What I learned from working in editorial at Penguin books. Marketing and Money #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

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Those of you who have visited my blog before may already know that I was offered two weeks work experience with Penguin Random House in London. The introductory post for that can be found here: I’m going on an adventure: Work Experience @ Penguin in Editorial! I worked with Penguin’s Vintage branch for two weeks from the 13th-24th March. As part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant here:

Click to browse other posts part of the hop 🙂

I decided to summarise what I learned about the editorial process.

I hope that my experiences will provide a useful insight into how one of the big five publishers works. Last time, I covered Agents and Cover design. This time, I will take a look at marketing and how authors are paid in traditional publishing.

Editorial Work Experience Marketing Money

Part Three: Marketing and Money


My biggest argument for pursuing self publishing before my work experience was that, apparently, in traditional publishing, the author is expected to do most of the marketing anyway. I figured if I have to do most of the work, I may as well cut out the middle man and go it alone.

All alone by the light of the full moon, our intrepid adventurer starts her journey!

I decided to ask Penguin about the marketing they offer authors.

Their response?

Penguin have a whole department dedicated to marketing, and another to publicity. They pay the author a lump sum in advance for their work, and they want your book to succeed so they can recuperate the initial cost and start to profit. 

What marketing/publicity departments do:

Marketing and publicity techniques are numerous, and include:

  • Billboards/Adverts at train stations:

One of the coolest techniques I saw during my work experience were the billboards for Timothy Snyder’s, ‘On Tyranny.’ The book was advertised using a series of 20 posters, one for each chapter, on a single street in London: On Tyranny Posters 

  • Newspaper and magazine adverts

  • Sending out proofs to gather reviews and quotes:

The publicity department send proofs to newspapers, TV, websites, authors and bloggers, and hope they will review the book or feature the author. Reviews are published around the release date, and quotes/endorsements are added to the cover.

  • Submitting your book to contests and book clubs:

For some books, the marketing department will try to get them featured in Richard and Judy’s book club, which generates a lot of publicity in the UK. 

  • Writing copy: For newsletters, website, magazines, adverts, etc:

Penguin have many email subscribers, and latest book releases feature in their newsletters. 

  • Twitter and internet adverts:

Penguin have a huge following on Twitter. They tweet about new books, interviews with authors, special features, and interesting articles about books and writing in general.

  • Creating an author page on their website:

Every author Penguin publishes has a page on their website: Penguin Authors. It includes links to books, the authors website and social media, a biography, videos and latest articles.

  • Shops:

A publisher aims to get your book into key shops, like Waterstones in the UK. They also make sure listings are correct on Amazon, and design and format the e-book version.

  • Metadata:

A publisher will handle metadata: Choosing the right keywords so your book shows up in google searches and on Amazon. More on metadata another time.

  • Tours:

The publicity department will arrange author tours, blog tours, signings, events, and readings to generate a buzz around new books.

Marketing departments will also watch sales, to see which strategies work.

An indication of how much marketing goes on? The marketing and publicity departments were too busy to sit down with me and show me how things worked during my experience!

The marketing department looks after numerous books, so they can only give any one book so much attention. It is definitely worth doing your own marketing to supplement the marketing your publisher does. After all, no one knows your book better than you do! 

I’m not published yet, so I can only go on what I observed. It would be interesting to hear experiences from published authors about marketing before, during, and after launch.

The walls of Penguin’s offices are like this: It’s like working in a giant library of books!

Marketing doesn’t always work or reach everyone. Until a new friend lent me the book, I was convinced that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was on stage only!

Some days, I live under a rock. Fancy TV adverts, bill boards, and magazine articles may seem impressive, a good point in favour of traditional publishing, but they don’t always work. Thinking about the market you are trying to reach, and what reaches them, is far more important!

Show me the money: How authors are paid in traditional publishing.

In the big 5 publishing houses, there are two types of payments:


When a submission generates interest from a publisher, the author is offered a lump sum in advance for their work. The figures I saw were between £2000-£10000 ($ 2500-12500). Established popular authors generate higher offers, especially if more than one publishing house is interested in their work.

An agent will take a cut of this lump sum. (15-20%)


Once a book sells enough copies to cover the advance paid, an author’s work becomes eligible for royalties. Royalties at Penguin are about 8-12% of RRP: On a cover price of £7.99, an author makes roughly 79p/1USD per book sold. Your agent also takes commission on royalties.

Not only is traditional publishing competitive, one editor admitted most authors don’t earn a lot. 

With self publishing, profit margins have the potential to be higher if you get the marketing right and your book sells well. The drawback? You have to do everything yourself, and, if printing, you have to make an upfront investment. With traditional publishing, the publishing house makes the investment, and, they pay you!

London life:

London lunch spot
My London lunch spot 🙂

On my lunch breaks, I sat by the river across from the MI6 building playing Pokemon Go and writing stories. I was surprised how quiet my sunny lunchtime spot was, given how big London is. (Although I did take lunch later than the others because I forget to eat when I’m distracted!)

Toothless doodle
I also doodle on my notebooks when I have no laptop to distract me!

As someone from a tiny town, the underground tube at rush hour was overwhelming because of how overcrowded it was. The system is mostly good though, and a cheap way to travel. It can seem daunting at first, but even someone with no sense of direction like me managed!

I hope that my insights into publishing proved useful. If any one is interested in doing work experience at Penguin UK, applications for August/September are now open until the 25th June. It’s not just editorial, you can also do work experience in marketing, publicity, rights and international sales: Work experience: Details & Apply

What is your experience with marketing? How much input did your publisher have? Are the royalties and payments more or less what you expected? How do you spend your lunch hour? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. From my understanding that marketing department at Penguin only works with most authors around their actual launch, and then authors are mostly on their own after about 3 months.

    So far my own little publisher has been great about promoting my work and especially boosting my own promotional efforts, but I’m also still in the 3 months mark so I’ll get back to you on how it ends up!

    Liked by 2 people

    • It did seem like marketing would stop not long after release at Penguin: they were always rushing onto the next project as they deal with so many books!
      Thanks for the insight on your own publisher, sounds positive so far 🙂 I hope that it continues after the 3 month mark!


  2. I seriously love your posts for the Author Toolbox blog hop! It’s fascinating learning more about the publishing industry. The advances were quite a bit smaller than I expected, although I had no real knowledge to base my assumptions on. They’re still a nice lump sum, and I guess you start making royalties quicker the less advance you receive! I can see why so many authors self publish as the returns must be bigger, especially once you’ve built your fan base with traditional publishing. Thanks for the post Louise! Where are you from, if you don’t mind me asking?

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re welcome, I’m glad you like them 🙂
      I was a little stunned by the amount an author earns too. I’d never really looked into it before my work experience. In the publishers case, the higher the advance, the more potential they think your book has. First time authors often get a lower advance, but if the book does sell well, the royalties roll in sooner! Self publishing appeals more to me, but that’s because I want to control my cover design and think less about appealing to mass market 🙂 (I feel that fantasy with dragons is somewhat of a niche these days!)
      I don’t mind 🙂 I’m based in Lowestoft, tiny town on the east coast and pretty far from London, but we do have a beach!


      • Well then I guess my taste is pretty niche 😉 I live up north, near Nottingham atm but moving next month (back) to Lincolnshire. I’ve never been to lowestoft but I’ve heard of it and I love any coast 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The On Tyranny tactic is genius. Love it. I wonder if it worked. They obviously threw a lot of money into promoting that book, which I’m sure had multiple layers to it. Today, I will spend the lunch hour sleeping, because my sleeping pattern is reversed to do too much editing. I will probably dream about that red dragon dude you drew. Thanks for another awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would have loved to see the outcome of the On Tyranny marketing too, the idea was awesome. I did get to sit in on some sales/book buying meetings and it was surprising how many copies are sold for some books!
      Poor Toothless, stuck on the hardback cover of a red notebook because it’s all I had. He’s supposed to be purple 🙂
      You’re welcome, and thanks as always for hosting 🙂


  4. Thanks. I knew that both author and publisher wanted the book to sell well, but that was it. I feel more informed now. 🙂

    I didn’t know how much effort they put into promoting books.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I look forward to your insights every month. It’s great that you’re sharing your work experience here with us and breaking some of the myths we hear about the big 5. I’m published by a small Canadian publisher, and it’s been a fabulous experience. I do a lot of marketing on my own, but I enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks so much, Louise. It is always fascinating to hear more information from someone who worked inside the industry. I attended two writers’ conferences this month and heard the same information from both agent/editor panels. It is awesome you are providing such great content here!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The full Penguin marketing treatments sounds amazing! I’m intrigued to know what kind of novel gets twenty billboards. If only all novels got such treatment! I guess it wouldn’t be as effective if they did, and it would cost too much.

    Thanks for the insight into the publishing world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The twenty billboards novel must have been one they believed in. I’m pretty sure the cost was high, although they offset some of it by letting university students design the posters! I would love to have the full marketing treatment, although the experience gave me lots of good ideas too 🙂
      You’re welcome 🙂


  8. I really didn’t have any idea how much marketing the publisher did on the author’s behalf! Thanks for sharing this.
    I currently spend my lunch hour in the car with my youngest daughter (16). She works until 2 and then we leave to go pick up her sister so we’ve been packing our lunch and eating it together as we run errands! It’s been a great chance to connect and spend time with her.


  9. I love these insightful posts of yours! I also think it’s worth mentioning that I know the larger your advance, the more marketing you’re going to get (which goes into what you said about the publisher wanting to make the money back). Marketing in general is such a mystery, it’s so interesting to catch a glimpse of how they try and do it behind the scenes. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 🙂 Very good point: The more money the publisher thinks they can make, the more they will invest, and they only give larger advances to manuscripts with the most potential!
      You’re welcome, I loved making notes on everything! If I self-pub, I have something to refer to 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi! I’m with a small press publisher. I have to do a lot of the marketing myself, but my publisher is helping a lot. Even simple things like creating promo graphics for me and getting me up on Net Galley. So as overwhelmed as I feel right now (3 weeks before launch!), I know i’d be doomed without the help I’m getting from my publisher. It does sometimes seem like it would be nicer to have someone do ALL of this for me, but I’ve grown to like being so involved in my own launch. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s good to hear that, even though you have to do a lot of marketing yourself, your small publisher is helping 🙂
      Marketing can be very overwhelming, because there’s so much to do, and so many different techniques to consider.
      I think I’d prefer to be involved too, since it sounds so exciting! Good luck with the launch! I’m happy to Re-tweet a couple of things if you’d like 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This is all SO true…and SO helpful! I’ve sat alongside self-published and small press authors at events and I see all the advantages of being published by a big press. Even though it feels like I’m still doing a lot of marketing, honestly, SO much of it is out of our control unless we want to travel the country, hand-selling our books to people 365 days a year. Traditional publishers get books into numerous Barnes & Nobles and get the word out to libraries and schools. I write kids’ books, so that part is VERY important. For adult books, bookstores may not be as big a thing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, glad to help 🙂
      Agreed: Bookstores can be important for visibility, and schools are so important for kids/young adult books. I loved my school library!
      As for adult books, I’m not sure: I do most of my browsing online nowadays, so maybe it is less necessary to have a book in a store?


  12. Oh my gosh how exciting for you to work at Penguin even for 2 weeks! Seriously, I wish I could do that. I, also, have no book to publish as of yet. My memoir seems to be taking forever. But I have published YA short adventure stories at Cricket Magazine. So at this point, I have absolutely NO experience at marketing. I’m hoping to learn lots from all of you. Thanks again for sharing your experience with the Author Toolbox followers. All best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was well worth the experience, and I learned a lot about traditional publishing 🙂
      It takes me a while to write a book too, I’ve not finished one yet because I got stuck on my first one. Short stories are amazing fun though.
      There are lots of interesting posts and I always learn something new from Author Toolbox. You’re welcome, thanks for reading :).


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