Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Wonderful Game Called "What's My Department and What Does It Do?"

In the comments on yesterday's post, the question came up about the various departments (and their functions) that make up a publishing house. As I'm always happy to oblige, a more-or-less complete breakdown follows.

Aside from the departments that are found in all large companies (e.g. human resources, IT, legal, payroll, &c), the major divisions of a publishing house are:

The Publisher: Within the house itself is the publisher's office, from which every book's entire creation—from acquisition to finished product—is overseen. Every other department reports to the publisher in one way or another. All major decisions are made here.

Editorial: Responsible for acquiring, editing, and effectively shepherding books through the production process, the editorial department buys books from authors via their agents, negotiates contracts, maintains relationships within the house/between the house and authors/agents, and works with production and art to organize and facilitate the creation of the final product.

Production: As you might expect, the production department is responsible for the physical creation of each book. They work closely with the editorial and art departments (as well as the publisher) to negotiate with third parties/vendors and coordinate the creation and distribution of finished books.

Marketing: In brief, marketing is responsible for any promotions that the house pays for, e.g. advertisements in various media and the creation of sales materials. They create and implement strategies to maximize a book's exposure to the marketplace, generate buzz, and identify strong markets/audiences for individual titles. They work very closely with the sales department (below).

Publicity: In contrast to the marketing department, publicity is responsible for any promotions that the house does not pay for: author appearances on TV talk shows, reviews in newspapers and magazines, and author tours/book signings/release parties. They communicate constantly with the media, writing press releases, preparing and sending press kits, maintaining databases of contacts/publications/media outlets, and mailing galleys/ARCs to critics and (increasingly) bloggers for review.

Sales: This is my department. Sales is responsible for selling books to individual accounts, be they large chains like Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, or "special markets" that don't traditionally specialize in books (e.g. home shopping networks, home goods stores, or museums). We manage co-op (the system by which we pay retailers for premium in-store placement), maintain relationships with buyers, and mediate conversations between retailers and the publisher.

Art: Primarily responsible for the creation of book jackets, the art department works closely with the publisher, the marketing department, and the sales department to create eye-catching packaging for books. Responsibilities include securing permissions for artwork, managing any necessary freelance work, going through art morgues and stock photos for appropriate graphics, and designing and creating covers.

There are a few departments I'm leaving out for simplicity's sake, but for questions and comments, you know where to go.


  1. Aside from the historic fact that sales works with the book store accounts, why doesn't co-op fall under marketing? On the face of it, co-op sound like "promotions that the house pays for." Is it because marketing focuses on the book where co-op is as much about account relations?

  2. Thanks, you provide a great service to us aspiring authors!

  3. Does Sales pay coop payments to Walmart to get books on their racks?

  4. Production: ...

    Every time I'm told editors are underappreciated, I want to say, "Not in my world." Does that make me the under-underappreciated?

  5. Hi Deren,


    Hi Jenny,

    Yes, we do pay Wal*Mart for co-op placement, but they ultimately decide which titles they want to stock.


  6. Thanks for the insight. I want to see pictures of the inside of a publishing house. Pictures make everything make more sense :)

  7. Great information. Thanks for sharing. Great blog site!

  8. Thanks for putting this together in your concise way. Appreciated.

  9. Nice breakdown. I remember when I began interning at a publishing house a couple years ago, I was surprised at all the divisions -- like, I'd always assumed that marketing & publicity were one and the same, as were art & production. Silly me, right? My favorite department became production, simply because I had no idea how many choices there were in putting a book together!

    Besides that, I just had to comment because of the Kindergarten Cop reference in the title. Awesome.

  10. So helpful!

  11. Eric,

    As always, thanks. Do you remember when you did your, "A Day in the Life," post? Do you think you might be able to wrangle up others in your house who would do guest posts about their "Day in the Life" of those other departments? What's a day in Marketing look like, compared to a day in Promotions? (etc.)

  12. Thanks for posting this. It's very helpful to see just how the publishers tasks are segregated between each department.

  13. Excellent post.

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