Publishing Jobs Series: Intro to the Departments
Next on the How to Make Books blog, I'm going to run through the different departments in a typical publishing house, to help you decide which area of the business where you'd like to work. Most people have heard of editors, but there are hundreds of other jobs for you in publishing, which I'll delve into in individual departmental blog posts later. To start, here's an intro to the various departments in a publisher, along with some sweeping generalisations about what kind of people are best suited to each...
We'll start with the best-known: editors. As an editor, you commission the books, edit them, manage your list and are basically a brand champion in-house for your authors.
Editorial suits: people who love words, have amazing attention to detail and also can see the big picture. Also, you have to be good at numbers and care about negotiating contracts.
Someone's got to put the book together, insides and covers, to create those gorgeous packages. Designers have usually studied art, design or graphic design and are both creative and organised. You're the other half of the Creative team alongside Editorial.
Design suits: arty people with thick skins (you might have to redesign the same cover 50 times or more...), brimming with ideas.
The Rights team sell rights in the books to other publishers around the world, as well as to audio and large print publishers, film and tv companies, licensees and other merchandising opportunities. Your work builds up to the Book Fairs each year: Bologna (children's only) and London around March/April and Frankfurt in October. You'll also take sales trips to your sales territories in between.
Rights suits: people who speak another language, but that's not strictly necessary. You must be superbly organised and keen to negotiate great deals. (Don't tell the others, but I've always found my Rights colleagues to be the brainiest people in the business!)
Key Account Managers deal with all the major and minor retailers in the UK. You pitch titles at monthly and quarterly meetings and are crucial colleagues to get on board for an acquisition. If Sales think a book can sell, everything's much easier!
Sales suits: people people - you'll be at the coalface getting our books into retailers and negotiating promotions, it's all about relationships. You have to be motivated by regular targets, and be extremely well-read (or at least be able to talk the talk) - Sales need to be able to pitch every book on the list and give current competitor titles for each one.
The creative ones, dreaming big for campaigns and executing them with precision. You probably get to be more creative than editors, and you also get more credit for doing the visible work of promoting the books!
Marketing suits: ideas people with the organisational skills to follow through on campaigns across all different channels.
Are you super-nice or super-organised or, ideally, both? Publicity is for you. You'll be getting the word out in all channels you can think of to promote the books. You'll also plan events and author tours, and spend a lot of time looking after authors on the road. That means working evenings and weekends regularly (but you do get time off in lieu).
Publicity suits: sociable people with lots of ambition but no ego, whose passion for books and authors is palpable.
This is where the magic happens - you actually make the actual books. No matter how late Creative are with your deadlines, you stay calm and pull it out of the bag to meet publication dates. There are a lot of technical specifications to understand, as well as schedules coming out of your ears.
Production suits: calm, detail-orientated people who like following (and improving) systems. Quite a few printers are in Italy and China, too, so languages can help!
The buck stops here. Editors do a deal with an agent, but the Contracts Manager closes it with all the fine print and advises everyone on, well, everything, really.
Contracts suits: great negotiators who can spot a boilerplate deviation from a thousand paces.
Publishing is its people. HR, especially in the larger companies, is crucial to gaining and maintaining the best staff. Right now the industry is creating some really exciting diversity and inclusivity initiatives, too - so you'd be at the forefront of change.
HR suits: empathetic and insightful people who also happen to love books!
Then there's accounts, finance, IT, reception, and all kinds of other departments not specific to publishing. But in every department, the crucial thing that sets you apart from people working in other industries is that you love books. Once you get to higher levels, you'll be in Acquisitions meetings and be expected to read submissions to give your opinion on what the publishing directors want to buy. Even at entry-level positions, if you make it known that you're passionate and knowledgable about a particular genre, the editors will quickly learn to ask your opinion too. And the entire publishing house runs on passion for authors and their stories. Every single employee is an ambassador for the books - you've got to love them so, ultimately, the publisher can sell them!
So don't think that the only job in publishing is being an editor. And just because you did an Arts degree doesn't mean you can't learn to love Excel and sales data. Really think about your skills, your personality, and where you might fit into the rich tapestry of a publishing house.
I plan to go in-depth into each department in further blog posts. Let me know what else you'd like to know!