Creative Side vs. Business Side in Publishing
First, you must determine whether you're more attracted to the creative side of the business (editorial and production) or the revenue side (publicity, advertising and marketing).
If you gravitate toward the satisfaction of creating and packaging compelling content, then editorial and production positions are where you will be more comfortable. Professionals in both departments tend to be big readers and fans of other creative arts. But keep in mind that the skill sets needed for editorial and production are quite different and the two career paths are very distinct.
Business-side folks in sales and marketing, on the other hand, tend to be more interested in the prospect of high earnings, travel and interacting with other salespeople. Enthusiasm about books, however, is still a necessity.
The compulsion to take a chunk of text and craft it into clear, concise, and correct English is something that is simply second nature to editors. They feel the need to rewrite prose until it is "right." If you find poor spelling, mispronounced words, or shoddy journalism highly irritating, then editorial work may be for you.
Production staffers must have artistic talent and a strong eye for design that "works." They use sophisticated software tools that help them make their vision come alive in print. Those who appreciate great design, have artistic talent, and are comfortable with technology will gravitate to this creative path.
In terms of which path has the greatest earning potential or prospect of professional advancement, it's fair to say that you're more likely to reach the upper echelons of a publishing company from the editorial side. That said, the field is very competitive and poorly paid; only the highest-level editors are well-compensated.
Production careers are stressful and rarely lead to top management positions. However, senior positions pay well, and opportunities to freelance are ample.
The sales and marketing folks on the company's business side are an outgoing bunch. These are the people who organize the softball teams, are constantly on the phone, and know all the best happy hour spots. They also stand a decent chance of moving up to more senior management positions if they can move their company's products and help the rest of the company understand what's "hot" in the marketplace.
Salespeople talk for a living. Their responsibilities involve schmoozing bookstore buyers, calling on libraries, and working convention booths.
Book marketers are focused on the promotion of authors and other types of publicity for new titles. Successful marketers are strong communicators and not afraid of hitting the phones to arrange book signings and talk show appearances.
Sales and marketing professionals must be detail-oriented. Designing publicity campaigns, coordinating advance copy distribution in time to get reviews before a book publication date, and front-loading advance sales in time to accurately estimate print runs all require keen organizational skills.