Publishing roles beyond the book industry: tips for job seekers and career changers

Bob Cox-Wrightson

So you’re looking for a career in publishing – that must mean looking for a job making books for a publishing company, right? Well, in some cases yes, but this is by no means the only route open to you. Publishing, and publishing skills, are applicable to a wide range of interesting roles and diverse industries.

I’ve worked under the broad umbrella of ‘publishing’ for most of my working life. The choices I have made have led me down some unexpected routes into publishing, most of them outside of the traditional narrow definition of book publishing. Here is a list of the ‘publishing’ roles I have had:

  • Web Editor for a chain of bookshops, writing and managing the online features, including promotions and competitions.
  • Marketing Manager for a film festival, editing copy and designing posters.
  • Deputy Editor at a monthly magazine, researching articles, interviewing people and taking photos.
  • Distribution Assistant in a publisher’s warehouse, where you really get to learn how important logistics are to the book industry.
  • A Blurb Writer, learning how to condense the essence of books into engaging snippets of copy.
  • Keyword Specialist and Editor, delving into the world of context and language, developing a taxonomy of advertising segments in 31 languages.
  • And, yes, a more traditional publishing role as Production Coordinator for a publisher, managing printed products through copyediting, proofreading, typesetting, design, printing and packaging.

Publishing skills cover the majority of desired qualities that employers are looking for. With this in mind I looked at some leading recruitment sites, and found a selection of roles that these skills could encompass:

Social Media Content Producer

In this role it’s your responsibility to establish a presence on social media which reflects the values of your company. As well as learning the ways that users engage on different social media platforms, you’ll utilise your publishing skills, such as copywriting and proofreading. You’ll collaborate with content producers, agencies and marketing departments, and analyse the impact your creative and engaging posts have on the success of the business.


The ability to use language really comes to the fore in the role of Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to a website through search results, optimising web content so that it can easily be indexed by search engines. This involves language skills, critical thinking, and the ability to communicate clearly. You’ll learn the ways different online publications target an audience, and you’ll always be on the lookout for useful keywords.

Web Content

Writing and editing is not confined to books and journals – there’s a world of online content out there being read on screens. The text and images that greet you when you visit a company’s online presence form the public face of the organisation, and set the tone for the whole enterprise. Whilst there is a bonus to being somewhat tech-savvy, it’s more important to demonstrate the skills of good copy-writing, editing, image sourcing and project management – all skills that dovetail into publishing.

Advertising Copywriter

It’s the job of the copywriter to develop the words, slogans and scripts which accompany advertising visuals. You’ll work alongside a team of creative people in order to create effective advertising campaigns. Working in this industry requires the ability to use your imagination and work with clients, rewriting, revising and refining your work. Projects could include creating headlines, slogans, catchphrases, straplines and body copy for print, web, social media, radio or TV commercials.

To conclude, it’s important to say that most of my career was totally unplanned, and relied on being positive, chatting to people and taking risks – in other words, networking. Networking really pays off, and is a great boost to your confidence. All it takes is getting over the first step, and you’ll find that most people – especially publishing people – are keen to help, and opportunities can sometimes come from an unexpected direction. Don’t be surprised if publishing skills land you a career that’s totally unexpected.

Bob Cox-Wrightson is a graduate of the MA Publishing course at Anglia Ruskin University, and is currently looking for roles in publishing. Connect with Bob at his LinkedIn page here.

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