Our rebooted “Beacon Behind the Books” series is on a roll! In these times when readers are responding to our books “more than ever,” when our authors—including Aubrey Gordon, Tanya Katerí Hernández, Robin D. G. Kelley, Eboo Patel, and Gayl Jones—are appearing in the media, their ideas going viral on social media, their voices being heard on so many platforms, we thought it would be good to take a break to focus on some of the staff who work hard to find, shape, edit, produce, and promote those works. Our blog series introduces to you a staff member and gives you a behind-the-scenes look, department by department, at what goes on at our office.
To kick off 2023, we are following up with Perpetua Charles in a profile sequel! When you first met her, she was an assistant publicist. Now, she is a publicist, and there have been changes since then.
As a longtime member of the Beacon publishing team, what has changed and what has stayed the same?
I’ve been a Beacon staff member and a publicity team member for seven and a half years! In that time, I’ve witnessed the rise of podcasts as legit and meaningful coverage for authors; the gradual expansion of book sections at major publications like the Washington Post and The Atlantic; and the ongoing growth of the indie book scene here in Boston. And, of course, my work and my life have changed since the onset of the pandemic nearly a full three years ago.
A change I really enjoy is our hybrid schedule. Our staff is very fortunate to have the flexibility to work in ways that allow us to be the most productive based on our needs, comfort, and abilities during the pandemic and beyond.
What’s not changed is the varied cast of characters who continue to enter my life as a publicist. Every author brings unique personality to their projects, and therefore, to the publicity campaign. It was an adjustment to learn how to engage with authors and their books in a new work setting, but it continues to be a gratifying experience to help authors get their books out into the world.
What do you wish someone had told you about publishing when you were entering the industry?
This lesson didn’t really sink in until the pandemic, but more important than any industry know-how and technical skills you learn are the relationships you form with the people you’re working with. That goes for your staff members as well as for the authors you’ll work with over time. Can they trust you? If put under a spotlight, can they say you’re kind and respectful, even if your personalities don’t quite match up?
Being able to write, think critically, and effectively carry out a campaign are obviously really important skills you need for the job. But in my early years, I often forgot I was working with people, focusing instead on attaining perfection with every attempted effort on a book project and leaving the people who wrote the books in the lurch. I’ve learned that authors just want to know that things are going to be okay. Giving attention to the relational aspect of my work has made my day-to-day much more fruitful.
What is one book on our list that has influenced your thinking on a particular issue?
Coming out this spring, “You Should Be Grateful” explores the many nuances of adoption. Before reading this book, I’d organized my thoughts about adoption to be “good” or “bad.” I now understand that the process is far more complicated than that. The author, Angela Tucker, an adoptee herself, invites the reader into the conflicting emotions she feels as an adoptee, especially as she connects with her birth family. I find myself experiencing that conflict right alongside her. The book challenges me to think beyond dichotomies and to confront the systemic issues and the very real people that make adoption such a difficult and beautiful thing.
What current projects are you excited about?
I’m so hyped about this week’s release, The Racism of People Who Love You. The book is by Samira K. Mehta, a professor and author who writes about her experiences as a mixed-race child of a white mother and Indian father. Her writing is so thoughtful, humorous, and relatable. Though I don’t identify as mixed-race, the subtleties of navigating race in your circle of family and friends that Mehta recounts resonate with me. And if Oprah’s people think the book is a necessary read this year, so should you!
Best vacation destination?
The beach. It literally doesn’t matter where. I wish I was at the beach right now!
In an alternate universe, what career would you have?
I’d be a cosmetologist or a personal stylist in another universe. I love fashion and beauty and I love to help people find something about fashion they can connect with.
What’s the next queued song on Spotify?
“Free Mind” by Tems. Issa mood, issa vibe.
Name three things at your workstation you can’t live without.
- My planner/stickers. I recently discovered that I have approximately 10,000 stickers. They make planning fun!
- Hand lotion. Dry air in the winter sucks the joy out of these hands.
- My headphones. When I need to shut out the world and focus, they help me do that in an instant.
Perpetua Charles joined Beacon Press in 2015. She is a graduate of Florida Southern College and earned her MA in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College. Perpetua has extensive publicity experience in the areas of race and culture, memoir, education, and history. Some of her favorite things include the Lord, TV, Disney princesses, books, 90s-00s teen pop, and the color pink. Connect with Perpetua on Instagram at @princessperpetuaa.