Donatich worked as director of National Accounts at Putnam Publishing Group from 1989 to 1992.
He then worked at HarperCollins from 1992 to 1996, serving as director of national accounts and then as vice president and director of product and marketing development.
From 1997 to 2003, Donatich served as publisher and vice president of Basic Books. While there, he started the Art of Mentoring series of books, which would run from 2001 to 2006.
In 2003, Donatich became the director of the Yale University Press. In 2009, he was involved in the decision to expunge the Muhammad cartoons from the Yale University Press book The Cartoons that Shook the World for fear of Muslim violence.