Spotlights and Sound Bites: A Day in the Life of Advertising/Promotions

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This article was contributed by YPG member Kelsey Marrujo. If you are a YPG member and would like to contribute articles on publishing-related topics for our site, please contact Tara Powers at

Even for book enthusiasts with killer resumes, that often coveted editorial position isn’t always available. Luckily though, other departments crucial in anchoring this industry—departments like publicity, marketing, production, sales, subsidiary rights, digital development, and advertising/promotions—also offer ideal entry-level experience to those keen on making a splash. To expand and enlighten readers who might be unfamiliar with these lesser-known departments, here’s a glimpse into what may be uncharted grounds: the ad/promo scene, from an assistant’s perspective.

Ever played a sport? Or read about one? Think of the relationship between coach and player. The former draws up detailed plays and strategies in a notebook, then relays them to the kids in jerseys for game-day execution. The objective: to score as many points as possible. This, in a nutshell, is how ad/promo works. However the marketing department decides to promote a title, we see those plans through by actually creating the material with which consumers will interact. This includes simple items like stickers and bookmarks, as well as gadgets whose formal names are thrown around our department: floor displays, or the mini bookshelves in stores that carry our products by genre, season, or author; risers, or the toppers that sit above each floor display, clearly identifying its contents; and shelf talkers, or printed cards attached to store shelves that draw consumers’ attention to the products being displayed. These are some of the materials aimed at introducing next season’s books as must-haves and, in doing so, maximizing sales.

As an assistant, I pull copy into special templates for each print advertisement, mostly from our in-house digital archive of titles that exist or are in development. Once the text is there, the document goes to a designer to be created and printed in-office, eventually falling into advertising’s managerial hands for revisions. Back and forth go the next few drafts until the final version returns to me, where I proofread it once more according to house style, also checking title specs—that is, making sure the title, subtitle, author name, ISBN, on-sale date, imprint, and publishing history are all accurate. Attention to detail is critical here, as jobs have been known to carry subtle errors even after two or three rounds of edits.

Besides individual print jobs, ad/promo creates digital catalogs—involving a kind of mating dance between us and the marketing and editorial departments. We coordinate with them to generate catalog copy with punch, making sure each line reads memorably and is formatted correctly. Now here’s where you have say, young publishers: if something in your in-house materials is worded awkwardly or sounds superfluous, e-mail the marketing manager or editor for clarification—and don’t hesitate to offer your own suggestions, either. In most cases, the editor will appreciate your input and ideas, making you that much more influential in the process.

This three-way dialogue sometimes expands to include the art department, since we incorporate book jackets and author photos in many of our projects. Sales conference marks the date when trade catalogs must be complete—and no one wants to exacerbate this already hectic process with missing files. It can be a headache filling in those last-minute changes before the proverbial buzzer sounds, but what the assistant must keep in mind is a picture of the finished, perfect project and the next ad/promo responsibility: preparing mass market sell kits.

Sell kits are folders holding cover proofs, sell sheets, and other goodies promoting each month’s new paperbacks. Featured on the inside of cover proofs are what we call “cover two-threes,” or printed PDFs of title information organized in a box-like layout. I create these in InDesign, inserting the title specs, keynote, selling points, marketing campaign, author bio, and backlist titles while formatting the type and spacing so that all of the elements are visually appealing and readable. After saving a draft, I route the two-threes to managing editorial, marketing, and each respective editor for corrections, inputting the changes once they are returned to me. Next comes one last proof to make sure the overall product is clean, then I export the files as PDFs and send them to the art department, inserting the final approved copy into that month’s mass market catalog.

Producing back cover copy is another way to incorporate writing into the job (go check out the back cover copy of New York Times and USA Today bestsellers or some of your favorite books for reference), and it goes without saying that this skill, much like copyediting, is excellent for use in any publishing department.

It’s a handful, but not nearly as head-spinning as it sounds. Ad/promo is about visualizing the larger picture, learning your house’s schedule, and, most importantly, communicating with other departments. It’s about voicing your suggestions and volunteering your creativity—a role that grows in time. So the next time you’re on, go out on a limb and check those advertising and promotions boxes in your search. With a department so actively involved in everyone else’s business, it’s a given that you’ll develop knowledge of who does what and, more importantly, where you think your skills would best be put to work. So stop waiting around and send in that resume—publishing is publishing, and this is one heck of a gateway in.

Kelsey Marrujo is an advertising/promotions assistant at HarperCollins Publishers and has also worked in production and editorial at Plural Publishing, Inc., and Fineprint Literary Management, respectively. Follow her on Twitter at @KelseyMarrujo or visit her blog at

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