Curious about book publishing?

Publishing careers are rewarding for people who love books and ideas and want to share them with the world. From the largest publishing companies headquartered in NYC to small independent publishers located across the country, it is possible to find a career in book publishing that nurtures your passion for sharing ideas and great writing.

What kinds of jobs exist in trade publishing?

When you think about a career in publishing, do you imagine editing manuscripts all day? Editors are fundamental to publishing because they acquire books for publishing houses and partner with the author to refine the manuscript into its final version. How do editors find the manuscripts and book proposals that they want to publish? Authors are represented by literary agents whose job it is to submit the manuscripts or book proposals to publishing houses for consideration. If a submission is acquired by a publisher, then the literary agent will negotiate the contract on behalf of the author and serve as the business manager by receiving and distributing advances and royalties.

Acquisitions editors sort through an endless stream of manuscripts and book proposals submitted by agents in order to decide what to publish. Once a contract is signed, the editor and author get to work with finetuning the manuscript to get it ready for publication. Entry level jobs in an editorial department include editorial assistant and managing editorial assistant. Both jobs are invested in the fine-tuning of the manuscript and getting it ready as a finished book. These jobs are great for people who love working with words, authors and are curious about the process behind the making of a book.

If you love talking about books and sharing them with others, then a career in marketing, publicity or sales may be a great fit for you. Marketing managers determine target audiences for a book and then craft ways to reach that audience through a marketing plan that encompasses advertising and promotion. Publicists develop press materials and pitch the book to news, entertainment, and social media outlets. Sales representatives work with bookstores to curate an inventory that meets the needs of local audiences of readers, or work with the national sales accounts such as Amazon. Entry level positions in these fields include marketing assistant, publicity assistant and sales assistant.

Perhaps you love academia and the sharing of ideas?

If you love the world of academia, you can build a rewarding career working at a university press, a scholarly journal or with a textbook publisher. In these fields you work closely with academics to bring their ideas to a wider audience. Scholarly texts frequently require peer reviews, so editors in these fields manage this process to validate the content before it is published. Field sales representatives in college publishing spend their days making campus visits to talk to professors about their classes and how the textbooks they use help their teaching.

Interested in publishing, but not necessarily with the books themselves?

For the computer programmers out there, education technology companies such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Cengage Learning and Pearson Learning are always looking for software engineers to support their learning platforms. The large publishing companies hire human resources professionals, accountants, and lawyers interested in working on contracts and intellectual property.

How can you get started?

As a DU student, you can dip your toe in publishing by working on The Clarion and Foothills Magazine. You can explore internships at local and national publishing companies listed through You can look into local non-profit organizations such as Brink Literacy Project and BookGive. Working at one of the many bookstores in Denver would not only enhance your resume but also allow you to build valuable insight into what readers are purchasing.

Additionally, DU’s Denver Publishing Institute is nationally renowned for its intensive publishing workshop held every summer on the DU campus. Over the course of four weeks, you’ll learn about the book publishing industry, how books are created and make valuable networking contacts with publishers from across the country. For more information, contact Jill Smith at

By Mary Michael Hawkins
Mary Michael Hawkins Senior Director, Undergraduate Career & Professional Development