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What Is the Job Description of a Publisher?

Explore the career opportunities of a publisher. Find information about education and experience requirements, earnings and potential employers to determine if this is the right career choice for you.

What Does A Publisher Do?

As a publisher, your job is to oversee the entire publishing process, generally employing a staff to work beneath you. You are the owner or chief executive officer of your publishing company and are responsible for every part of the daily operations, from selecting manuscripts to managing the finances. As a publisher, you will need to have impeccable leadership and project management abilities, a strong head for business and a knowledge of the literary and publishing industries. As the head of the company, you may be in charge of representing the company at media or industry events. The chart below outlines the education requirements, earning potential and job outlook for the field.

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree
Education Field of Study Business administration, publishing or a related field
Training Required Extensive work experience
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8.4% for chief executives in publishing industries (except Internet)*
Average Salary (2018) $227,400 for chief executives in publishing industries (except Internet)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Will I Have as a Publisher?

As a publisher, you implement policies, approve project acquisitions, monitor spending, assign job titles and make decisions about how the company operates. You are also responsible for overseeing all the departments within the company, including the editorial and production departments.

Where Can I Find Employment?

You can either work for an existing publishing company or start your own. Your company may focus on publishing one type of product or several, ranging from books, magazines and newspapers to greeting cards or calendars. Work may be published in print or online.

Within the book publishing world, there are different categories that you may consider when looking for employment. Trade publishers publish books for the general public that are found in libraries or bookstores. Professional and scholarly publishers publish materials that are generally sold to people like doctors and lawyers. Educational publishers publish textbooks and other materials that are used by teachers, schools and students.

Book publishing is far from the only choice for your career. You may also consider publishing companies that create and sell magazines or newspapers. Some publishing companies focus on materials that are only distributed via the Internet, such as e-books or online magazines.

What Type of Education Do I Need?

Along with experience that you'll gain moving up through various publishing-related positions, a master's degree in a publishing program will give you the right training for a career as a publisher. In a graduate-level publishing program, you may study industry-specific courses on electronic publishing, editorial acquisitions, production, copyright law and distribution. You may also study the business side of this field with courses in marketing, management, business and finance.

Publishing programs may also offer the chance for an internship. Interning in the industry may help you gain work experience and learn firsthand about the daily operations of a publishing company. Internships also allow you to network with other professionals in the publishing industry.

How Much Can I Earn?

The earning potential for a publisher is not easy to determine because of the different types of publishers within the industry. The size of the publishing company, the type of products and the location of the company all determine the possible salary. Bonuses, profit sharing and commissions are all part of a publisher's salary and also can cause variances. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a chief executive in the publishing industries (except Internet) was $227,400 in May 2018.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many other careers that involve overseeing all aspects of a company's regular operations. Instead of publishing, consider pursuing a management position in the advertising and marketing industries, fields that also require strong communication skills and an understanding of product branding. These professionals oversee all aspects of a campaign to promote a product or service and may hold a bachelor's degree in a field related to business. Another option is to become a sales manager, taking charge of other members of staff to ensure that a company reaches its sales targets and successfully sells its stock. Sales managers also analyze data and interpret market trends in order to understand how to market their product better.