Academic publishing refers to the sector that is occupied by university and academic presses. Academic presses may publish books aimed primarily at professional scholars and advanced research students, or they may focus more significantly upon pedagogical materials and textbooks, or produce special-use collections.
What a member of this profession does
Copyediting is only a small corner of this large and diverse industry. Acquisitions editors evaluate proposals and manuscripts from prospective authors. They seek out expert recommendations from external referees and maintain a broad view of both the discipline and the industry in order to help decide which books their organizations should publish. Production editors help shepherd manuscripts through the preparation phases and get them ready for publication. Technical staff and artists handle layout and digital design. Marketing professionals handle advertising and facilitate relationships with institutions, retail, and other end users.
As with any profession, the larger the organization you work for, the more specific your job description is likely to be. The bigger academic presses can be highly departmentalized, with a wide range of career options that range from focusing on the printed word to focusing on business. Penguin UK, for example, provides a useful and interesting tour of its different departments and their responsibilities.
Academic journals and the organizations that publish them also employ specialists in areas similar to these.
The educational path
The higher up the academic publishing career ladder you are interested in progressing, the higher the university degree you will likely need to earn. The classics acquisitions editors at the major university presses often hold Ph.D.s in the field.
In general, however, having at least an M.A. in a humanities field will often serve you well if you are interested in academic publishing, especially because the research training you will receive as a graduate student will better acquaint you with the kinds of tools you will be helping to produce and market--and will help to make you a better writer and a more discerning reader.