Publishing is an exciting career, offering the opportunity for creative people to interact with a subject they might have studied at university, or maybe just have a passion for. The publishing world is especially inviting for fresh graduates, particularly those looking for a collaborative or innovative culture in their work environment. But before you get started dusting off your CV and refreshing that cover letter template you’ve used a million times, there are a few things you might want to know before diving head-first into the publishing career pool.
9 times out of 10, when I tell someone I work in publishing, they ask me if I’ve worked on any books they would know. I try not to roll my eyes at this… People assume that because I work in publishing, I must be squirrelled away in a comfy armchair somewhere, reading mountains of fantastical fiction books for a living. In reality, there are many different types of publishing. Fiction book publishing generally comes under the “Trade” publishing category and is widely known to be a highly competitive market for fresh graduates looking to start their publishing career. A relative of mine works in trade publishing and when I was looking to start my career in publishing, she advised me against going into Trade. Unless you are prepared to do an unpaid internship and commit for 10 years before earning a decent salary, Trade might not be the way to go for you!
I work in journal publishing, specifically in STEM fields (Scientific, Technical, Engineering and Math). Remember those journals you scoured meticulously while at University, desperate to find a single quote that could encapsulate your entire essay in one sentence? Well, those journals were likely published by one of the big journal publishers who employ thousands of people across the globe. Academic publishing is a much less competitive field as it is seen as slightly less “glamourous” than Trade publishing, but I can assure you it’s just as exciting. Check out my blog post here to learn more about what Academic Journal Publishing is all about. In journal publishing, you may find yourself speaking with the top academics in their respective fields, learning more about their research and how it makes a difference to the world. Through publishing research in journals, you can have a small contribution, perhaps to a landmark study, that might make the world that little bit better.
Publishing is an international affair. I’m based in the UK and I work with team members in the USA, China, Spain, Poland, Switzerland and India. And that’s just people I work with internally. Externally, I work with people globally. There are authors based in every corner of the world and all those authors are looking to get their research published. It’s the publisher’s job to help make that happen.
I also travel regularly for my job. Admittedly it took me about 3-4 years to reach a position where travel was a requisite in the job description, but once I got there the travel perks were huge. I’ve travelled to Mexico, Orlando, Washington, Italy, Denmark, Spain, London, Geneva, Germany, France and various other countries throughout Europe. It’s fair to say some roles in publishing come with great travel perks (that’s if you love travel).
Having said this, you should consider whether you are prepared to work flexible hours. Travel is tiring and often eats into my personal time. I will sometimes take 7am calls and 7pm calls to speak to authors and editors at a convenient time in their location. While this is the exception rather than the rule, developing an international network is essential to advancing your publishing career, so be prepared to work longer hours as the job demands.
When you think of publishing, you probably think of editing manuscripts. In journal publishing we do very little in terms of actually editing manuscripts as the editing process is completed by journal editors. So, what do publishing companies actually do? We oversee the process of peer-review from submission of the manuscript to final publication, we provide the technical infrastructure to facilitate this process, and we provide the added security of quality assurance and research integrity checks. Within this process, there is a huge variety of roles available, but these are split into a few key areas: Journal Development, Operations, Publishing Technologies, Design, Production and Marketing.
Journal Development and Operations roles generally work on developing the subject areas the journal works on, overseeing peer review and improving the dissemination of journals. Production teams ensure that the content is producing top-notch content in terms of the look and feel of the final published article. Design teams create beautiful content used in the promotion of journals or the publisher to their audience. Marketing teams are responsible for actually promoting the journals and making sure the research reaches the right people. And lastly Publishing Technology folk are the people keeping the publishing machine running, either in tech support roles or in developing new tech to make the publishing process even better for all stakeholders.
Perhaps one of the big selling points for academic publishing is remote working. Before the pandemic, academic publishing was a relatively WFH-friendly industry, due to the international nature of what we do. As with all industries though, the pandemic shook things up and the journal publishing industry seems to have fully embraced remote working as a permanent model. Nearly all publishers now offer fully remote positions on a permanent basis, as well as the hybrid option to book your seat in the office and meet people face-to-face (what a luxury)!
This transition to remote working has seriously opened up the publishing industry to a new generation of budding publishers ready to hit the virtual “production floor”, but who previously might not have considered publishing as an option due to the lack of remote working. Pre-Covid, the main publishing hubs had traditionally been based in London, Oxford, New York and Washington D.C. with smaller office bases dotted around the world. Not anymore though! Newcomers to entry-level roles in publishing are joining publishers from rural areas, particularly in the UK where astronomical rent rates in London would have meant living solely on a diet of pot noodles and smuggled free snacks from the office.
You’re probably wondering why I’ve snuck salaries in at number 5 in this list. Well, believe it or not, the salaries in journal publishing can be quite good… Don’t get me wrong, this industry is not the one for you if tick box number one on your “dream job” list is ‘Get paid lots of money!’
Also, there are publishers out there that don’t give their junior employees a fair salary, but the average starting salary in the journal publishing industry is between £22,000 – £25,000.
The biggest publishers aren’t short of money, so make sure you know your worth and really know your stuff when it comes to average salaries for the role you’re applying for within the publishing industry.
Thanks for taking the time today to read my blog about academic publishing. I hope you found these “5 things to know about jobs in publishing” helpful!
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