A Peek into Publishing: Publishing Assistant

Welcome back to the latest Peek into Publishing! We love showing you around our departments and offering insight into a wide range of roles – take a look at our Peek into Publishing page for more posts if you want to work in publishing. This week we’re delving into the world of what it’s like being a Publishing Assistant with Desola Coker.

Desola Antonia Coker, Publishing Assistant

How did you get into the industry and into your current role?

I’d been trying to get into publishing for a while, starting early in my undergrad year when I applied for the Penguin Work Experience placements. I never got in, and it was incredibly difficult to pursue this as I spent a year of my university education abroad. I graduated during the very beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and had been seeking a job since then.

Also, I had a publishing mentor who is honestly the greatest gift I can give to anyone. My mentor, Ruth, coached me on so many things. She helped me with my CV, showed me how to curate my bookstagram to appeal to publishers and also taught me interview skills that helped me land work experience at a Literary and Film Agency in May 2021.

Working at the agency really opened my eyes to the agenting side of publishing, and introduced me to the chaos that is contracts, royalties and deals in general. I really enjoyed working there, and made connections with people that proved pivotal.

After scrolling through Twitter in mid July ’21, I spotted that Angry Robot were looking for a publishing assistant to take over from their previous one. As I’m an avid SFF reader, I decided to apply. It turns out my manager knew someone from my work experience at the agency and reached out to them to ask about me! I completed a task before my second interview, and shortly after this, received a formal invitation for the job.

What does your day to day look like as a Publishing Assistant?

As a publishing assistant, I aid the editorial, publicity and marketing people on our team. There are always a lot of emails! Most days, I spend the bulk of my mornings answering emails that may have appeared overnight. As a lot of our authors are in America, they operate on different time zones, so there are more emails to deal with daily than I first anticipated. Then, I carry out admin requests for the rest of the Angry Robot team, such as updating metadata, posting content on our Twitter account or drafting up contracts for deals.

When I’m in the office, I’m usually sending out proof copies of our books to bloggers and the press. I’ve started to take on more responsibilities such as organising events and doing publicity for certain books, as well as making videos for our TikTok account.

Sometimes, I take in copy edits and proofreads from our freelancers before sending them off to the authors to work on. I’ve been taught how to make digital ARCs as well. Soon, I’m anticipating learning more about typesetting manuscripts. 

What were you most surprised to learn when you started working in publishing?

How much jargon there is! The word ‘embargoed’ barged into my dictionary and it’s pretty much become part of the every day now. I told my friend a secret recently and said ‘it’s embargoed information’ or something like that, and she looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language.

What is the best thing about your job? 

I love chatting to the authors! Sometimes I feel like I am nattering on about nothing when I initially email them a request, but each one of them has replied thoughtfully and kindly. They’re all so friendly, and I don’t know why I expected differently!

I also love looking at the covers: the design team at Watkins are brilliant. Sending them a cover brief always makes me happy as I can’t wait to see what they’ll make of it!

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Getting everything done in time! There’s always a lot of things to do, and sometimes I feel like I’m lagging behind. I’m always conscious of things I’m forgetting, and it makes me feel guilty when I don’t get things done in a certain time frame. I’m learning to be much easier on myself when I don’t get these things done as fast as I anticipated, as they will get done. They always do.

What would be your top tip for people applying to work in publishing?

Everyone says you need to figure out which exact department you want to work in, and while I think that’s true, I also think that it’s important to find someone in that department to talk to. A mentor is often key in aiding success if you want to work in publishing. My mentor was brilliant, and still is: she went above and beyond to help me out, and offered an ear to vent my struggles when an interview went wrong, or a job that I thought was perfect to me sent a big fat no back.

It’s important to have one in this industry because they know how hard it is to be in this industry. They have vast amounts of knowledge! Finding a good mentor is key.

What’s one Angry Robot book you’d encourage everyone to read?

It’s difficult to choose just one, but I would say The Cabinet by Un-su Kim. Initially published in 2006, it was translated from Korean and released by us in October 2021 and is a delight! It won the Munhakdongne Award, which is South Korea’s most prestigious literary award. If you’re a fan of his previous novel, The Plotters, or are just interested in researching the South Korean wave (Parasite, Squid Game, BTS and BIGBANG! Start there!), you may want to pick this book up too.

Tell us about a project you’re currently working on

Oh, where do I begin? I’m really excited for the reissue of one of our backlist books, An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows! I also am very excited for the release of Tik-Tokker Stacey McEwan’s book Ledge, which is just… you guys will see when it comes out in September!

That’s all for this week! We hope you gained a little more insight into what it’s like to be a Publishing Assistant. We wish those of you wanting to work in publishing the best of luck! If you want to learn more about upcoming “A Peek Into Publishing” projects, follow Watkins on Twitter.

You can also follow Desola on Instagram and Twitter!

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