Major/Department guide

Publishing is an apprenticeship industry, meaning that much of what a publishing professional needs to know will be learned on the job. Often, industry knowledge learned in one department is useful throughout the publishing house?allowing the opportunity to move between departments.

So you’ve matched your college major to publishing departments. But what on earth are subsidiary rights? What about managing editorial? What do all these departments do? Here are the answers.

  • Administrative
  • Advertising
  • Audio
  • Art & Design
  • Editorial
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Internet Development
  • Legal Contracts
  • Managing Editorial
  • Marketing
  • Production
  • Promotion
  • Publicity
  • Publisher’s Office
  • Purchasing
  • Sales
  • Subsidiary Rights & Permissions


Employees who work in an administrative function manage daily operations for publishing executives and management. This involves constant interaction with all levels of employees from all departments, as well as with authors and agents. Administrative employees are expected to complete the following functions:

  • Manage a demanding calendar
  • Maintain organized files
  • Screen/prioritize mail
  • Draft correspondence
  • Make travel arrangements and prepare itineraries
  • Process expense reports
  • Take minutes at meetings
  • Prepare reports
  • Assist in maintaining communications with authors, agents, division staff, and corporate management

An entry-level administrative position allows an employee to have a high-level understanding of the publishing company, as well as visibility to executives.


Many publishers have an in-house advertising agency that purchases media space and creates and designs advertisements paid for by the publishing company. The department works closely with the marketing directors, editors, and publishers of titles to create an advertising plan in order to promote sales of the book. Each advertising plan involves research and negotiation to provide better venues and cost-effective ways to advertise. Advertising department employees also work closely with graphic designers, print/radio/commercial sales representatives, printing presses, and internal staff to facilitate the run of each advertisement.


Publishing houses that have an audio division produce their own?and sometimes other publishers’?books on cassettes and CDs. The audio department auditions and casts readers for each title, and then produces the work either in-house or at a studio. Daily functions of the department include:

  • Negotiating performer agreements
  • Commissioning music
  • Managing studio and talent invoicing
  • Creating budgets and production schedules for each title
  • Providing input on acquisitions and abridgments
  • Evaluating new reading and music talent for future projects

The audio department also works closely with the publisher and editor of the title to ensure the most appropriate portrayal of the work.

Art & Design

Each publishing house has a number of opportunities for graphic designers and studio managers. The art and design employees in a publishing environment create a cover and interior design for each title. As these graphic elements hugely impact sales, art departments generally maintain direct contact with the editor, marketing director, and publisher of the title. Daily activities for art department employees include:

  • Scheduling/budgeting with production
  • Securing permissions for artwork
  • Managing design workflow and outside freelancer designers
  • Attending art and design brainstorming meetings
  • Researching photo and art archives to find appropriate graphics


An editorial department acquires, negotiates, develops, and edits book projects for publication. In many houses editorial departments are broken out by imprint, meaning that editors acquire projects suited to the imprint’s publishing strategy (e.g., mystery titles for a mystery-oriented imprint). Editorial assistants work for the specific editor or editorial group assigned. Daily activities for editorial assistants and entry-level positions include:

  • Preparing acquisitions for transmittal to the production department
  • Developing and maintaining relationships with authors, booksellers, and agents
  • Performing general administrative duties
  • Participating in editorial, design, and marketing meetings
  • Reading and evaluating submissions by writing reader’s reports

The editorial department works very closely with all departments, including marketing, creative services (art and design), production, and sales.


By producing an accurate portrayal of the potential profits and costs of each title, the finance department aids all departments in making the best financial publishing decisions. The department is charged with the following tasks and reporting procedures:

  • Forecasting, budgeting, and strategic planning for departments, titles, and imprints
  • Accurately projecting the company’s financial performance
  • Controlling costs through internal auditing and external research of alternatives
  • Developing business plans and models for growth of the company trend analysis

Human Resources

The human resources department works closely with all divisions and departments to ensure the health and happiness of their employees through benefits administration, rewards and recognition, facilitation of company-wide events, and the recruitment of new employees. They also act as a liaison between the employee and the employer.

Information Technology

A publishing house is dependent upon the technologies that it uses to meet deadlines. Therefore, the information technology department is constantly on call. IT employees are responsible for the creation and maintenance of application and data architecture, as well as for the architecture/design of all databases and repositories to fit the publishing house’s needs. Daily functions of this department include:

  • Designing and maintaining an inventory of current applications and business functions that these applications support
  • Managing the transition during technological upgrades
  • Designing and implementing a process for updating, maintaining, and communicating the Application and Data Architecture with IT staff and business constituents
  • Reviewing the design of all databases
  • Setting standards for corporate data flows and file transfers
  • Reviewing and investigating new applications to enter the IT Production Environment
  • Participating in the review, qualification, and recommendation process of new and emerging database technologies in coordination with the technology engineering team

Internet Development

Internet development groups are responsible for maintaining, developing, and producing Internet sites for the publishing house, as well as establishing and maintaining relations with online marketing and promotional vendors. Not only do Internet development employees need to stay abreast of the current activities of the publishing house, but they also must communicate and launch these efforts online through current technologies. Internet development departments are responsible for the following daily activities:

  • Planning, prioritizing, and implementing new Web initiatives for titles and corporate communications
  • Creating and executing online features and special promotions
  • Leading management and maintenance of all Web sites
  • Consulting with authors in the creation of author Web sites
  • Selecting, hiring, and managing freelance staff
  • Contracting Web production and design firms
  • Aiding in the development of design and coding
  • Researching emerging online and Web production technologies

Legal Contracts

The legal department of a publishing house ensures the rights of publication for each title by negotiating and drafting contracts with authors and packagers. The legal department works closely with the publisher and executives, as well as the editorial, rights (foreign and subsidiary), and design staff. There are a number of entry-level positions that assist with the legal department. Duties may include:

  • Performing administrative tasks related to the department (mail, correspondence, answering phones, and responding to queries from both in-house and outside parties)
  • Preparing and approving all vouchers for advance payments due under such contracts
  • Preparing and routing rights reversion requests
  • Administration and revisions of the database for all pending contracts as well as revisions made to the contracts
  • Preparing extracts for contracts prepared by the administrator; approving extracts and ascertaining that the royalty department has sufficient information to prepare accurate royalty statements

Managing Editorial

The managing editorial department is responsible for the entire production of a title after acquisition. The department develops in-house procedures for control of the workflow from the manuscript to a finished product. Managing editorial works closely with the editorial and production departments to ensure that the finished book meets projected expectations. Daily functions of the department include:

  • Negotiating signed agreements outlining budget and procedures
  • Drawing up production schedules
  • Reviewing the entire work before going to press
  • Hiring and overseeing the work/schedules of freelancers (typesetters, copy editors, proofreaders)
  • Proofreading and routing jackets and front matter
  • Readying author-reviewed, copyedited manuscripts for setting
  • Reviewing/trafficking sample designs
  • Transferring author corrections to the work


The marketing department is responsible for creating, preparing, and establishing marketing strategies and policies for each title by coordinating the efforts of publicity, promotion, advertising, online, and sales. The marketing department is responsible for the following functions:

  • Preparing all sales presentation materials: audio recordings, fact sheet collation, and promotions
  • Creating and producing additional account-specific presentation materials
  • Creating pricing strategies
  • Researching and establishing relations with new markets
  • Planning and maintaining sales and marketing schedules, including title launch and planning meetings
  • Measuring the effectiveness of strategies once completed


The production department coordinates the production and manufacturing of each title. Production acts as a liaison between editorial, managing editorial, design, production, and outside vendors to create and distribute the final product. Daily activities for the department include:

  • Trafficking of all materials between design and editorial/managing editorial
  • Following up on late and/or special schedules
  • Estimating of paper quantities and production costs
  • Negotiating with suppliers
  • Assisting on special projects as necessary


The promotions department works as a primary liaison with marketing and publicity directors, by creating effective campaigns to encourage the sales force, buyers, and consumers. Promotions departments are responsible for overseeing the creation of all catalogs, point-of-purchase, and promotional/sales materials. Department responsibilities include:

  • Managing copywriting, design, and production functions of catalogs and promotion/sales materials
  • Reviewing effectiveness of the materials produced in the department
  • Managing costs and workload by working with sales and marketing to eliminate unnecessary and/or redundant promotional/sales materials
  • Preparing for, attending, and issuing reports on monthly meetings that determine page counts and prices, reprint orders and corrections, and the overall publishing plan for every book on the list


The publicity department is responsible for promoting each title and author in the media without direct payment to the media communications. They facilitate the publication of each book through mass mailings or pre-published works for review, author tours (radio, television, and public readings/signings), and author and book parties. Daily activities for the department include:

  • Scheduling interviews for broadcast and print media
  • Briefing and coaching authors for interviews
  • Developing media contacts
  • Creating and pitching each title to the media through a press release and/or phone call
  • Mailing pre-publication materials (galleys and ARCs)
  • Developing proper angles and pitches to the scheduling of bookstore appearances and special events
  • Updating of databases for reviewers and media contacts

Publisher’s Office

The publisher oversees the entire life cycle of a title from acquisition to production, and on to the sales force. The publisher makes executive decisions for all titles within assigned imprints while keeping within cost restraints. The publisher also sponsors book projects, strategies, and initiatives for the company or assigned imprints.


The purchasing department works to ensure the most accurate pricing from vendors of office, production, manufacturing, and as-needed materials for the company. Under minimal supervision, the department sources and places while establishing and maintaining good contacts with suppliers. Daily functions include:

  • Monitoring vendor performance to assure highest possible service level at lowest possible prices
  • Monitoring employee and departmental compliance with corporate purchasing guidelines
  • Reviewing and coding invoices for office supplies, stationery, subscriptions, paper storage, and freight
  • Compiling monthly debits to departments for supply usage
  • Providing quarterly report of tax-exempt purchases to corporate finance
  • Working on special projects as assigned


The sales department is responsible for managing the policies and strategies used to sell each title effectively, both nationally and internationally, by using all available relationships and techniques. Publishing sales departments call upon traditional bookstores, retail accounts, libraries, academic institutions, book clubs, online vendors, and additional special markets. This department has a direct relationship with the financial well being of the company and regularly provides input upon the production of titles to best assure sales. Daily activities include:

  • Maintaining contact with customer headquarters to provide the best possible sales coverage
  • Establishing promotional plans at the retail accounts and communicating with internal sales management in order to ensure execution at the retail level
  • Working with publishing groups on the creation and design of promotional programs
  • Managing cooperative advertising with clients, author appearance set-up, and creation of in-store marketing plans
  • Aiding with customer shipping, credit, and returns issues
  • Developing business plans on an annual basis for each of the assigned accounts

Subsidiary Rights & Permissions

The subsidiary rights department finds additional sources of profit for a title, including serials, book clubs, and paperback, audio, and e-book rights. The foreign rights department is also responsible for generating income by selling the rights to publish the company’s titles in other languages and markets. Daily activities for both include:

  • Writing submission letters
  • Sending manuscripts, proposals, and books to foreign publishers and agents, audio houses, and paperback publishers
  • Coordinating co-productions with other publishers and audio houses
  • Working with book clubs and sales for special editions
  • Maintaining relationships with other publishers
    • Attending book fairs worldwide