Monday, April 17, 2006
I stumbled on this GREAT article today! Check out the author and the many other resources on her site!
Who’s Got the Power?
How a Publisher’s Sales Force Can Make or Break Your Book
By Deanna Carlyle
Once upon a time before the Internet, I was an entry level sales assistant for a big, multinational publisher. It was a confusing time, not least because I had no idea what was going on in all those meetings my boss attended, seemingly for days at a time.
Every now and then an editor and her cohort would wander past my cubicle on the way back from one of the meetings and I’d catch a scrap of conversation, a clue to the mystery that is publishing.
“Did you get it past Sales?” editor A would ask editor B, her voice thin with worry.
“She has to check with the accounts.”
The editors would shuffle by, casting furtive glances into the offices that lined the hallowed halls of Sales. I watched their retreat and scratched my chin. Apparently I worked in a powerful department.
But from what I could tell, all my boss ever did was check things in the computer and chat on the phone, then run off to meetings, endless closed-door meetings.
What went on in there anyway?
Twelve years later I finally got the chance to find out. I asked several publishing insiders for the skinny on sales, and they graciously complied.
It turns out the cringing editors were right: Sales is a mighty force. It wields a powerful influence at every stage of a book’s career, from manuscript acquisition to print run and budget calculation to the retail connection. Sales can make or break your book.
How much influence does a publisher’s sales staff have on title acquisition? “Sales is very integral the acquisition process,” says Alison Lazarus, President of the Sales Division at Holtzbrinck Publishers (which owns St. Martin's Press and Tor Books). “We may be asked to read a manuscript or proposal and give our estimates on what we think the title could sell. If the readers are very enthusiastic about the project it can help influence the decision to try to acquire the title.”
Sales can also influence the decision to reject a title. “On at least two occasions,” one author says, “I've had books rejected where the editor has hinted to my agent that someone in sales or marketing killed the deal. It was obvious that the editors really loved the books and had wanted to buy them.”
If you’re lucky, however, someone on the sales force could bring your manuscript to an editor’s attention. That’s what happened to former romance writer Mary Daheim. In an interview she gave to About.com, Daheim describes how she asked her regional Avon sales rep to take at a look at the opening chapters of her first mystery. The rep then took the chapters to Avon’s regional sales conference and gave it to a senior editor. Within a month, Daheim had herself a three-book contract for a new mystery series.
Sales reps also look to acquire authors. “If our sales representatives see a competitor's book selling well,” says George D. Bick, Senior VP, Director of Distributor and Morrow/Avon Sales, “they alert us immediately to that fact and we get into gear to see if that's a viable author to go after. Since several of our accounts—Walden, B & N, Wal-Mart, Target—provide us with point-of-sales (cash register sales) information, we can instantly see competitors’ authors who are doing well.
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