Book publishing is an extraordinarily large business, and those who (successfully) enter the profession have no illusions that what they do is merely artistic in nature. “You’ve got to keep things on schedule. You’ve got to make them pay for themselves, or you’re out of business,” said one publishing professional, adding that “publishing” is a term that can encompass many positions within a publishing house. The most high-profile job is that of editor who works with authors to produce a quality product. Many other positions are available for those interested in the industry, including managing editors, who control production flow; publicity managers; promotions specialists; subsidiary rights managers; production managers; and salespeople. These occupations are critical to the successful functioning of a publishing house. Those who want to pursue a career in this industry should examine their own skills in light of the variety of opportunities available for ambitious and creative individuals who find the prospect of working with books exciting. Managing editors are the traffic controllers of the publishing industry. They track production schedules and budgets, allocate personnel, and control the flow of material between departments. A large publishing house can have hundreds of projects running simultaneously, and the managing editor needs to be attentive to detail and be able to anticipate problems before they occur. Publicity, promotions, and sales positions reward creative and outgoing personalities. Successful professionals in this industry utilize their interpersonal skills to drum up consumer interest and encourage sales by bookstores. Salespeople spend significant amounts of time on the road meeting with bookstore buyers and managers. Subsidiary rights departments are usually divided into two arms: domestic and international. Subrights people negotiate international publishing deals with foreign houses or contract for copyrighted work to appear in another medium. The most lucrative rights for works of fiction, movie rights, are usually negotiated only by senior personnel experienced in negotiating with production companies. It requires putting in long hours to rise from assistant and administrative positions to positions of responsibility. For all but the highest up, salaries remain relatively low in this profession. People in the publishing industry were quick to note that contacts are crucial. Those who want to advance pursue new opportunities zealously, and any advantage one can gain over other candidates is key. Few described the profession as cutthroat, however; instead, many praised their associates and coworkers. Publishing is a financially tough life, but it’s ideal for those who are dedicated to books and who want to spend their days with like-minded people.
Book publishers have experience putting together projects in book production, promotion, or sales. Many move into advertising positions, magazine publishing jobs, project management, and writing. Some return to graduate school for law or business and make the transition to financial careers.