© Penguin Random House 2019
Entry Level // Publicity Department
What does a Publicity Assistant do?
A Publicity Assistant’s job can be very varied – you can be doing completely different things from one day to the next – which makes it a fun and fast-paced role.
Ultimately, a Publicity Assistant’s role is to support the wider Publicity team in developing and executing their book campaigns; helping to make sure they have everything they need to engage readers and drive sales. That usually covers a wide range of activities, but includes dealing with press enquiries, drafting social media copy, and sending books to journalists, influencers and bloggers. It also includes helping plan for events such as book launches – from researching venues to putting together goodie bags for the end of the night.
They will often be responsible for liaising with multiple colleagues and high-profile authors, illustrators, agents, licensors, journalists and booksellers.
It’s important to remember that, as with many entry-level jobs, admin does play a significant part in a Publicity Assistant’s day-to-day role. They are often the glue that holds the team together: from helping more senior colleagues manage their diaries, and updating databases, to making travel arrangements for authors and processing invoices. They will also usually support the day-to-day running of the office by answering calls and emails.
Publicity Assistants will usually have the opportunity to progress higher up the team over time. The basic skills and experience you learn as an assistant on how to plan for and execute a book campaign will prove invaluable as you look to take on more senior roles in the future.
What is a Publicity Assistant good at?
- Being organised, planning in advance and working to tight deadlines (as some book campaigns will be planned up to a year in advance of the book’s publication)
- Being creative and not being afraid to do things differently or push the boundaries to make a book stand out from others in the market
- Creating written and/or visual assets to create a campaign. This might be writing a press release or copy for a website or social media post, or working with a designer to create a poster or piece of promotional material
- Have great people skills and enjoy meeting new people, because working in this role requires speaking to and spending a lot of time with other people in the industry – from other colleagues to booksellers, journalists, bloggers and designers, and of course the author themselves
- Engaging in the world around them, whether that’s pop culture, social media or the news, and will think about how to use these channels in new and different ways to reach readers and what different audiences are interested in
- Being determined and having the tenacity to give 100% to a project, even when the sales of a book are lower than hoped – as sometimes a book’s success takes a while to get going
- Being passionate and enthusiastic about what they do!
Who does a Publicity Assistant work with?
Publicists will usually work very closely with the Marketing Team on a book launch and campaign. Whilst similar, people working in Marketing would work on ‘paid-for’ promotion for a campaign – i.e. raising awareness of a book through advertisements, brand partnerships or digital campaigns – which is different to the work that publicists do with the media.
How do I become a Publicity Assistant?
There are several different routes to becoming a Publicity Assistant.
At school, college or university
Publishers won’t require you to have done any particular subjects at school to go into Publicity.
These days, many publishers will not require you to have a degree to work in their Publicity departments either. Of those that do, they will generally not require a specific degree; instead they will be looking for the skills and interests mentioned above (e.g. organised, creative, good interpersonal skills, interest in the media etc.)
Gaining experience elsewhere
Alternatively, some people enter this area by working in Publicity for a company in another industry (which could be anything from fashion to TV, or food to technology) and then moving across to publishing once they have a few years’ experience. Other people will work in a Publicity agency.
You will usually be able to come in at a higher level if you have gained relevant experience elsewhere. This is because the fundamental skills you learn in Publicity are generally transferrable, whatever the product, and can be applied across many different industries. In fact, many publishers see it as very helpful for employees to have experience in other industries – meaning they can bring different perspectives, fresh viewpoints and new expertise to the table.
Other experience and skills
There are many ways to start gaining experience and skills which would be useful for a role in Publicity. This could include:
- Working on a local or student newspaper to start developing an understanding of how the media works and what journalists are looking for when writing an article
- Building your own online social media following, or working with a charity or small business to help develop its presence on social channels
- Helping your school, college or other organisation develop promotional materials such as posters or flyers for events or activities
- Helping your community arrange events, such as charity fundraisers or fêtes, which require significant organisation and proactivity
- Many publishers will prefer you to have experience with Microsoft Office, including Word and PowerPoint in particular, and Microsoft Outlook to manage emails and diaries
- Organisation is key – as is taking initiative, proactivity, adapting to last-minute changes and staying on top of admin
- Building relationships in your team and those externally to promote your book is central to working in Publicity – you need to be a team player and know how to connect with others
- Communication – getting a message across clearly and with style, whether updating someone on a campaign or writing attention-grabbing copy. Those in publicity are able to demonstrate their passion and ignite it in others.
- Make an impact – whether with your creative ideas, contributing to your team or making an impression on those you meet
- Different publishers focus on different kinds of books. They’ll be looking for those who have an understanding and curiosity about the best way to reach the right target audience for their book and – most importantly – how this will lead to sales. Will it be through influencers on social media, a podcast or a newspaper review?
- Although usually not required, some publishers will favour candidates who have experience in using image editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop or InDesign
What might my next step be?
Once you have developed the relevant experience, understanding and skills in an entry-level role, you will often be given the chance to progress by being given your own book campaigns to run – sometimes in the role of ‘Press Officer’.
This means you’ll be in charge of planning and implementing a campaign, from nailing down the right audience to creating publicity materials or planning partnerships with brands. You’ll work more closely with the author of the book, often being the one to accompany them to interviews or on a book tour. You’ll also work even closer with colleagues from other teams – such as editorial, design and sales – to use your expertise to help inform decisions about other aspects of the publishing process (e.g. what the cover should look like), to make the book to appeal to as wide a readership as possible.
At some publishers, this will mean specialising in a particular genre – for example, children’s books, fiction or cookbooks, whereas at others you will still work across a wide range of different titles.
You might also decide to explore other areas of publishing and use your organisational, creative and interpersonal skills to explore roles in Sales, Editorial or Rights.
Learn more about what it's like to work as a Publicity Assistant: