Hi everyone and welcome to my third Pursuing Publishing post! For those of you that don’t know, in this series, I hope to take you through the different roles involved in publishing and shed more light on the less known (but equally as exciting) positions.
In today’s post, I spoke to Ain Chiara Bensenouci, Events Manager at Penguin Connect, about events, her role, and the events/publishing world.
Let’s jump into some questions…
Can you explain a bit about what events is and what an average day in your position would look like?
There’s no average day in events, which is one of the reasons why I love my current position so much. As Events Programme Manager at Penguin Connect, I have varied responsibilities and I have to be able to wear different hats. Things that I will be working on a daily basis are creating programmes for our clients, working with authors to prepare for an event (now with added preparation as everything has pivoted to virtual) and liaising with colleagues from different divisions on new titles. We are a small team, which means we have to be agile and ready to learn on the job a lot. Especially recently, we’ve had to respond swiftly to the circumstances to find new ways to connect our authors and their books with businesses.
What was your publishing journey and how did you get to where you are now?
It’s always difficult to know where to start when sharing my publishing journey. Like many others, I always had a passion for books but it wasn’t until I moved to the UK over 7 years ago that I realised perhaps my dream wasn’t so unreachable.
In some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s actually only been 5 years since I landed my first publishing job. Before getting there, I had spent a couple of years building up my CV with volunteering opportunities, part-time bookselling and completing an MA in Publishing at UCL, whilst working different seasonal jobs to financially support myself. When I finally joined the industry, I started in an admin capacity in a small digital academic publisher. However, I knew I wanted to work with books and after many interviews and plenty of closed doors, I managed to move into working in international sales operations at Penguin Random House. After a couple of years in the industry, I realised that although sales is definitely my jam, I wanted to pursue my passion for events. At the time, roles in events weren’t that common and I didn’t want to stop developing my sales skills, so I patiently waited for the right opportunity whilst volunteering as Events Coordinator at the Society of Young Publishers and training to become an events manager with the Event Academy. I have never rushed anything in my career and I am a big advocate for strategical planning. I knew the right position was going to come around and with the help of Inspired Selections, I was offered my first sales and events job at Oxford University Press. OUP is a fantastic company and I had some brilliant people supporting me throughout. I progressed to become a manager and developed my skills in both sales and partnerships, as well as B2B events and people management. It was a difficult position to leave, but when the opportunity to join Penguin Connect came up, it was simply too good to pass on.
When did you first learn about events and why did you decide to pursue it as a career?
Creating live experiences and connecting people has always been something I loved, but it simply wasn’t a career option when I finished high school. Publishing can be a very traditional industry and I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I loved being in sales, but I wanted to be able to apply creativity to my job in a way that a classic sales role in publishing simply doesn’t allow you to do. That’s where I knew my passion for events was going to help me. I am now in a business development role where I can do both, the selling alongside the creative aspect.
What is your favourite thing about your role?
The purpose behind it. Books have played a huge part in helping me find my path, both personally and professionally. Being able to connect people to books that can make the same positive difference in their lives is a privilege. I believe in the power that a book has to change people, to encourage innovative thinking and to ultimately help us to build a better world for everyone. At Penguin Connect, we strive to do that and we see in action the magic that books and their authors bring to readers. It’s beautiful and always leaves me filled with gratitude for my job.
And your least favourite thing?
Often people think that working in events is all about glamorous venues and canapés, but there is actually a lot of admin work involved. Although I do love a good spreadsheet, my least favourite thing would have to be using the invoicing systems. Not a big fan, but I try to make some time each week to get it done with a cup of tea and some chocolate.
What are the top three skills needed in order to work in events?
You need to be organised, calm under pressure and an excellent problem solver!
What makes working in events unique in comparison with other publishing departments?
There is no events department at PRH and that is one of the reasons that makes being in events unique. We have an opportunity to shape a new type of role within the industry that goes beyond the traditional idea of events in publishing. As Penguin Connect, we are part of the Audiences and Audio division of PRH, which is the heart of innovative thinking when it comes to reaching new readers. We work across the entire PRH list and the breadth of publishing we interact with is huge and fills our roles with endless possibilities.
On your blog you’ve spoken a bit about moving industries – what was it about events in publishing specifically that stood out to you?
When I decided to train to become an events manager, I knew I wanted to be able to do so in publishing but I had to make sure I acquired the right expertise to be able to do a great job. Publishing can be quite insulated from the outside world, but I think it’s important to not just turn our back to the industry and look elsewhere for a job. If something isn’t happening in publishing, perhaps you can be the one bringing that new thing that can improve our industry and the way it operates.
If you could go back in time and re-do anything, what would you change about your events or publishing journey?
I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything that happened in my career, the good, the bad and the ugly, led me to where I am today and I’m grateful for it all. It wasn’t always easy, but I can say it was all worth it.
What three words would you use to describe your position?
Exciting, unpredictable and positively challenging! It is not for someone who likes comfort zones, that’s for sure.
And now for your bookish question – what book are you reading at the moment?
Untamed by Glennon Doyle. It’s utterly beautiful and I highly recommend it!
A huge thank you to Ain for taking the time to answer these questions and for shedding some light on her position!
Be sure to follow Ain on Twitter.
Thank you for reading, and as always, let me know if you have specific departments, people, or questions you'd like me to ask!