been strong at launching brands such as The Economist and FHM that have gone on to international success. There are over 3,210 consumer magazine titles in the UK, reaching 87 per cent of the total adult population.

Developments in technology have changed how people consume media and the industry has had to adapt to stay relevant. Print magazines and newspapers are seeing declining sales and there is a huge rise in the number of people who access their news and media online, on smartphones and via social media.

Publishing is also undergoing a period of transformation, with over 30% of the industry becoming digital in just a few years. Publishers now need to consider how they will translate content over a range of digital platforms including tablets, smartphones, online platforms and apps.

The publishing sector currently employs around 231,000 people in the UK, and is a major contributor to the economy. 63% of employers report skills shortages in distribution, sales and marketing, 28% report skills shortages in art and design and 26% report shortages in technical development. There are also predicted future skills shortages in use of relevant software packages and skills in developing content for multiple platforms.