Working in Publishing: An interview with Ben Willis

June 11, 2015, Article by Tom in Books, Careers

This week we’re taking a look at the world of publishing and, more specifically, careers in the industry.

Today’s publishing expert interview is with Ben Willis, Head of Digital Publicity at Transworld, Penguin Random House. Here’s Ben telling us more about life as a publicist…


Hi Ben, your job seems quite cool. But what do you actually do?

Hello MWSAB – thanks for asking. You look good, by the way – have you had a haircut?

I’m a book publicist, but I also get to do a lot of cool digital bits and pieces too (including working on blogger initiatives, and thinking about ways to make more efficient everyday processes of the job, etc).

That sounds like a lot of fun. But what’s the best part of your job as a publicist?

Does it?  Meeting lots of people from all areas of the industry – from authors to booksellers, librarians to readers, publishers, broadcasters, journalists. It’s the best of all worlds, really.

And the free biros.

And can you tell us about the long and winding road that has led you to your current role?

The A3412 from Swindon to London, all the way to junction 14 (via Winnersh). I did some work experiences with the good folk at Ebury Publishing – and then was lucky enough to get an interview shortly after. I was rather fortunate, but for many fortune plays at least a small factor.

You must have had several mentors along the way to hold your hand, guide you, offer words of wisdom. Who were they?

Sam ‘Smeados’ Eades, now of Orion fame, has been a (mostly) guiding light for much of my career. Plus, she knows where all the coolest karaoke places are.

You’ve had many successes, sure, but what would you say has been your finest career hour?

Belinda Bauer once bought me a t-shirt which had printed on it: ‘I was Belinda Bauer’s publicist for 3 years and all I got was this lousy t-shit’

The intentional misspelling at the end, I fear, was to add insult to injury.

If an aspiring publicist came to you looking for advice on getting into the industry, what tips would you give them?

‘You know, who’s to say, you keep your head down, you could be in the hot seat’ – DAVID BRENT, 2001


If you’re interested in a career in publishing, why not apply to attend the latest Hachette UK Insight Into Publishing event? It’s on the 1st July, and applications close on June 14th. Apply here!

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 14.12.01