The main responsibility of publishers is to decide what books to publish. An author may submit a manuscript or may be commissioned to write a book and then the manuscripts are submitted to the publisher. When an author submits a manuscript the publisher has to make a decision based on quality and suitability of the book for the company's publishing list.

Commissioning general books requires an ability to accurately assess trends in the reading market. Commissioning for educational publishing entails maintenance of regular contact with government or university departments, depending on the sector of education, to establish suitable subject areas in which to publish. Once a reading trend or subject area has been identified, the publisher needs to find suitable authors to write manuscripts and negotiate publishing contracts with them.

When a book is accepted for publication it is subjected to a process of editing, design, production and marketing. In medium to large sized publishing houses specialized personnel often control each of these processes. The publisher needs, however, to keep in touch throughout the process as budgets, deadlines, publicity and special editorial agreements are ultimately his / her responsibility.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate


What to Study

No specific educational requirements. Skills are usually developed on the job and through in-house courses in the publishing industry. Several years’ experience in the publishing industry, usually as an editor or in marketing and sales, is essential. However, entry to this occupation may be improved if you have degree qualifications in journalism, communication, business studies, marketing or an area in humanities, such as English. These courses are offered at most universities.

The Publishing Training Project offers a range of short courses including:
  • Publishing Overview
  • Publishing Management
  • Commissioning
  • Editing
  • Production Management
  • Book Design


This type of work is specifically geared towards employment by a publishing house. The majority of publishers in this country either fall into the educational or general book category. There are, however, publishing houses that specialise in publishing for niche markets, for example, classical literature and books for children, religious and technical books.

Further Information

The SA Publishers Association of South Africa
P O Box 106
Green Point, 8051
Tel: (021) 425-2721 Fax: (021) 421-3270

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a publishing house
  • develop your interest in particular types of books
  • arrange to speak to a publisher about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

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