Becoming a Book Publisher: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a book publisher? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a book publisher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Book Publisher

Book publishers play several roles in bringing print and electronic media publications to market, participating in areas such as manuscript acquisition, editorial development and book production. To determine whether this is a good career choice, take a look at the pros and cons of being a book publisher below.

Pros of Becoming a Book Publisher
High income potential (up to $166,873 annually with bonuses and profit sharing)*
No specific degree requirements**
Opportunity to promote and support books**
Ability to use a variety of skill-sets (information technology, legal rights, printing operations)***

Cons of Becoming a Book Publisher
Extensive experience required for many positions****
Long working hours required**
High competition for scarce positions**
Job growth highly dependent upon general economic growth and educational funding*****

Sources: *, **The Princeton Review, ***Random House, ****Job Postings from May 2012, *****New York City Labor Market Information Service.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Book publishers are in charge of overseeing the development of publishing projects from start to finish. This entails participation in manuscript acquisitions, legal rights acquisitions, sales and promotion. Your work in publishing may also include editorial management, controlling production flow and tracking production schedules as well as managing production costs and forecasting sales revenue. As a book publisher, you will most likely be required to juggle many projects, in various production stages, at one time.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Job growth in the publishing industry is highly dependent upon general economic health and educational funding. Schools at all levels create a demand for products, and colleges and universities often house their own publishing organizations. Beyond small university presses, a vast majority of publishing careers exist in major metropolitan areas, such as New York City or Los Angeles.

Overall revenue for book publishers nationwide rose 4.6% from 2013-2014, according to the Association of American Publishers. Trade books accounted for much of that growth, particularly children's and young adult books. According to, in July 2015 the salary range for managing publishers was $35,608-$140,000. also noted that bonuses can reach as high as $39,732 and profit sharing amounts can range from about $1,000 to $3,000 annually.

What Are the Requirements?

Skills and Qualities

Book publishers need strong organizational and time-management skills to oversee projects in varying stages of completion concurrently. Your project management duties may require a background in business administration, financial management or accounting. Excellent interpersonal skills are also required to manage employees, participate in book promotion and negotiate acquisition contracts. Copy editing experience may also prove helpful, as will knowledge of production and distribution processes.

Education Requirements

Although many careers in book publishing require no specific educational achievement, the NYC-LMIS reports that 80% of publishing professionals in New York earned a bachelor's degree. While many book publishers have a passion for the written word, earning degrees in fields such as English, journalism or literature, you may choose to pursue a degree specific to the type of trade or educational books you wish to publish, such as science, computer technology, engineering or business.

Real Job Listings

Extensive professional experience is paramount among employers in publishing. Generally, employers seek professionals with specialized experience and proven project management skills to oversee a variety of aspects involved in publishing. Along with careers in traditional print trade, consumer fiction or educational publishing, growing trends in electronic media publishing are also apparent. Here are some real job postings from May 2012:

  • A large trade book publisher in New York seeks an associate publisher to direct all aspects of publishing program and provide long-range strategic planning. Ten years experience working with fiction and non-fiction publications, including paperbacks, required. No education requirements, but successful candidate should possess strong management, communication and motivation skills.
  • A small publishing company in California seeks an experienced book managing editor to see projects through editorial and production process. Required qualities include an eye for detail, understanding of marketing, reliability and familiarity with all aspects of book production process.
  • A New York educational organization seeks a senior book publishing project manager responsible for creating and maintaining detailed project plans and project deliverables in design, editorial and production. Bachelor's degree required, plus seven years experience in book publishing or related field with proven project management skills. Education publishing industry experience preferred.
  • An Integrated media company in New York seeks an associate digital publisher to oversee the publication of e-books. Successful candidate will be responsible for organizing editorial, production and promotion processes. One to three years of experience in trade publishing or literary agency management required.

How to Stand Out in Your Field

Seize Opportunities in New Media

With qualified applicants outnumbering available positions, you will most likely find strong competition for jobs. While many of those who work in publishing share a passion for books and mutual respect, successful book publishers know how to seize opportunities as they advance within the ranks of a publishing company. For instance, the publishing industry has had to adapt to changing trends and a decline in print consumption. The Association of American Publishers reports continued revenue growth in publishing, partially due to sales of non-physical products, including e-books. Familiarity with emerging publishing processes can provide you with a competitive edge in the publishing business.

Internships and Advanced Degrees

Building up your professional experience in publishing may be the most important step in beginning your climb to management positions in the field. One way to accomplish this is through internship opportunities provided through a college or university program. Although book publishers come from a variety of academic fields, you may wish to pursue a degree or certificate program specific to the publishing industry. Many of these programs offer practicum or internship experiences working with university presses or private publishing companies.

Alternative Careers

As you search for a career, you may decide that certain aspects of book publishing interest you more than others. For instance, you may choose to immerse yourself in product promotion, pursue a career in financial management or become a newspaper or magazine editor.

Advertising and Promotions Manager

Advertising and promotions managers select appropriate media, develop pricing strategies and negotiate advertising contracts in order to create either maximum or direct consumer exposure for products. Work in promotions may entail long hours to satisfy a client's needs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 19% of advertising and promotions managers worked over 50 hours per week in 2010.

Careers in promotions management generally entail a bachelor's degree in advertising or journalism. Additional academic experience in business law, accounting, finance or statistics may also prove helpful. Although the BLS projects 13% growth in employment for these professionals from 2010-2020, prospective job seekers should see strong competition for available jobs. Based on BLS 2011 data, advertising and promotions managers earned a mean salary of about $103,000.

Financial Manager

Financial managers are tasked with directing investments and developing economic strategies for a business or organization. Working your way into a financial management position may entail five or more years of experience in accounting or investment management. Many of these professionals earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree in finance or economics, with many others choosing to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Financial managers, based on BLS 2011 data, earned a mean salary of about $120,000, but job growth should be slowed over the coming years due to declines in commercial banking and savings institutions. According to BLS 2010-2020 projections, employment for financial managers is expected to increase by nine percent.

Managing Editor

Newspaper or magazine editors plan the content for publications. They verify facts, develop story ideas and approve final versions of written content. Managing editors may oversee a staff of writers, copy editors and assistant editors. As a managing editor, your work may entail meeting the needs of publishers or executives in terms of content, production schedules, budgets and revenue. Careers in editing generally require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in journalism, English or communications.

With continued decline in print media, successful candidates for editorial positions should be prepared to embrace emerging trends in new media. Based on BLS 2010-2020 projections, editors can expect only minimal job growth over the coming years. These professionals earned a mean salary of around $60,000, according to BLS 2011 data.

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