When I was applying for publishing jobs, like most Publishing Hopefuls, I thought there was only one thing I could do – become an Editor. Well, the reality is far from it! Currently, I’m a Publicity & Admin Assistant at Penguin Random House, specifically the Penguin Press division which includes the iconic Penguin Classics and Penguin Modern Classics imprints, as well as Allen Lane, Particular and Pelican books.
And so, I want to show you what a Publicity Assistant at one of the Big Five publishers actually does every day, after the hype of Work in Publishing Week. Because when I was applying to jobs last year, I had no idea what went on at Penguin, and would have loved to have known myself!
But, I’m not going to sugar-coat things. An Assistant role, whether it’s in Editorial, Marketing, Production or Publicity, can be challenging. It’s your responsibility to make sure everything within your team is going smoothly, and if you’re not on top of things, then not only are you affected then so is the whole team. It can take a toll on your mental health, no doubt. And although this blog post and the pictures in it may reflect otherwise, I was actually having quite a tough day that day.
However, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy my job. I am always immensely grateful that I’m in this position, and working at a company I have admired and tried to get into for a solid year. I look around at the bookshelves around me and see that Penguin logo, and do feel proud of myself. And if you reading this are also a publishing hopeful like I was a year ago – you should be too.
So, now that that’s all out the way let’s jump into my Day in the Life as a Publicity Assistant at Penguin Random House!
My day always starts with me heading up to Penguin Press’s floor, and to my desk. And of course in a very cute outfit! Some of you might be surprised to know that Penguin Random House have a very chill dress code. You’re allowed dyed hair and Converse (as shown lol) – but I’d say maybe not ripped jeans.
The first thing I do when I get to my desk is check my emails, if I don’t have a meeting to attend. As a Publicity Assistant, a lot of your emails will be either urgent requests from journalists who need an exact image of a book that is no longer in print, or a random person asking for a review copy of a book and there is no in-between.
In all seriousness, it’s super important as an Assistant to know how to organise your inbox and handle any ad-hoc requests from journalists, bloggers and your team alongside your main tasks. This might be: a journalist asking for images of a book or author to include alongside an article, a publicist asking you to book transport/ a hotel for an author or send a book out ASAP to a media outlet, or simply updating spreadsheets. Either way, even when you’re in the office, 99% of communication happens over email or Teams!
Once I’ve settled in and handled any urgent requests, I write my to-do list and prioritise what needs to get done. Prioritisation is a key skill for any publishing job! My tasks for this particular day included:
- Organising and sending off the team’s expenses, including scanning in receipts and making sure everything was correctly inputted into the relevant spreadsheets.
- Carrying out research for one of our poetry titles coming out next year, The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse
- Inputting the team’s orders for books from our warehouse that need to be sent to the office or elsewhere
- Reaching out to bloggers as part of a mail-out for one of our recent titles, Around the World in 80 Books
- Ad-hoc book mailings
- Replying to some urgent journalist requests for PDFs of books
A good exercise to do here is to ask yourself – how would I prioritise this list? I won’t go into too much detail about this, as I’m still learning myself, but you can read more about it here if you’re interested.
Well, for me, my priority was breakfast. Because if you come to Penguin Random House for one thing and one thing only, it should be these cookies that are ONLY 80p in our canteen!
Anyways, after that, I decided to work on all my urgent requests and spreadsheet work. No one tells you how much of Publishing involves spreadsheets. BE PREPARED! Proofreading is an extremely valuable skill to have, even if you’re just double-checking a spreadsheet, because you might just end up ordering 30 copies of a random book no one requested to the office. (Not that anyone I know has ever done that…).
As you can see, because Otherlands hasn’t come out yet, it’s still in baby proof form. Publicists usually send journalists/influencers/bloggers these for pre-publication reviews, which is why it also gets referred to as an ARC (advanced review copy). Although most mailing work is usually done through email, it’s been a nice change of pace to have to speak to people in our post-room and send books out physically.
Penguin Random House buildings do have canteens that serve subsidised hot lunches every day but I felt way too awkward taking a picture of it at lunch. So you can have a picture of our Penguin Classics library instead.
After lunch, I decided to work on those expenses. I scanned in all my colleague’s receipts and got to spend time with my favourite person in the office – the printer. (Physical organisation is just as important as digital in this instance)! You’ll get to know this boi very well if you’re an assistant, though. Publicists will usually get you to create and then print out press releases for certain titles, either to be used in mailings or in meetings with journalists.
Finally, I decided to end my day with a little trip around the world aka emailing bloggers. This is admittedly one of the parts of my job I enjoy the most, and one of the reasons I got into Publicity (in Publishing) in the first place. Being a blogger myself, it’s super nice to create relationships with other very cool book bloggers! Although be warned! Contacting bloggers/influencers doesn’t always fall under ‘Publicity’ – it depends on the publisher! Luckily at Penguin Press, I’m allowed to help out with a few if a publicist requests it. (Also feel free to reach out if you’re interested in any books under the Penguin imprints I work in)!
And so concludes my day! Thanks so much for reading this far if you did – and I really hope this helped you out if you’re a Publishing Hopeful. Keep going, and don’t give up! It’ll happen! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need any advice.
But for now, from me and this adorable Penguin Classics statue, it’s goodbye.