Salaries in Publishing

So how much money do publishing jobs pay?

That’s the question, right?  I doubt many people enter the publishing industry purely due to financial motivators.  I’d like to think most people have at least some semblance of passion for the industry or for writing in general.  Having a job you enjoy is great and all, but money matters.  In general, people don’t work for free.

Salary Disparity Between Agencies

The trouble with discussing publishing salaries in general terms is that the factors and variables which combine to form a specific salary fluctuate incredibly.  For example, a book editor for one agency can make as much as $80,000 while a person doing the same job for a different agency might only make $35,000.  If one examines other positions within the publishing industry, you will find that such inconsistency is much more common than uncommon.

Salary Disparity from City to City

However, it isn’t only a variance from agency to agency.  Environmental factors weigh heavily on the salaries offered.  For example, according to data collected by, the salaried positions in NYC pay 14% more than the national average.  Considering the cost of living in NYC is estimated to be 49% higher than the US average, it changes the way that 14% salary boost is perceived.

Salary Disparity Depending on Work Experience

Another important factor in determining publishing salaries is an employee’s work history and experience.  For example, browsing job listings showed that entry level candidates should expect to earn significantly less than a candidate entering with multiple years of experience in the industry.  In some cases, the disparity was as large as ~30% ($45,000 vs. $58,000).

Disparity Between Job Duties (Is It Worth It?)

The grass isn’t always greener.  Keep that in mind.  It’s important to be aware that the job duties and responsibilities of a particular position can vary significantly from one employer to another.  For example, when comparing job listings for Editorial Assistants, such fluctuation is apparent.  Different agencies have different expectations for their particular positions.  As a potential employee, it is important to consider if a higher salary for one agency is worth any potential added job responsibilities.  By the same token, some people might be glad to take slightly lower salaries if it results in a lower-stress environment.  In the end, it is ultimately about both choice and weighing benefits vs. costs.


As I have tried to make crystal clear, it is virtually impossible to establish an “average salary” for a particular position within the publishing industry.  Not all agencies utilize the same set of staff positions, and some agencies double or triple (or more and more) up on job duties.  That being said, I have browsed listings and self-reported salaries for an assortment of publishing jobs.  Below you will see a list of salary averages for each position.  Remember, these salaries are dependent upon several factors and absolutely should not be taken as verse.  They are simply a rough guideline for what a person might expect when entering into a position in the industry.

Lots of Numbers

Book Editors – $62,000
Managing Editor – $76,000
Editorial Assistant – $33,000
Copy Editors – $41,000
Literary Agents – $60,000 (HUGE range. Huge.)
Literary Scouts – $48,000
Publicists – $44,000
Production Editors – $47,000
Marketers/Copy Writers – $47,000
Sales – $SomeNumberThatHasTooManyVariables
Photographers – Mostly Freelance, so payment has a wide range
Art Editor – $34,000
Commissioning Editor – $55,000
Translator – $50,000
Web Content Manager – $94,000 (One of the most consistent salaries)
Publishing Editor – $45,000
Magazine Features Editor – $52,000
Proof-reader – $45,000
Publishing Rights Manager – $30,000

Discussion Questions

  1. If you were to take a position within the publishing industry, do you think you would prefer a higher salary with more job responsibilities or a lower salary with fewer job responsibilities?
  2. After looking at these salary “averages,” do any of them stand out to you in either a good or bad way?  Do any seem higher than you might have expected?  Do any seem lower than you expected?
  3. Are there any publishing jobs not listed here that you would like to look into in regards to earnings?
  4. For anyone considering a career in publishing, does seeing the consistency present among the digital media-related publishing careers, does it affect how you might approach your job search and/or skill building?
  5. The majority of publishing jobs are located in areas with a higher-than-average cost of living.  Do you think it would be worth it to take what could proportionally be a pay decrease in order to take a position in one of these areas?  Do you believe the potential for additional networking and/or exposure outweighs the loss in purchasing power?


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