What Does a Book Publisher Do? (With Skills and Salary)

Updated 20 January 2023

Book publishers are vital professionals who work with authors to oversee the production of fiction and non-fiction books. They take a finished draft from an author and turn it into a book that's ready for sale. By learning what a book publisher does, you can determine if it's the right career choice for you. In this article, we describe what a book publisher does, explore the skills that can help you succeed and look at how to get started in this industry.

What does a book publisher do?

If you want to know 'What does a book publisher do?', it can help to consider where they work and the tasks they complete. Book publishers are key figures in the publishing industry as they oversee the production and sale of books. Here are some of the typical tasks performed by book publishers:

Manage the publication process

A publisher primarily manages the publication process of books. This task includes working with and overseeing editors, designers and marketers to work on books and collaborate with their authors. If there's a delay or conflict between members of a book's publication team, a publisher can resolve the disagreement and implement a solution.

Find talent

Publishers can find new authors to get high-quality book submissions for the publishing house. They can do this by reading journals and magazines or by having connections to literary agents. Book publishers can also go through unsolicited submissions that were well-received by their team members.

Oversee editing

Editors can make decisions and recommendations that significantly alter the structure and meaning of a book. While the author typically approves these changes, the publisher also gets a say in large changes to a manuscript. They can also assign specific editors to a project or request authors revise certain elements to fit the publishing house's values or direction.

Choose the commercial direction

Publishing houses often have a specific commercial direction when choosing which books to publish. For example, some publicists may focus on romance or science fiction novels. Similarly, some solely produce academic or non-fiction books. A publisher can choose a direction to take a company if they want to specialise in a certain area or widen their scope to incorporate other books.

Approve projects

A publisher can have the final say over which manuscripts they accept and approve for publication. They can influence the language used in books, cover design, format and which market they sell a product in. Project approval can involve negotiating with the author and other stakeholders to determine what they can alter to optimise a book's selling potential.

Related: What Is a Project Manager?

Manage employees

Publishers may approve or find new employees when a publishing house has an open vacancy. They may read resumes, interview candidates and negotiate salaries. A publisher may also manage issues or queries with existing employees to ensure that projects and teams work as effectively as possible.

Related: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Important skills for a book publisher

Book publishers can be highly skilled individuals who've progressed to a prominent position in the publishing industry. They can have a range of hard and soft skills to help them publish on books and manage teams working on projects. Important skills for a book publisher can include:

  • Communication: Publishers can benefit from having strong communication skills to help them negotiate with authors and editors to get books published.

  • Attention to detail: Noting any issues an editor or proofreader could have overlooked can help publishers ensure the books they produce are high quality and match the publishing house's commercial direction.

  • Writing: While book publishers focus on other people's novels, they can have strong writing skills to improve communications and set a standard for the company.

  • Editing: Book publishers can also benefit from double-checking an editor's work if needed or resolving any conflict between authors and editors.

  • Organisation: Staying organised can be vital to keeping a publishing house running smoothly. Publishers can benefit from organising and scheduling projects or release dates efficiently.

  • Leadership: Strong leadership skills can help publishers resolve workplace conflicts and encourage a productive workplace where the employees feel valued.

  • Public relations: Publishers may benefit from having a solid understanding of public relations (PR) to help them work with publicists to promote the company and its publications.

Related: What Does a Publisher Do? (With Skills and Salary)

Salary of a book publisher

The national average salary for a publisher is $81,099 per year. Many factors, such as the location where you work can affect a publisher's total income. For example, professionals in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory make an average of $134,381 per year. Meanwhile, book publishers in Melbourne, Victoria typically earn $72,846 per year.

How to become a book publisher

Becoming a book publisher can involve a range of education and industry experience to be hired by publishing houses. Here are some steps you can take to become a book publisher:

1. Get an education

You can often be qualified to work in a publishing house after completing a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. A degree in English literature, creative writing, journalism or communication could prepare you for a career in book publishing. Studying for a postgraduate degree, such as the Master of Publishing, can also improve your industry skills and employability.

2. Gain relevant experience

Getting industry experience can improve your chances of being hired as a book publisher, as it shows you have the skills to succeed in the role. Your university may provide internship opportunities, which can introduce you to working in the book publishing industry. Doing freelance or part-time work while studying, such as copywriting or working on your university's newspaper, can also give you valuable writing and editing experience.

Related: What Is an Internship: Everything You Need To Know

3. Apply for jobs

Once you're qualified, you can apply for entry-level book publishing jobs. This may involve working in other roles at a publishing house, such as an editor for a senior publisher. Once you've gained industry experience, you can progress into full-time roles as a book publisher. Consider applying for any internal positions at the company that currently employs you as it may understand your skill set. Alternatively, update your resume, and apply for a job at another publishing house.

Other careers in book publishing:

If you're interested in working in book publishing but don't want a management role or are looking for an entry-level position, there are other career options for you. These roles allow you to work alongside qualified publishers and authors. Here are some other careers in the book publishing industry for you to consider:

1. Editor

National average salary: $90,619 per year

Primary duties: Editors can be vital for making an author's manuscript ready for publication. An editor may focus on a specific project and work closely with the author to make changes that both parties approve of. Editorial tasks can involve spelling and grammar corrections, plot adjustments and reformatting the book to fit the publisher's standards.

Related: What Does an Assistant Editor Do? (Plus Common Skills)

2. Agent

National average salary: $100,671 per year

Primary duties: Literary agents can help new authors get published and assist publishers in finding new talent for their publishing house. These agents can work for agencies, publishing companies or become a freelancer and work with their professional connections. A literary agent can also take part in the negotiating process for an author and represent their interests to a publisher.

3. Publicist

National average salary: $83,534 per year

Primary duties: Publicists can be an important part of the publishing industry, as they help the company find an audience for the book. The publicist can secure reviewers, interviews or feature articles about the book to generate interest. They can be important for new authors who haven't generated their own fan base by the time of publication.

4. Designer

National average salary: $92,232 per year

Primary duties: Publishing houses can also work with in-house or contracted designers to create original cover art for a book. They may give these designers a brief to follow or work more freely by discussing ideas with the author and publisher. Designers can also create advertisements for the book or make banners and graphics for the publishing house's social media pages.

5. Proofreader

National average salary: $103,377 per year

Primary duties: Publishing houses may hire proofreaders to work on a manuscript alongside editors to ensure the writing is ready for publication. They can note spelling, grammar, punctuation or factual errors in the text and may also alert the editor if they find any content offensive. Proofreaders often check content after an author and editor have created a final draft.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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