Sunday, June 28, 2009

We all use math every day

In the words of a famous television math professor:

We all use math every day. To predict weather. To tell time. To handle money. Math is more than formulas and equations. It's logic. It's rationality. It's using your mind to solve the biggest mysteries we know.

Math is the reason I've been away for a few days. We're now on Day 3 of the book workshop. Basically, during the workshop, we split up into groups, form a publishing company, and buy and sell and market titles. My job within the company? Trade Sales Manager. That's right. I, who became a librarian because I was told there was no math, am now Numbers Girl. It's the job of the sales manager to predict sales based on numbers of comparable titles, to know the market and what's selling now. Sales has to know where the gaps are on our lists and how we can fill them. It's not the job I would have chosen for myself and it's not making me love math and calculations, but I find I'm learning a great new skill set, which is what I came to the course for in the first place. Sales is, as Charlie Eppes might say, using your mind to solve the biggest mystery in publishing, that is, how many copies of a book we can sell.

Like math, sales is not a job you always have to build from the ground up. There are formulas and precedents, and you use existing books to try to predict how well your book will do. Today there will be an auction for a book, and later this week I'm going to pitch our books to a buyer. (Which, for my fellow librarians, is pretty much booktalking, but to grownups, with much higher stakes.) I think of it as learning a new language. Though I still can't remember what F&G stands for.


Leigh Anne Vrabel said...

Inpsiramational! ;)

Seriously, if you can do math, I have no excuse. Thanks for the shiny example and confidence boost.

Still so very proud of you!


Maggie Stiefvater said...

I'm loving these posts on Columbia (and I'd also love to hear you blog on people who blog about books, even if it isn't the most fun in the world).

Thanks for this!