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Book Publishing Jobs: 9 Credible Ways To Make A Profit By Living Your Dreams

Sarah Rexford

Writers are often told to keep their day job until book sales take off, but what if you could find a day job in the industry you love? If you’re here, chances are that you love reading and book publishing jobs are up there in your list of dream careers. 

In this article, we’ll look at nine different book publishing jobs you could secure, the skills you need, and what kind of pay you could earn.

Here are the highlights:

  1. Acquisitions Editor 
  2. Graphic Designer 
  3. Editorial Assistant 
  4. Illustrator 
  5. Publicist 
  6. Literary Agent 
  7. Publisher 
  8. Marketing Manager
  9. Contract Manager 

Whew, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover so let’s get started. 

1. Book Publishing Jobs: Acquisitions Editor 

An acquisitions editor is responsible for sifting through queries, discarding the projects that don’t fit with the publishing house they work with, and researching the ones that do. While there are numerous book publishing jobs, if you work as an acquiring editor, you will need to:

  • Firmly grasp current trends in the publishing industry
  • Quickly differentiate great writing from average writing 
  • See a good idea and encourage your team it’s one to invest in
  • Love researching potential authors and how their project stacks up against others 

You will often find these editors at writing conferences, meeting one-on-one with aspiring authors, taking pitches, and traveling. 

According to data from December of 2022:

  • For an entry level position, you can expect to earn around $34,000 USD per year
  • Your median range comes to $60,000+ USD per year
  • Seasoned editors have the possibility of going up to $105,000 USD per year

2. Graphic Designer 

If you work as a graphic designer, your responsibilities include ideating and creating visual content for a variety of mediums. If a book goes to print, your graphics need to stand out on the printed page. If the book is an eBook or takes another digital form, it’s crucial that the graphics come across professionally and connect with audiences.

The average base annual salary for a designer in the United States is $58,356. Note that this is the average and your income will vary based on the publisher you work with, if you are a freelance designer, etc. 

3. Illustrator 

Working as an illustrator means you get to interact with the author on a regular basis. Not all book publishing jobs include this aspect. However, as an illustrator, you are responsible for visually bringing the book to life! This means you must ideate your content, try various styles, show your work to the author, brainstorm again, etc., until you exactly capture the book in illustrations. 

Average annual income: $43,188 USD

4. Editorial Assistant 

Do you thrive supporting those in authority and helping leaders keep on track from the start of a project to the final product? Editorial Assistants work in an extremely collaborative environment. Their job description can include:

  • Proofreading and editing
  • Coordinating activities 
  • Working with the author 
  • Collaborating with a publishing team
  • Administrative work 

The national average annual salary for this position is $41,106 USD.

5. Literary Agent

Agents excel in networking and connecting the right authors with the best publishers. As a literary agent, you must:

  • Understand the publishing industry extremely well
  • Remember names, publishers, and genres 
  • Actively pitch projects to publishers 
  • Have a positive attitude to help your author keep trying
  • Act as a liaison between the author and publisher 

Literary agents are also confident in negotiating. If two publishers offer a contract on the same project, often a bidding war ensues. It’s up to the agent to navigate this with the author and come to the best outcome.

National annual average: $43,563 USD.

6. Publicist 

If you enjoy working with people but pitching projects and negotiating book deals isn’t your ideal, you may enjoy working as a publicist. With an average annual salary of $43,217 USD, their work closely coincides with a literary agent’s, but on the front end.

A publicist’s responsibilities include securing press coverage for author’s. For a publicist to do well, they must understand the author’s message, theme, brand, and communicate this well to the press. 

Publicists must be comfortable in chaos, be well-organized, and thrive in a fast-paced environment.

7. Publisher 

Also known as the gatekeeper to the industry, publishers keep the company running smoothly. This means their daily job focuses on the business mindset, with the actual industry taking a bit of a back seat. 

Yes, publishers still love books and play a role in giving the yes or no to a new title, but they are more business-minded. If you are comfortable with budgets and overseeing the multitude of teams that make a publishing house possible, this role may be for you. Additionally, this career path is higher paying among book publishing jobs.

Average base salary: $65,020 USD.

8. Marketing Manager

With seven book publishing jobs covered, we move on to marketing! Without a standout marketing team, no matter how great a book, it’s unlikely to gain traction. If you love overseeing campaigns, strategizing, and promoting, and sales, a job as a marketing manager is a career to look into. 

Just remember that as a manager, you take responsibility for the marketing team’s success (and lack of). If you are bold, encouraging, and confident, this may be the perfect fit for you. 

National average salary: $68,664 USD per year

9. Contract Manager 

A Contract Manager acts as the overseer for contracts between publishers and authors. Important aspects for a manager to pay attention to are:

  • Percentage of royalties given to the author 
  • Author advance and various rights
  • Details of the contract 

If you work as a contract manager, you can expect an average base salary of $78,416 USD. However, working as a Contract Manager means you need to be intimately aware of the risks and benefits of every contract. 

Overseeing a contract includes the often looked-over details, the fine print, and every word. Both the publisher and the author will sign it, and while they put their signature to the document, it’s up to you to adequately communicate the various aspects. 

What Book Publishing Job Best Fits You?

The above list does not by any means include all of the potential book publishing jobs you can find. In fact, while those included in the publishing board (the board of individuals who vote for or against taking on a manuscript) varies publisher to publisher, it often includes:

  • The acquiring editor who believes in your project 
  • Sales
  • Marketing 
  • VP of Publishing
  • CEO

Note: As an acquisitions editor, it is your responsibility to present a strong enough case to those on the publishing board, or pub board, that they vote in favor of taking on the project. 

As you consider the above options, ask yourself a few questions: 

  • What jobs did I naturally gravitate to?
  • What job would grow me?
  • What job would stress me out?
  • What is my dream career?
  • What job can help get me there?

Be honest as you answer these questions. There is nothing quite like being in a job that doesn’t suit you, or the privilege of landing a job that does! The publishing world encompasses so many talents and passions, all revolving around a love for books. 

If you are considering a job or career change, take your time, see if you can interview a few in your desired position, and be open to starting at the base level. Working in the publishing world is a privilege. Have fun pursuing it!

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