Publishing Editor

The Job and What's Involved

Editors work in a number of publishing areas, including books, journals and periodicals, newspapers, and online publishing. They are responsible for the overall style and content of a publication or range of publications and their role is primarily managerial.

A publishing editor oversees the work of junior or section editors who may be highly skilled individuals. On a newspaper, they would include the political editor, sports editor and fashion editor. Publishing editors may also work closely with authors to agree schedules and ensure that content is delivered on time and within budget.

The precise nature of the role depends on the publication, but a publishing editor may be responsible for:

  • Ensuring that the production process runs smoothly and that publications are printed on time.
  • Recruiting and managing staff.
  • Commissioning work from freelance writers and photographers.
  • Commissioning new editions and online resources.
  • Liaising with other departments, such as marketing and production.
  • Liaising with authors and agents.
  • Briefing designers.
  • Carrying out in-depth research.

On smaller publications, editors may help to write and edit content. They may also write headlines and captions for pictures and lay out page designs, and may even have their own column to express their personal views.

Technological changes have had a profound impact on the publishing industry and its production processes, and publishing editors have to understand the potential of these changes.

Publishing editors usually work normal office hours but, at busy times and towards a deadline, they may need to work long and irregular hours, including evenings and weekends. On newspapers they may work shifts.

Editors work in offices which may be modern and well equipped or small and cramped. The work is mostly desk based, on a computer.

Editors may be expected to travel, especially in book publishing when they may go to meet new writers and agents. They may also travel abroad to attend book fairs or conferences and events related to their specialist subject.

Local newspaper editors and book editors may start on between £16,000 and £30,000 a year, but this may be higher for magazine editors. Salaries in book publishing vary but may be between £18,000 and £30,000.

Experienced editors on national newspapers/magazines may earn over £100,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Editors work for book publishers, magazines, newspapers and trade publications and in online publishing. The publishing industry is mostly concentrated in London and the South East, although larger companies may have offices in other parts of the UK. The newspaper industry operates in every region, but there has been some decline in regional newspapers and magazines. The main growth area is in online publications.

The editorial department is the most competitive to enter. Work experience is essential, as it demonstrates commitment and provides an insight into how the industry works. A successful placement can sometimes lead to work. Many of the larger publishing companies offer internships and work experience placements. Details are available on their websites.

Vacancies are advertised in national newspapers, including the Guardian, Times, Independent and Daily Telegraph; in trade publications, such as The Bookseller and Press Gazette; and on publishing companies' own websites. Some vacancies are not advertised and it is important to build contacts. Membership of industry organisations, such as the Society of Young Publishers and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, can provide support and networking opportunities.

There are some specialist recruitment agencies that handle vacancies in the publishing industry and jobs may also be advertised on websites such as and

Education and Training

There are no set qualifications, but most publishing editors have a degree or equivalent, and often have postgraduate vocational qualifications as well, in publishing or journalism. They may also have considerable experience in journalism or editing. They usually work their way up from junior roles, such as editorial assistant, secretary to a publisher or general reporter.

Publishers prefer new entrants to have a good first degree in a traditional academic discipline. For some areas of publishing, a degree in a specialist subject, such as economics or science, might be necessary, as well as experience of working in the specialist field covered by a publication.

The entry requirements for a degree are usually three A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), including English or maths, or equivalent qualifications. The Diploma in creative and media may also be relevant.

There are many journalism courses available at different levels, including foundation, undergraduate, postgraduate, pre- and post-entry qualifications. The publishing industry recognises those accredited by the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ) and the Periodicals Training Council.

An increasing number of publishing courses, including foundation-, undergraduate- and postgraduate- level qualifications, are available throughout the UK. Although not essential, they can help a candidate stand out and provide valuable contacts and work experience.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training is carried out on the job. Some companies also offer in-house training. Some large publishing companies and newspapers run graduate training schemes. Details are available on their websites.

There are many short courses available, some on a distance-learning basis, from a variety of training providers, including the Publishing Training Centre, the SfEP, the Society of Young Publishers, the London School of Publishing and the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies.

Industry organisations such as the NCTJ, the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) and the Periodicals Training Council oversee training in their sectors.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Publishing editors should have:

  • An excellent command of English, including grammar and spelling.
  • Accuracy and a keen eye for detail.
  • Imagination and visual sense.
  • Good IT skills, including knowledge of publishing software packages.
  • People skills and the ability to build and maintain good relationships.
  • Negotiation skills and commercial sense.
  • Good organisation and the ability to prioritise.
  • The ability to work under pressure and to meet deadlines.
  • Knowledge of law and ethics as they relate to journalism and publishing.
  • Good interviewing, reporting and writing skills.
  • Initiative and flexibility.
  • An understanding of the technological developments affecting the industry.

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Your Long Term Prospects

Experience and a good track record is the key to progression. A local newspaper editor may move on to a regional, then a national publication. Book editors may become publishers, managing editors or editorial directors. Or they may choose to move into a more specialised area of publication.

Successful editors may progress to become editor-in-chief of a group of newspapers or magazines, but these positions are rare.

There may be opportunities to work overseas. A growth in the publishing industry in the Far East and Middle East has provided openings for experienced editors.

Get Further Information
PO Box 1441, Ilford,
Essex IG4 5GH
Tel: 020 8550 8023

The Booksellers Association of the
United Kingdom & Ireland Limited (BA),
Minster House, 272 Vauxhall Bridge Road,
London SW1V 1BA
Tel: 020 7802 0802

Independent Publishers Guild,
PO Box 12, Llain, Login SA34 0WU
Tel: 01437 563335

London School of Publishing,
David Game House,
69 Notting Hill Gate,
London W11 3JS
Tel: 020 7221 3399

National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ),
The New Granary, Station Road, Newport,
Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 3PL
Tel: 01799 544014

National Union of Journalists (NUJ),
Headland House, 308-312 Gray's Inn Road,
London WC1X 8DP
Tel: 020 7278 7916

The Newspaper Society,
St Andrew's House, 18-20 St Andrew Street,
London EC4A 3AY
Tel: 020 7632 7400

The Publishers Association,
29b Montague Street,
London WC1B 5BW
Tel: 020 7691 9191

The Publishing Training Centre at Book House,
45 East Hill, Wandsworth, London SW18 2QZ
Tel: 020 8874 2718

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9GB
Free careers helpline: 08080 300 900

Society for Editors and Proofreaders,
Apsley House, 176 Upper Richmond Road,
Putney, London SW15 2SH
Tel: 020 8785 6155

The Society of Young Publishers

Women in Publishing

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Additional resources