Steph Naulls, Communications Assistant at Penguin Books How I Made It
Steph Naulls has landed her dream job as a communications assistant at Penguin. From landing work experience through Twitter to working at the BBC studios and Edinburgh International Book Festival (where she saw Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin!), Steph tells AllAboutCareers.com how she made it and also provides advice for budding publicists.
Have you always wanted to work in marketing/publicity and publishing?
No! I didn’t even really know what a marketing or publicity officer was until I undertook work experience during university vacations.
I studied an English and American literature degree, so publishing was always in the back of my mind throughout my years at university. It was only after attending talks and careers events that I thought it was something that I could do.
I started following industry professionals on Twitter and not-so-slyly stalked them on Linked In to see what experience they had. My research showed me that undertaking work experience and internships was key to getting into publishing.
What experience did you have prior to this role? How did this help?
My first taste of publishing was during a module at university organised by a former Harper-Collins editor, Rachel Hore.
The module provided students with basic InDesign and Photoshop training and also gave students a brief overview of the industry as a whole. I quickly decided I wanted to work in a large publishing house rather than an agency. My tip to students and graduates wanting to pursue a career in publishing is to research what each specific role entails. Only once you’ve researched sales, production, design, rights, editorial or marketing and publicity can you decide what path you want to follow.
I also joined the Society for Young Publishers (SYP). They run regular events where you can meet industry professionals and ask questions. I attended a ‘career speed dating’ event last year, and ended up leaving with a month long internship at a literary agent. It was a medium sized agency specialising in international rights and was extremely valuable to experience how an agency works.
My second internship all started with a Tweet. I follow Penguin on Twitter, and regularly entered competitions to win copies of their new books. I won a copy of Judith O’ Reilly’s A Year Doing Good and the prize came with a congratulating letter, and an email address of the publicist working on the book.
I sent a review over to the publicist and they not only replied to my email thanking me for my review, but offered me work experience in the marketing and publicity department! The experience was nothing less than amazing and I didn’t want to leave. Penguin invited me back to do more experience and I kept in contact with the team between placements, and luckily a job came up in the department just as I was finishing university…
I applied for the job and was successful! My university vacations were spent doing work experience and building my CV. This, with a lot of luck and help from the lovely people I did work experience with means that I now have my dream job. I’m a very happy graduate.
Were you part of any societies at university and how has this helped you in your career?
Being part of my university’s student newspaper and literature society were paramount to getting employed. I was co-chief copy-editor at the newspaper, where I worked to deadlines and learned to work as part of a team. I was Social Events Officer for the literature society where I was able to hone organisational and event management skills; all necessary skills for a budding publicist!
What do you enjoy most about working at Penguin?
I love that every day is different. I work in an office, yet it never feels boring or mundane. The atmosphere is friendly and I’m surrounded by like-minded people that love books and want our company to succeed.
I really enjoy working with authors too. I’ve been at Penguin for a month and have met some of my all time favourites! My job also requires me to work after hours sometimes, but this is up there with the best parts of the job. I’ve been to the BBC studios for an author slot and I recently worked at the Edinburgh International Book Festival where I was in the same tent as Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin!
Describe a typical day in the life of a communications assistant at Penguin.
As just mentioned, it’s always different. My split role of both marketing assistant and publicity assistant means I can decide which path I want to go down later in my career. My daily tasks include liaising with journalists, taking messages, responding to emails and overseeing students undertaking work experience. I do a lot of admin work too, such as processing invoices, filling in budget sheets, taking minutes at meetings and ordering books.
That being said, I also do lots of creative work like writing the internal newsletter and creating presentations for meetings. I’m also in charge of some publicity campaigns and help the communications officers with their larger campaigns.
If you had one piece of advice for students wishing to break into the publishing industry, what would it be?
Put yourself out there. If you want to go into a creative industry you have to get creative with your efforts to get into companies! Where I am now all started with a Tweet, showing that just being proactive on social media can lead to the dream graduate job.
By Billy Sexton, Editor, AllAboutCareers.com
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