But, Wait, What Do You Do All Day?
Alrighty Swoon Readers, this week I’m going to give you a little insight into what I do here at the Swoon Reads headquarters. When I’m not fulfilling my non-essential jobs of stocking the snack bowl and handling the birthday cupcakes for my department – I’m selling books. You might be like my dad and ask “But don’t the bookstores sell books? Are you sure you have an actual job?” Indeed, rest easy, I do have an actual job! And I love it.
So the Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group (the home of Swoon Reads as well as other imprints) publishes somewhere between 800-1000 books a year. The books range in age all the way from little bath books for newborn babies all the way up to young adult novels that have a lot of cross-over appeal for adults. If you walk into a bookstore – or anywhere that sells books – chances are they aren’t carrying all 974 books that we are publishing this year. In fact, if you take into account the fact that we’re publishing that many books every year (so approximately 10,000 books in the last 11 years) – they couldn’t possibly. The whole store would be Macmillan Children’s books, which would be cool, but there are good books that come from other publishers as well that people would maybe want to buy. So my job is to work with my accounts and pick some of our books to sell to them. Then they look at the list that I show them, and from there they pare that down even further. There are spreadsheets to fill out, and data entry that needs to happen and of course, – the sales call.
Once upon a time, earlier in my career someone asked what I did and I said I worked in sales and they looked at me skeptically and asked “Like those door to door guys who rolling around a suitcase of encyclopedias?” It’s not exactly like that – but it is a little like that. The accounts that I work with are national companies that have one centralized head office (there are other sales reps who work with your local independent stores – their jobs are different). So I fly to one location and meet with the person who handles buying the books. I do travel with a box (or suitcase, as it were) of samples of what the books will (hopefully) look like when it’s done, so that the buyer has an idea of what to expect. I also have a PowerPoint with me usually to go over the details of each title. The PowerPoints are actually one of the fun parts, because it means getting the covers and sometimes some interior art – and pulling it all together. One of the best parts of working Children’s book is all the amazing artwork – for picture books, but also the cover art is amazing as well. If you’re ever on an airplane and the person sitting next to you is making notes on a PowerPoint presentation with a lot of bunnies, puppies and trucks on it – there is a chance you are sitting next to me. I’m also usually selling books six months to a year out from where we are now. I just wrapped up all the Christmas sales calls, and am now pulling together Valentine’s Day titles and other books in January and February 2015. It does sort of mess with my head, usually when Christmas rolls around, it feels like it’s been coming for several months and like everyone else is late to the celebration.
I travel to see each of my four accounts a couple times a year, and in between those trips there is a lot of follow up that has to be done. Processing orders, making sure the warehouse is shipping the books, making sure the books are selling in the stores. And there are meetings here in the office – lots of them! Luckily, we sales people get to go to some of the really fun meetings, like covers meetings where we see different ideas for covers and help choose which is best for the book (similar to what you have seen here on Swoon Reads) and we get to go to acquisitions meetings, where editors present books they are thinking about buying and we tell them what we think of the books (it’s just as much fun as it sounds). There are other more business-y meetings, where we talk about numbers or scheduling. But most days, I wake up and am pretty excited to get to the office.
I know what you’re thinking – when do you have time to read? Well, my friend, that is the reality of working this job, a lot of my reading time happens after work. Almost always on my commute, and usually also before bed – and depending on how desperate I am to finish a book, I could be waking up early to read before I take my shower, if a manuscript or book is really good I’ll read through my lunch break, or sneak a few pages wherever I can (in the elevator, on the way to the bathroom, at the watercooler). This brings me to the moral of this post: most people who work in publishing love books. Like a lot. Reading isn’t just our job – it’s one of our passions. And I’m going to tell you a secret: Swoon Reads has an amazing team of readers. We talk about which Swoon Reads manuscripts we’ve read, what books are coming out, we share good books with each other (sometimes we even share bad books, just so there is someone you can talk about it with), we gift books to everyone we know. That’s one of the reasons we love Swoon – it gives us a chance to talk to more people about books. So engage in the conversation with us! If you’re reading the blogs, the manuscripts, the twitter feed, we want to talk with you. We want to know what you have to say – so post away, ask us questions, share your thoughts, my friends, because we want to hear them!