Design, media and publishing

Writing, publishing and printing

The writing, publishing and printing industry is at the heart of the information economy, and serves to connect and communicate information to the right people in a wide variety of formats, whether that be as a fiction/non-fiction books, textbooks, eBooks or scientific journals.
Areas of publishing include:

  • Academic
  • Commercial or trade
  • Educational
  • Fiction
  • Professional (finance, law etc)
  • Scientific, technical or medical

Getting into publishing is highly competitive. As a result, it can be challenging to secure a full-time position or even a work experience placement. In order to succeed, you’ll need a genuine love of the profession, determination, relevant skills and experience.

Types of graduate roles

Getting into publishing is highly competitive, and therefore, it is unlikely you will gain a permanent entry-level job immediately after graduation. However, with persistence, experience and motivation, it is possible to move from temporary positions into longer-term jobs the industry.

The typical entry roles include Editorial Assistant, Trainee or Junior, and duties could include:

  • Brainstorming and drafting ideas
  • Writing short sections of text, as well as longer pieces
  • Proofreading content
  • Administration, including organising events, processing invoices and sending out complimentary copies of publications

Responsibilities can vary between organisation size and the focus of the publication. For example, small and medium-sized employers may have a broader range of opportunities available that involve greater responsibility in comparison to larger organisations. Furthermore, once you have enough experience, you may wish to become a freelance writer.

Other entry-level roles exist in different departments, for example in Marketing, Rights, Sales or Human Resources (HR). Consider these alternative options too, and whether roles in these areas could be a good fit for you. For more information on work in business management, marketing sales and HR, see the relevant articles elsewhere in our Information resources.

Entry points

A degree from any discipline is traditionally seen as the minimum entry requirement, however, some publishers are starting to waive this requirement in favour of relevant experience. If you want to work for a subject-specific publication (eg science, medical, history or art), then a relevant undergraduate or postgraduate qualification will be an advantage.

Knowledge of publishing in the digital world will also be an advantage, as there is currently a large skills gap in this area as the profession evolves to be more prominently online.

Master’s degrees in publishing are available, which will teach you industry-specific knowledge and skills, and will widen your pool of contacts. However, this is not a prerequisite, and will not guarantee you an entry-level position in the publishing industry.

Skills and experience required

Publishers typically seek candidates with the following skills and attributes:

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Capability to meet deadlines
  • Collaboration
  • Good administrative, IT and proofreading skills
  • Employers are also keen to see the digital marketing and data skills necessary for digital publishing

Gaining relevant experience is essential to break into the publishing industry. It is advisable to take as many opportunities in publishing as you can, even if this doesn’t directly relate to the sector you are most interested in (eg sports, fashion etc.).
A great opportunity to gain experience is through internships and placements, and almost all publishers will expect to see this on your CV. It is common for aspiring publishers to continue to seek work experience/internships during studies and after graduation. Larger publishing houses have competitive paid internships schemes in place, whereas an SME may offer provide short periods of work experience or work shadowing.
Experience does not need to be restricted to just placements and internships, and could also include:
  • Extracurricular activities, eg positions of responsibility in student media related societies
  • Contributing to a community publication or newsletter
  • Writing your own blog
  • Developing your digital and marketing skills

Job search strategies

Securing work experience or a job in the publishing industry can be challenging. However, you can increase your chances for success by using a range of methods, including advertised vacancies on specialist websites and recruitment agencies, specialist publications, and general jobsites. See the 'Useful websites' section for relevant links.

Speculative applications
Many vacancies or work placements in publishing, particularly in small publishing houses, are not advertised. It is therefore necessary to apply speculatively in order to track down these elusive opportunities. This can be achieved by sending a tailored CV and cover letter to publishing houses that interest you. Even if an opportunity is not currently available, they may keep your application on file and get in touch with you should an opportunity arise.
For a list of publishers that you could approach, check out the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. You can also submit your CV to the 'Bookcareers CV Clearing House' which is regularly searched by publishers who don’t wish to advertise their vacancies. Make sure that your CV is clearly targeted towards the typical requirements of publishing roles.

A small number of publishers periodically recruit graduates and interns. These include Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press. These schemes are heavily oversubscribed and competitive, so don’t rely on this method alone.

Social media
Use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to discover opportunities and to connect with people in the industry. Search for @pubinterns and @pubjobsuk on Twitter for opportunities, and engage with publishing houses on Facebook or LinkedIn.
It is worth developing your own blog, and contributing to relevant LinkedIn groups. You never know who might notice you.

You can start networking at university by:

  • engaging with relevant student societies and community and university student publications (eg Forge Press)
  • attending networking events if possible, eg events organised by the The Society of Young Publishers (see 'Useful websites' below)
  • using the opportunity on relevant work placements to ask questions, get shown around other departments, and demonstrate that you are keen and willing to learn. You’ll soon develop a network of key contacts

Through networking and creating a positive impression, employers will be more likely to remember you should a permanent position become available, and you’ll also build a support network of like-minded people, who may one day become a key contact at an organisation you are interested in.

Useful websites for further information
Attwood Tate
Explore and apply for different roles within publishing.
Offers a CV clearing house for candidates.
Includes industry news, student blogs and short case studies of different careers in the industry. It also includes a jobs board.
Bubble Jobs
An online jobs board dedicated to digital, design and tech jobs across the UK and Europe.
How to get into publishing (Prospects)
Courses, jobs and case studies.
Independent Publishers Guild
Vacancies in the publishing industries.
Medcomm - from academic to medical writer
A careers guide to getting into medical communications.
Media, journalism and publishing (Targetjobs)
Graduate jobs, training schemes and placements.
Jobs in the media.
Publishers Association
Advice, resources, news and events.
Publishing jobs (Guardian)
Jobs in publishing.
Science writer (Prospects)
Includes a summary of responsibilites, skills and qualifications.
Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook
Industry advice for writers, plus events and a list of publishing companies.
See also

In addition to the other articles in this sector, relevant information can also be found in the following sectors:

Last updated: 14 Sep 2018