What Is the Job Description for a Publisher?

Printed materials need a publisher to guide their creation.
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When you think about publishers, you might envision people who put out newspapers, periodicals, directories, magazines or books. A publisher also produces music and software and Internet copy and the websites on which it appears. While the job description varies somewhat depending on the industry, many of the duties and responsibilities of a publisher are the same across all of the fields.


    Publishers and the publishing companies they work for choose the content for books, magazines and other information vehicles. Publishers decide what the tone and general content is going to be. They create budgets for its creation and distribution and decide where the majority of the funding is going to be allocated. For example, if a publisher believes that a big kick-off party in New York City will help to sell advertising for a new magazine concept, then that’s where the money will be spent. Another publisher may believe the best money is spent on top-notch writers and editors. Publications very much take on the personalities of the publishers.


    To handle the writing, editing and production of the books, magazines, websites or newspapers, publishers hire editors, managers and content producers. Think of the publisher as the CEO of the publication, even though the actual CEO may be an owner of a larger conglomeration that finances the publication. Effective publishers hire subordinates who then hire writers, copy editors, graphic artists and photographers. The publisher oversees production, too, and hires a production manager who either runs the printing presses directly or oversees the outsourcing of the actual printing. Finally, the publisher is intimately involved with marketing. In addition to hiring a head of advertising, the publisher often gets in the mix of the networking activities and may call on major advertisers herself.


    Publishers are notorious schmoozers. They sit on boards around town and show up at the important fundraisers. Publishers often are the public face of the magazine or newspaper and as such, are expected to be seen by the influential movers and shakers in the community. The publisher often is the main contact for the marketing department and for smaller publications, may be the primary rainmaker, bringing in the big advertisers that fund each project.


    While the publisher is the top dog in the publishing industry, there are a number of publisher positions that call for a more hands-on approach. A publishing editor might read the copy before it’s printed and might writes a column for each edition. A desktop publisher manages the actual formatting, layout and editing of a newsletter, company brochure or online publication for a company whose business is unrelated to publishing. Publishers of start-up operations may provide the actual funds to run the company and serve in a range of positions while the company grows.

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