Friday, July 3, 2009

Bright future in sales

At the writing of this post, I have slept about 9 hours in the past 2 days. Such is the way of life during book prospectus week at the Columbia Publishing Course. During this week, the class is split into ten groups, which must, by the end of the week, put together a prospectus for their publishing company. They elect a CEO/Publisher and nine executives, each responsible for a different aspect of the company's overall plan. As I mentioned before, I took the role of Director of Trade and Special Sales, a role that I wouldn't have necessarily chosen for myself but I'm glad I got. Learning about returns, profit and loss margins (though putting together the actual p&l for each book was someone else's job), how print runs are decided, and how books get into consumers' hands was really interesting. Book workshop week also meant a string of 18-hour-days, and I think I am not the only one in the program who, after the last long night of the program, was considering a career as a bus driver.

One thing I found very useful in my sales position was my booktalking experience. It's the job of the sales director to pitch the company's list to buyers, which means working with the editorial department on coming up with just the perfect hook for each title. In this case, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to pitch my (just for school, not real) imprint's titles to Sessalee Hensley, who is the fiction buyer for Barnes & Noble. Can I say that I totally want to be this woman when I grow up? There is no one who knows more about selling books than she does. Naturally, everyone was nervous about the sales meeting, but I used this line of logic: For years a big part of my job was pitching books to middle-school students. Not only could I pitch six books in ten minutes instead of our allotted twenty if I had to, nothing Sessalee could do or say would be worse than anything any eighth-grader has done or said during any of my booktalking sessions. With this knowledge in hand, I have to say I had a great time doing the pitches.

Sales pitches done, it was time to rework some numbers, because you know that when Barnes and Noble wants to buy 30% of your first print run, you're probably going to end up printing and selling more books than you'd planned. Long nights in tutoring sessions plus lots of help from our awesome visiting professional staff means that I think I have a basic understanding of how sales departments work, knowledge I didn't have a week ago.

I'm still a little fuzzy from the week, but with my newfound understanding of the numbers side of publishing, I have some blog and journal entries to respond to. That's coming after I finish editing an article for SLJ.

1 comment:

Roger S. Williams said...

Awesome. Did you have a sales meeting with reps? Now that's fun.