British publishers produce more than 75,000 new titles a year and employ around 20,000 people. The main functions in publishing are editorial, marketing, distribution, contracts and rights, and administration. Those wanting a publishing career typically read English at university and aim for editorial jobs.
Editorial work is of two main types: commissioning and copy-editing. Commissioning editors read manuscripts and decide whether to publish them. Most are sent in by authors' agents. Less than one in 50 of unsolicited manuscripts sent in by authors gets published. Commissioning editors working in non-fiction publishing, especially in the technical and education fields, also commission experts to write books to satisfy market niches that have been identified.
The role of copy-editors is to read manuscripts for their clarity and accurate use of language and to remove repetitive statements, contradictions and errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation. Extensive revisions are sometimes necessary, and these must be discussed and agreed with the author.
Editorial work is probably the hardest route into publishing because of the competition for places. It is usually easier to enter in another role and move to an editorial job later. Marketing and contracts and rights are particularly useful for a subsequent editorial career and for top management posts in publishing. They offer more vacancies than editorial and production roles combined.
Marketing is responsible for all the activities needed to promote and sell books. This includes everything from writing and producing book lists, advertising copy and press releases, through to organising authors' lecture tours and television and radio appearances. Contracts and rights departments handle the initial agreements and contracts with authors and deal with any issues arising from the further development of a book.
We have a huge press in the UK, with 125 daily and Sunday papers, about 800 local paid weeklies, 1,000 free weeklies, 1,700 consumer magazines and 4,000 trade and technical journals. No qualifications are needed, although almost every entrant is a graduate.
Newspaper journalists normally start on a local or regional newspaper. Many of these register their trainees with the National Council for the Training of Journalists. The NCTJ provides distance learning packs which, if successfully completed, lead to college-based training and to a National or Scottish Vocational Qualification at level 4.
It is usually easier to become a journalist on a magazine or journal, and the training tends to be less structured. There is a national training scheme administered by the Periodical Training Council, which is standard in large publishing houses, but not in small ones. However, it can be difficult to move from magazines and journals to the national press unless you have developed a reputation as an expert in a particular field.
The BBC offers a two-year local radio trainee reporter scheme which prepares people for all aspects of radio journalism. At national level BBC journalists are expected to work on both radio and television. The BBC's news trainee scheme covers both. The BBC receives about 100 applications for each training post, and it is a distinct advantage to have prior journalistic experience on a reputable national or local paper.
Advertising copywriting is tough to enter, and no agencies provide formal training. This is because it is difficult to identify an individual's talent until it has been tried on the job. A unique new one-year postgraduate vocational course in advertising at Falmouth College of Art is run by an ex-agency team and develops both creative and copywriting skills. This is likely to give its students a competitive edge.
One back-door route into copywriting is newspaper classified advertising. The sales people sell space and write much of the advertising. This develops commercial awareness and the skill to write selling copy fast.
Copywriters usually work alongside a designer (usually called an art director, to impress an agency's clients). Students on the Falmouth advertising course work in pairs of an "art director" and a "copywriter". Designers are usually selected by agencies on the basis of their portfolios.
Artists working in design have a wide choice, although competition is fierce in the more popular careers such as advertising, fashion design and set design.
Most employers in the creative fields agree with Samuel Butler: "An art can only be learned in the workshop of those who are winning their bread by it"nReuse content