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?



Dark Horse Comics



Dark Horse comics is a comic book publisher that currently publishes over 70 monthly releases. Each book employs it’s own authors, illustrators, and editors in the Pacific Northwest.

They have a healthy mix of original content, as well as adaptations from other media.  Due to their variety of offerings, their intended audience is not as specific as one might expect.  The comic book industry is widely dominated by Marvel and DC comics, so individual publishers do not have an intended audience so much as individual books have an intended audience.

Dark Horse advertises mostly in comic book shops.  One of their techniques is to provide free copies of promotional issues to be left at the counter of comic book stores.  The idea is that the clerk will hand these out to customers who are purchasing a competitor’s product.  The hope is that the customer will read the issue and begin purchasing the subsequent releases.

Dark Horse was actually founded by an individual, Mike Richardson, in 1986.  He maxed out a $2,000 credit card to open a comic book store but was frustrated by the products available to sell.  His response was to self-publish two comic books that fit more into his expectations. He then began to reach out to independent comic book authors, providing them an opportunity to display their work in his shop.  It has since grown into a company with an international audience funded by in-issue advertising targeted toward readers of specific books.  For example, readers of a comic such as The Legend of Zelda are met with advertisements from cartoons, anime, video games, and snacks.  Meanwhile, readers of a book such as The Occultist are met with advertisements for cars, home entertainment systems, alcohol, and R-rated films.

Since its meager conception in the mid-1980’s, Dark Horse has struggled for market-share against the Marvel and DC giants.  It currently sits at 2.59% of the comic book market share, also behind Image and IDW.  Though many consumers are unaware of Dark Horse’s existence, their influence has been large.  Dark Horse is to thank for many popular franchises in comics, television, and film.

Additionally, many established media franchises claim Dark Horse as a home for their comic book adaptations, since they rely on the title to sell the book rather than the notoriety of the publisher itself.  Since it costs the rights holder less to publish through Dark Horse, it is a win for them.  It is through these books that Dark Horse is able to secure extra profits in order to entice up-and-coming authors/artists.  Some of the franchises that have published comic book tie-ins through Dark Horse are:

“I’m Accustomed to Being a Symbol…” -Steve Rogers


I have chosen to discuss one of my favorite comic book covers.  This issue, Captain America Volume 1, Issue #332 was published by Marvel Comics in August 1987.

Writer:  Mark Gruenwald

Artists:  Mike Zeck, Klaus Janson

This issue is a particularly significant issue in the Captain American canon.  The content and tone of this story arc is darker than most of what the hero had experienced for several years.  Additionally, the central conflict showcased during this period was chiefly internal and dealt with complicated decisions rather than powerful enemies.  I believe the cover design perfectly reflects both the tone the author intended.

Who is the audience?  How does the design appeal to that audience?

The audience for this book is quite clear.  Captain America’s target audience has always been comic book fans of all ages.  This issue is no different.  However, one of the challenges with selling comic books is retaining your readership. The unique style of this cover is one that appeals to both a casual fan, a devoted subscriber, and everything in between. Most covers at the time were more of a literal preview of the issue’s contents rather than a symbolic representation.  Artwork like this would stand out on the shelf, as well as draw in fans that may have missed many of the events leading up to the contents of this issue.

How does the layout aid readability and understanding?

The cover art itself contains very little text.  The words “CAPTAIN AMERICA NO MORE!” are prominently featured at the top of the page with uniform typeface and high contrast.  These elements combine to draw the attention of the viewer.  It is obvious this is an important moment in the story arc, but it is vague enough to entice a potential reader to pick the issue up to find out why Captain America is no more.

How do images clarify and enhance the text?

The images on this cover are powerful.  As I mentioned, most covers would typically feature Cap along with the particular villain of the issue.  I happen to know this issue featured a villain called Warhead, but he is nowhere to be found on the cover.  By featuring, in the foreground, a lone image of the hero in such a state of anguish, it illustrates that the threat against him is not a physical threat.  This builds intrigue around the plot itself and further entices the reader to get the book in his or her hands.

The background image of the hanging American flag–the symbol of Captain America himself–is a poignant image, as well.  It hangs behind him in a crude allusion to a jail cell.  The stripes are angular and harsh.  Then when it reaches the ground, the bold red stripes are turn into a more organic image, almost blood-like.

My favorite image on this cover, though, is the one in top-left.  The image is obviously Abraham Lincoln. If you look closely, you will see that he is crying.  Abraham Lincoln is typically associated with freedom, and seeing his tears in response to the potential loss of Captain America reinforces the significance of the cover text itself.  This would have been particularly noticeable for a contemporary audience.  The convention of the time was to include a logo of the title character. Such a drastic change from that expectation would have drawn eyes all on its own.  Check out some of the other corner logos from Captain America issues released during the same volume:

What mood does the design evoke? How do the design elements work together to create that mood?

These images and stylistic choices unite to establish an element of both suspense and concern.  The color choice in the main artwork is limited to the strict palette of red, white, and blue, also unusual for the time.  This is yet another instance of uniqueness that establishes the importance of the issue itself.  By doubling down on the remorseful representations of the two “great Americans” featured on the cover, the artist communicates to the viewer that there is a particularly anguishing event within the pages.  The title text ties it all up with its unclear preview of what that event might be.

-Thomas E. Moran