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What Is the Job Description for a Publisher?

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The role of a publisher in today's book business is defined by the size of the company, its financial resources and the number of new titles it releases per year. At a major publishing house, "publisher" is often synonymous with "owner" or "CEO" and this individual is often far removed from day-to-day operations. In contrast, a small press publisher wears multiple hats.

Vision and Acquisition

The publisher of a new company determines what types of books she'd like to publish based on personal interests, professional expertise and target demographics. The publisher of an existing company ensures that its products support the corporate vision and meet industry standards of excellence. Both are responsible for establishing submission/review guidelines, determining payment parameters and acquiring new authors.


At a university press, small press or self-publishing entity, the publisher participates in the line editing and copy editing of manuscripts and often interacts directly with authors in revising and polishing their work. Publishers typically hold advanced degrees in English, literature, journalism or communications.


At a major publishing house, the publisher supervises the work of a team of specialists that include multiple levels of editors, graphic artists, photographers, lawyers, accountants, clerical staff and marketing personnel.

Production Management

When a book is accepted for publication, the terms of the contract specify the anticipated date of release. This can be anywhere from two months to two years. Within that time period are deadlines that need to be met regarding content review, layout, cover design and delivery to the printers. A publisher oversees that each step of the process is completed by its assigned due date.


The best written book in the world won't bring in any money if no one knows it exists. If a publisher is doing her own marketing, she needs to establish solid relationships with trade publications, newspapers and radio/TV representatives. She also needs to belong to regional and national associations that will enable her to hype new works.


In concert with promotional activities, the publisher is responsible for ongoing interface with distribution channels such as Ingram, Baker and Taylor, and Independent Publishers Group as well as bookstore chains like Amazon, Borders and Barnes and Noble.


Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.