We’re stretching the definition of the word ‘publisher’. Here, a breadth of talent from editors, technologists, designers, salespeople, publicists, digital marketers, distributors, and many others come together to make each of our books a success.
Each book is a unique project, which means each process can vary from taking a few months to a few years.
Here’s our high-level guide to building a book at Penguin…
Our ‘group function’ teams have the skills and specialisms to make sure we have the talented people, the right processes and systems, and the great work environment needed to build great books. They look after a range of things from digital tools, processes, strategy, and culture. This includes HR, Technology, Facilities, Finance, and Strategy.
The acquisition meeting is the key moment when a publisher decides which books to ‘acquire’ (i.e., which books we would like to publish), by reviewing new manuscripts. This meeting involves people from a variety of departments who all give their input as to whether a book should be acquired or bought for publication.
For editors, the acquisitions meeting is a chance to present the new titles they would like to publish to our colleagues. Sales identify the possible retailers and formats the book would work well with. Publicity look for the publicity potential and media opportunities. Marketing identify the book’s potential target market and consider how efficiently we can promote the book and what marketing budget we will need for the project. Rights also identify licensing opportunities that could generate further revenue.
Finance support on the pitch financials to begin the process of negotiating terms with an author’s agent, who try to get the best deal for their author.
The Contracts and Business Affairs team supports on any finer points of a deal. They agree upon things like foreign licenses, other language editions, royalties, formats and any follow-up deals about book series or sequels. They licence extracts from our books to third parties, like newspapers, and we work with film and TV companies on prop releases.
Our editors will take great manuscripts and make them even better by working in close partnership with the author. They are a pair of fresh eyes who read over the manuscript and analyse things like the plot, tone, and characterisations. They also act as a project manager of sorts, making sure the book’s publication stays on track. Our Managing Editorial team will then take the final manuscript and proofread it to look out for any typos, grammatical errors, and inconsistencies. Legal also check for any libellous content in the manuscript.
Our Rights team extend the reach of our authors’ books so that readers everywhere can enjoy them. These include translation rights to foreign-language publishers, rights to other English-language publishers (e.g., the US, Canada, or Australia), serial rights to magazines and newspapers, and media rights for film, TV, and stage adaptations. As soon as the manuscript is ready, they negotiate the best deal to make sure we – and the author – get the best outcome. The sale of rights often helps to cover the cost of an author’s contractual advance.
Sales drum up interest and excitement for our books among retailers in the UK and around the world. The team gets our books stocked – and often in prime position – with our retailers – from big chains and supermarkets to independent booksellers, subscription boxes and brand partnerships. They negotiate on any special editions and agree on quantities and prices. The Online Sales team build and pitch for prominence on online platforms (such as Amazon or Apple for example), another important channel through which we sell our books.
Design develop the book cover, with Editorial, Marketing , and Sales all involved to share their insights on what will appeal to readers and retailers.
When considering materials and different editions (like foiling and sprayed edges for example), Publishing Operations will guide on budget, timescales, and how to ensure we are making the most sustainable choices. They will also consider things like font, branding, and accessibility at this stage.
Marketing and Publicity work together to get the book into the reader’s hands. They run pre-publication campaigns to build excitement for the book among journalists, vloggers, influencers and others, to make as much buzz as possible for the book on publication day and drive sales. After publication they’ll organise author tours, media interviews, run organic and paid media campaigns, or host events to keep up the momentum around the book.
Once checked and approved for print, Production ensures that it is produced to budget, schedule, and looks beautiful. They make sure it’s sustainably produced and manage the timelines and needs of any different editions. They will also produce and format the eBook version, whether a regular eBook or something more complex like a cookbook containing images.
We’ll also produce an audiobook version of our books which are recorded in our in-house studio or an external venue. Our Audio team will make decisions about who is best to narrate, the need for sound effects or accents, and will direct the narrator through the recording. They will then produce and edit the audio files to create a compelling audio experience for listeners.
We’re the UK’s leading book distributor with over 650,000 square feet of storage space. Our warehouse Distribution teams pick, pack and despatch more than 120 million books each year, covering over 85,000 titles. With these books going to over 160 countries, that requires our crucial Warehouse, Operations, and Logistics teams to coordinate and facilitate the scale of our operation. The Customer Service team underpin this effort as the first point of contact for all retailer queries and sales order processing.
Many of our books go on to sell well beyond the first months or even years after publication – some of our biggest books in recent years have been what we often refer to as ‘catalogue’ titles. Brand, Publicity, Marketing and Sales have an ‘always on’ approach to keep up a steady drumbeat of activity for some of our catalogue bestsellers and ensure readers can discover and enjoy them for years to come.
Our Marketing, Publicity, and Sales teams also work closely with our Brand team, who own our website and social channels, and focus on getting our books onto the radar of as many people as possible. They have a deep understanding of our readers, how – and where – they discover their next read online, and know exactly how to connect the dots through digital marketing activities to make sure they can easily find what they are looking for. Throughout all their work, they act as custodians for our well-loved, heritage brand, reputation, and the Penguin logo.