Swoon Spotlight: Stuart M.
As part of our ongoing effort to give you a glimpse behind the scenes of publishing, we are bringing you: Swoon Spotlight! This week we are featuring Stuart M., a Swoon Reads staff member who has volunteered his time, energy, and enthusiasm to the imprint—while still being amazing at his regular job!
What is your official title?
Senior Sales and Publisher Administration Manager.
Briefly describe your job?
I work directly with our field sales representative and national account managers to provide selling tools, marketing information, and customer service assistance while developing promotional opportunities for them to explore.
How long have you been in your current position?
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Delving deep into our books… frontlist and backlist. My whole publishing career has centered around the book: Knowing about it, how to promote it, how to engage our customers and sales people, and how to sell. My own field sales experience has helped shape what I do at Macmillan.
What’s your least favorite part of your job?
Routine paperwork, collation of data, and some pretty tedious meetings which are conducted by those who could use a few lessons on how to move a meeting along!
Common misconceptions about book publishing.
Simple: That it’s always literary and lighthearted… and it’s about books and reading and looking at pretty children’s books and having fun, fun, fun till your daddy takes your T-bird away! Today, especially, there is a cold hard reality to the bottom line through distribution and co-op advertising, marketing and publicity, and some good-natured and friendly in-person visits as well.
If you could have any other job in book publishing for one day, what would it be?
Retail bookselling. I actually started my career as a retail bookseller. I did that for 7 years. I may return to it upon retirement, or at least stay active in some area of literacy and book distribution!
Funniest way you’ve heard a friend or family member describe your job?
My title does not fully explain what I do, so I’m always explaining my job duties to everyone. My family, who are not at all involved in publishing, simply think that I sell books. They remember my retail bookselling days–know that my house in Connecticut is stuffed full of many years of bringing home “review copies,” that I still spend way too much money on buying more books–and so it’s easier for them to simply think that I sell books. They know that I spent years as a field rep for another major publishing house, so selling books is the easiest way they come to terms with what I do. That’s fine with me.
What did you study in school?
Undergraduate degree in English: American and World Literature, with credits in Marine Biology and Earth Sciences. Graduate studies in Communication Arts and Sciences. American Literature and Marine Biology.
Do you use your degree in your current job?
My English and literature studies are the source from which I draw my abilities to communicate to the reps, compose sell sheets, create promotional materials, and speak publicly at various company and customer functions… so yes, it is at work for me at Macmillan.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
While going to college as an undergraduate, I was a switchboard operator in a welfare hotel on the upper west side of Manhattan, on Broadway. The characters that lived there would come in drunk, disheveled, sometimes violent, sometimes quite drug-addled… and this was morning, noon and night! The hotel has long since gone out of business, and has even been demolished. It had one of those old fashioned Lily Tomlin-style switchboards… plug-in, plug-out boards… and I could hear the conversations due to the poor quality of the board. One person living there would call down to me to ask what the time was just about every day. She did not own a watch or a clock! Once I overheard a telephone plot to rob a small supermarket on Broadway, so I notified the police who did a stake out there for a whole week. No robbery ever occurred. Was it my intervention? Maybe!
How did you get into publishing?
Working in a retail bookstore while going to graduate school at night, a Simon & Schuster sales rep who called on my store told me about an opening in their telephone sales department and how he would arrange for me to meet the person hiring for the job. I had known that my store was about to be sold and I would probably lose my job, so I did go on the interview and was hired on the spot! That was many years ago.
What made you want to be involved with Swoon Reads?
The opportunity to start a new imprint, and see it grow from nothing into a major enterprise for Macmillan. The subject matter and the crowd-sourced possibilities for finding something special are also exciting.
What do you like most about working with books for young adults?
The excitement of getting young people to read and love books. Any kind of reading enriches, but watching a passion develop is pretty awesome.
What’s your favorite genre of romance?
Historical romance, with period settings in early America and the Victorian era. Contemporary romance, which incorporates women who are strong and self-sufficient, but not overbearing. I like settings that place the natural world into the storyline and help determine the heroine’s actions. Any story that has an ecological or “earth friendly” background or setting really interests me.
What’s the first romance you ever read?
A very dear friend of mine, who is a Georgette Heyer fan, persuaded me to read, what she had called one of the best historical romances ever written: These Old Shades. This is the book that really launched the career of the very prolific Georgette Heyer. It is set in the Georgian period, just before the arrival of the Regency period, reads very melodramatically, and is filled with the social mores of the day and period language that is right on the mark! Highly recommended for a true glimpse of this little-written-about British period.
What does your desk look like on any given day?
My office is always quite neat… no excess crap lying about. Books are neatly organized on wooden bookshelves, papers are under control, file folders are neatly stacked… EXCEPT WHEN SOME PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS GET DELIVERED. That’s when my office starts to look like a UPS facility! I’m avoiding using the “S” word to describe what it looks like under these conditions. It can look like shiitake mushrooms . . if you know what I mean!
What’s a book you wish you’d worked on?
Perhaps my favorite American novel, Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. It’s passionate and sensuous in places, and Oh-so- descriptive of the human condition at the turn of the 20th century. Suggestive in its passion, but never openly “in your face!” The censors of the day would not have allowed that.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Be prepared for major changes in book publishing. Forget about the notion of discovering the great American novel, or Max Perkins editing the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Modern book publishing is an exciting business with many opportunities to work with great editors, publishers, and authors. The business model of publishing is not wonderful … so your love of books and literature have to carry you through a business that is quirky, unpredictable, and easily changeable based on reading habits and tastes of the times. It’s what I have been involved in for all of my adult life.