A Web of Positions Within Publishing

Many people might not be aware of this, but there are many job titles within the publishing industry. When I was first interested in working in the publishing field, I was under the impression that everyone was referred to as a “publisher.” It wasn’t until my first interview that I realized the extent of the industry. My interviewer asked if I knew what a Literary Agent did, and I had to be honest and say no.

I would not recommend this approach. Before even applying to any publishing job, I strongly suggest learning about all the different fields and seeing where the best fit for you would be.

The following is a list of  possible job positions within publishing:

  • Literary Agent
  • Editor
  • Copyeditor
  • Design and Production Editor
  • Sales
  • Publicist / Marketing
  • Legal / Rights / Contracts

BookJobs has an amazing page where they detail every possible position within publishing. I will outline the major positions and what they do below.


Literary Agent

The Literary Agent is actually the person that the author usually first contacts before their book is sent to an Editor. The agent is responsible for finding adequate talent that Editors would be interested in representing and selling. When the book sells, along with the author and Editor, the Literary Agent also receives a cut of the profit.

Although BookJobs does not have this position listed, Literary Agents are incredibly important to the publishing industry. They are the first to filter out the manuscripts with potential and those who might have missed the mark. They also support the author, editing their work so that the Editor can better see the profitability of the book.


The Editor is probably the most well-known of the publishing industry. They are the one that does most of the editing with the author of their book. They work together with the author to make the manuscript the best it can be before publication. The Editor looks at the big picture of the book, and makes sure it flows, has appropriate syntax, well-defined characters and plot, etc.

BookJobs lists their daily activities as:

  • Preparing acquisitions for transmittal to the production department
  • Developing and maintaining relationships with authors, booksellers, and agents
  • Performing general administrative duties
  • Participating in editorial, design, and marketing meetings
  • Reading and evaluating submissions by writing reader’s reports


A Copyeditor is different from the generic Editor described above. The Copyeditor is responsible for the grammatical errors that could be in a manuscript. They also check style, repetition, word usage, and jargon. They might also have the responsibility of fact checking and formatting the manuscript so that it is ready for typesetting.

Design and Production Editor

Design and Production Editors focus on the look of the book. They want to make sure that the layout of the text is what the author imagined, there are no orphans (less than five characters on a line) or widows (a single line of a paragraph separated from the rest), hyphens at the end of a page, etc. This also includes the cover and interior designs.

For Design, BookJobs lists these as the activities:

• Scheduling/budgeting with production
• Securing permissions for artwork
• Managing design workflow and outside freelancer designers
• Attending art and design brainstorming meetings
• Researching photo and art archives to find appropriate graphics

For Production, BookJobs outlines the daily tasks as:

• Trafficking of all materials between design and editorial/managing editorial
• Following up on late and/or special schedules
• Estimating of paper quantities and production costs
• Negotiating with suppliers
• Assisting on special projects as necessary


If you work in sales, you are the one who pushes the book to do well. You must manage the strategy and policy to be used in effectively selling a book to the public.

This job requires these daily tasks according to BookJobs:

•  Maintaining contact with customer headquarters to provide the best possible sales coverage
• Establishing promotional plans at the retail accounts and communicating with internal sales management in order to ensure execution at the retail level
• Working with publishing groups on the creation and design of promotional programs
• Managing cooperative advertising with clients, author appearance set-up, and creation of in-store marketing plans
• Aiding with customer shipping, credit, and returns issues
• Developing business plans on an annual basis for each of the assigned accounts

Publicist / Marketing

The main role for a Publicist is to draw attention to the books and authors that their house is publishing. They are hoping to get press attention for projects to create a buzz and awareness of their publications. They are usually also the ones who run the social media pages if the company has one. They also schedule author tours and set up events for both authors and the company.

BookJobs lists the activities for the Production side of this as:

• Scheduling interviews for broadcast and print media
• Briefing and coaching authors for interviews
• Developing media contacts
• Creating and pitching each title to the media through a press release and/or phone call
• Mailing pre-publication materials (galleys and ARCs)
• Developing proper angles and pitches to the scheduling of bookstore appearances and special events
• Updating of databases for reviewers and media contacts

And for Marketing as:

• Preparing all sales presentation materials: audio recordings, fact sheet collation, and promotions
• Creating and producing additional account-specific presentation materials
• Creating pricing strategies
• Researching and establishing relations with new markets
• Planning and maintaining sales and marketing schedules, including title launch and planning meetings
• Measuring the effectiveness of strategies once completed

Legal / Rights / Contracts

This department focuses on the rights for each publication by negotiating contracts with authors, editors, and literary agents.

The duties according to BookJobs are:

• Performing administrative tasks related to the department (mail, correspondence, answering phones, and responding to queries from both in-house and outside parties)
• Preparing and approving all vouchers for advance payments due under such contracts
• Preparing and routing rights reversion requests
• Administration and revisions of the database for all pending contracts as well as revisions made to the contracts
• Preparing extracts for contracts prepared by the administrator; approving extracts and ascertaining that the royalty department has sufficient information to prepare accurate royalty statements


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