What It Means To Work in Other Aspects of Publishing that Isn’t Editorial
by Vanessa Di Gregorio
Note: an updated version of this post is now up on our new blog, Pub(lishing) Crawl! Click here.
Disclaimer: I may or may not be tooting my own horn here (just a little). I’m also not going to talk about writing – I’m going to be talking about my career and the publishing biz for those of you who are interested.
Ah, publishing. The glamorous life of schmoozing with authors, publishing great books, spending extensive amounts of time reading, and a whole lot of talking (or so people like to think). When people think of the publishing industry, people think of writers and editors. When writers think of the publishing industry, they think of agents and editors and bookstores and that damn slush pile. But people don’t really think about all the other aspects of publishing – all the marketing and the publicity and the sales people that lead to the things an author truly wants; for their books to be on the shelves in stores and do well.
When I first started out in this industry, my dream job was first editorial – but I didn’t even know what type. Then I realized that I loved substantive editing – looking at the big picture of a manuscript such as plot, characters, etc. And then I interned at a literary agency and thought, “this is what I’d love to do”. But ultimately, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought that I would probably not make any money for a year as a literary agent (props to all of you lit agents out there!) – especially since the hubster self employed. I wanted one of us to have a stable salary. And so I looked for other things I wanted to do; other areas of publishing where I could fit in.
During high school and part of university, I had worked at a book wholesaler, selling to schools and libraries. I took English Literature in University, went to school for Publishing, and figured my experience would get me places fast. But it wasn’t easy – publishing is VERY competitive (especially here in Canada). The only way to get an editorial gig in-house is to go freelance for years and then hope some editor somewhere kicks the bucket (sad, but true). And I wasn’t willing to be that patient (especially since the majority of publishing peeps are healthy, unlike me). So I looked into publicity. And marketing. And sales.
I was already familiar with sales from that wholesale job, and familiar with online marketing thanks to this blog; but when I began working at this sales agency I realized that I didn’t know a lot. Marketing, publicity, and sales are all major aspects of publishing, and all as important as editorial. I didn’t realize that publishers had sales reps who went to accounts (bookstores, wholesalers, gift stores, etc) and sold them their list. I don’t know what I thought – maybe that if a book was published, people just magically carried it. I didn’t realize you had to SELL to the sellers.
I’m lucky to be working for an agency repping some of the best publishers out there. Over 30 of them. And my job is to pick out what works for stores, which books deserve to be highlighted.
Selling is fantastic. Selling means talking to people about great books. It means getting excited about a new list every season, and making an impact on the people who, in turn, impact your average reader just by shelving a book in their store. It means grabbing a coffee, chatting, going through catalogues and samples, and learning what some book and gift stores have preferences for. It means going to book fairs and gift shows and finding new homes for books. I put the books out there – I can give the little guys a chance. And I think that’s pretty amazing. Will everyone listen to me, or have the same taste as me? Probably not. But I can try my damn hardest to get a book on the shelves if I really believe in it.
And you know what’s even more awesome? That I can actually do that now. Because I’ve been promoted to Sales Representative for Central Ontario and Inside Sales (told you I was going to toot my own horn, haha!). I’m going to be able to drive around with catalogues and samples in hand and I’m going to get to geek out over gorgeous covers, brilliant authors, and fantastic books with other people who love them as much as I do.
So those editors who sit in a chair for hours and hours, working on an author’s manuscript? I might not be that person, but I am one of those people convincing stores to stock and sell your books. And to all you published and soon-to-be published authors out there – on behalf of sales reps everywhere, I’d like to say, “You’re welcome”.
Vanessa is a newly promoted (!) Sales Representative for Central Ontario and Inside Sales at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also geeks out over stuff at Something Geeky.