An Insider’s Story - Working in publishing

I sell books for a Publisher.  I sell primary custom book products (boxsets, special editions and other one-off products) to Trade customers including WHSmith and Tesco.  I also create large scale promotional offers eg multi-buy paperback promotions for supermarkets such as Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury and Morrisons.  I also sell to non-Trade book retailers such as The Works.

I have always been a book lover and it sometimes seemed too simplistic to say that I just wanted to work with books but when I think about it in those terms I am lucky to be doing what I do. Originally I wanted to work as an editor, which is what most people think of when they think of Publishing.  I began working as an assistant in the Commercial dept of the BBC where they licensed programme material.  I worked helping to assist the Sales Manager license rights to Publishers to create book tie-ins to programmes.  From there, I then got a job working in the Sales dept of an illustrated book Publisher.  It was a small company and I was able to get an overview of all parts of the publishing process.

I like being able to work with books but be focused on the commercial side of the business.  Being surrounded by creative people can be very stimulating but also quite frustrating at times so I like to have the mix and be able to approach the books that I sell from a commercial perspective.  It’s not always possible to love every book but the thought that you can make money out of them means it’s always interesting.  I also like working on the non-traditional side of the business.  It’s sometimes quite hard to explain to someone not in the industry that you don’t just sell new books to Waterstones or Amazon but it’s a very unique side of the business and contains some very unique characters.

I think that the things I wish I had known aren’t necessarily restricted to my industry. The main thing I wish I had known is how many passengers a big company can carry who don’t pull their weight.  When you’ve got a customer who wants to buy something, hearing the phrase ‘it’s not my job’ and getting passed around can drive you mad.

Book publishing is going through a rather turbulent transition at the moment.  The rapid growth of e book sales, internet shopping, and the impact of the recession on the high street means that my industry is changing rapidly.  I don’t think anyone really knows what the next few years will bring.  People will still want to read books but how they read them and where they buy them may be very different to now.  Although there seems to be no shortage of people wanting to enter the industry I think if you want to get in you should have a flexible attitude and be prepared to start anywhere.  Digital marketing and a working understanding of social media seem to be the main buzzwords at the moment.