Katya Ellis, Publicity Assistant at Quercus Books

Katya speaks to The Publishing Profile about working as a Publicity Assistant and her love of hardback books.

My name is Katya and I’m a publicity assistant at Quercus Books, which is a division of Hachette. I work across fiction and non-fiction titles, with a focus on literary fiction.

How did you get into publishing?

I always knew I wanted to work in publishing and so did various miscellaneous bits and bobs to try and get as much exposure to the industry as possible. At university, I did a remote internship at a small press in the US called the Santa Fe Writers’ Project, doing a mix of editorial, marketing and PR work. I also worked as a book reviewer for an American literary journal called the Atticus Review, did some work experience at an academic publisher (Polity Press) in Cambridge and volunteered at the National Book Festival in Washington DC, where I’m from, so lots of different experiences that gave me random insights into various parts of the industry. I moved to London after uni and got the job at Quercus then! 

Has your role in publishing widened your reading taste, and how has it changed your attitude to different genres of books?

I think my main reading habits have stayed the same, but I definitely read more widely now than I used to, especially when reading submissions. I’ll be more likely to read a thriller book now than I would have a couple of years ago, for instance, just because I wasn’t as exposed to them growing up.

What reading formats do you prefer? Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, audiobooks, library books, or a mixture?

Controversially, I prefer hardbacks! I love to collect and covet them, especially limited editions. I’m very protective about the physical quality of my books too, and paperbacks give me anxiety because they’re so prone to creases. So I love a good hardback with the outer sleeve taken off to read on my commute – I love how sturdy they are!

Is there a book that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?

I’m very proud to have assisted my line managers (the brilliant Elizabeth Masters & Ana McLaughlin) on the upcoming debut True Story by Kate Reed Petty as I think it’s such a brilliant & innovative novel. It’s been a lot of fun to help out on, and I’ve had so much fun being creative with the genre-defying element of the book – we did 4 different proofs, each one representing a different genre that’s covered in the book, and I made a personality quiz that told readers which proof they should get. That was really fun.

Where do you buy or access your books?

I love to go secondhand book shopping – there’s an Oxfam bookshop by my flat that I love to trawl for treasures. I also tend to go to the Daunt Books that’s near me, and during lockdown, I’ve been ordering from some of my favourite indies that I haven’t been able to get to – like Lighthouse Books in Edinburgh!

What is the oldest book on your shelf?

Back at home, I have a copy of For Whom The Bell Tolls that was my mom’s when she was studying English Language at university in Moscow back in the 80s. I also have a beautiful cookbook from the Soviet Union that my babushka gave me which is filled with traditional Eastern European dishes, but not sure how old it is exactly.

What’s the most beautiful book you own?

I have a beautiful leatherbound signed hardback of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut at home that I got one summer when I had a job cleaning out a hoarder’s house and we were told that we could take home anything we liked. It’s so beautiful and I love the story behind it.

Who is your most read author, and why?

Haruki Murakami, because when I was at school I went through a biiiiig Murakami phase and he basically inspired my literary awakening as an adult trying to figure out what my reading taste was. I love the ethereality of his books and the worlds he creates – 1Q84, Kafka on the Shore & The Wind-up Bird Chronicle are my favourites. 

What are your favourite books of 2020 so far?

In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, wow, no thank you by Samantha Irby and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo / Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor-Jenkins Reid (both not out this year but I only read them this year!)

What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2020?

Real Life by Brandon Taylor!!! Which came out in the States earlier this year and I’ve been eagerly anticipating its release for the past 5 months at least. And also Luster by Raven Leilani and Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami – very very excited for both of these. And I’m looking forward to reading Brit Bennett’s first book, The Mothers.

What book should everyone read?

Not to be a cliché, but Normal People by Sally Rooney. And also A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, Know My Name by Chanel Miller, Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and There, There by Tommy Orange. And We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby which is a brilliant tonic for these desolate and bleak times we’re living in.


Readers can find Katya on Twitter @katyaellis_ and Instagram @katya.reads.

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