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I work for a publisher. Ask me anything.

(211 Posts)
isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 18:26:18

I’m a senior sales bod at a global publisher... involved in everything from proposal thru to promo.

Helmetbymidnight Tue 02-Jul-19 18:35:30

Hello! Ooh exciting.

What are your predictions for what's in next year? Is it all about the next Eleanor oliphant?

Do you pay for your books to be in supermarkets? What are the expected sales of a supermarket book? Do they beat regular book stores hands down?

isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 18:42:19

Ah predictions! Lots of ‘uplit’ And a big push for regional ( n.i./Scottish in particular) writers, and everyone still scrabbling around to find LGBT/ BAME writers who have been woefully neglected for years.
YES supermarket books are paid for! And MASSIVE discounts given but the supermarkets do still choose ( sort of) the books that go on the shelves. It’s massively competitive because they have the ability to order and shift huge numbers of books compared to a Waterstones promo.
Also paid for? the ‘charts’ in Smiths and other retailers. All bought space. Their buyers argue that they’re in competition with other departments within their own business ( mags, sweets, tech ) and are fighting for the space. They also choose the books based on fit and the money we can give them.

isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 18:44:26

Do they beat regular stores hands down? Honestly? It’s not always about that, it’s about not having all your eggs in one basket and about finding an outlet that works for certain titles that isn’t the well known online retailer who controls everything.

isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 18:47:09

Remember the author gets royalties on the receipts of the sales I.e. a cut of sales after the discount. So if your book is massively discounted on Amazon or in a supermarket you have to shift a lot to make money as an author. I am constantly explaining this to authors who demand to be #1 Amazon bestsellers - and have their life work devalued to a quid on the Kindle.

Helmetbymidnight Tue 02-Jul-19 18:49:27

Thank you! That's fab information

- Ooh, and what are the expectations on how Brexit is going to affect the industry? I suppose no one knows for sure but are people in foreign sales etc very worried?

Sorry, I will bow out soon!

DeadDoorpost Tue 02-Jul-19 18:52:27

Have you had any proposals that have really stood out? I'm currently working on a novel (slow going with a baby and being pregnant) and know I'll need to write my synopsis but have always been interested in the proposals for books not totally finished.

Also, what part of the industry do you enjoy the most? Once I'm back working I know I'd like to work in the publishing industry, hopefully editorial, but open to having my expectations changed!

itwillworkout Tue 02-Jul-19 18:56:16

Do you think the big publishers publish too many titles? They seem to throw a ton of books against the wall and see what will stick, which is fine unless you are one of the authors who doesn't "stick". Wouldn't it make more sense to publish fewer book and give them more marketing push?

itwillworkout Tue 02-Jul-19 18:57:12

Ooh, and is the drive to publish work from more diverse authors just a trend?

Sadie789 Tue 02-Jul-19 18:57:36

When you say a big push for Scottish writers do you mean simply that they’re Scottish writers or do you mean stories set in Scotland or with Scottish characters/themes?

HollowTalk Tue 02-Jul-19 18:58:53

Sorry, what do you mean that supermarket books are paid for?

Sleepylou Tue 02-Jul-19 19:06:16

Hi,
I'm currently working on a novel, mainly out of love for writing, but I would love to go on to become published at some point. However I have no formal qualifications such as a degree in English etc. Is this normal? I feel way out of my depth and worry I am being stupidly hopeful to have a career in writing books.
What would I need to do before approaching a literary agent/ publisher to not be laughed out of the room?
I worry about my grammar and formatting but I don't doubt my ability to tell a story as such ( honestly not big headed 🤦🏼‍♀️) my husband seems to think this isn't a huge problem, he said the story is the hard part and what is written can be edited. I really have no idea ( neither does he to be fair! 😆)
Having finally found my calling in life ( I hope) I'm not sure where to even begin. I type and the words come, other than that I'm at a loss.
Any advice would be very much appreciated, thank you.

HollowTalk Tue 02-Jul-19 19:10:17

I'm a writer and know lots of writers; very few of them have degrees in English. Very few have creative writing qualifications. Get on with the book, @Sleepylou!

Sleepylou Tue 02-Jul-19 19:19:00

Thank you hollowtalk that is really great to know. I've just been worried that being published was a silly dream to have and not within reach.
Being a bookworm from a young age I can't believe it has taken me so long to arrive at this dream, it just feels right. I do worry that I am about of my depth though. I guess I need to get the book written and go from there. Or do I approach people sooner?

isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 19:22:21

Brexit - we’re a global publisher with offices in lots of European cities, it won’t really affect us from a production POV, we can print locally if we need to, some possible complications over global shipping but we have that already for MEA so will deal with it as it comes. Mean issue has been our international workforce but we are securing their futures in the countries they live in by helping with residency applications etc.

isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 19:27:46

Proposals - by the time I see the proposal Editorial are already behind it but if it doesn’t get sales sign off it will get ditched! We plot how many copies will be sold, in each territory right down to each major acct. which retailers will take numbers? Can we get it bookstore promotion? How much marketing budget do we have? Enough for a ‘book of the week?’

who will buy it - the reader that is. Why would they buy it? Big name? Tie in? Second novel ? Hot topic? Well written etc?

If the sales team can’t sell it then it gets turned down at this stage, much to Editorials disgust. But I have a target to hit and I won’t do it with crap books.
A good editorial will have already talked to the sales mgr for their thoughts and ideas and have them on board.

What sort of the industry do I prefer? Commissioning Editor or events, that’s the fun bit. Pay is crap tho!

isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 19:31:59

Too many books? Nope - there’s something for everyone! We publish far less than we used to. There’s not a single book published that we don’t think will be a success but what that success looks like is different. I can’t emphasise enough the effort and care and pride often that goes into each and every book ( rubbish celeb tie ins excepted!)
We make a decent amount of money off the mid- list, those books that don’t sell 100,000s but sell steadily throughout.

MintyCedric Tue 02-Jul-19 19:32:20

For an unpublished writer with a manuscript, is it better to submit direct to publishing houses or go via an agent?

I've heard the latter but would like to understand what kind of difference it makes.

isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 19:34:10

Diversity isn’t a ‘trend’ it’s trying to redress the awful white middle,
English middle class ness of the publishing world and respond to what readers want. I’m LGBT and I want Sarah waters not Jilly Cooper! It’s here to stay, thank god. Go and reader My Sister the Serial Killer or the Milkman and you’ll realise why.

isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 19:35:17

Sadie - I mean non English Writers. WC voices. Regional voices and experiences. Black writers and experience etc

secretauthorhaton Tue 02-Jul-19 19:36:34

Double checking my name change has worked grin - I have questions!
What do you think about “bad track”? Do you think if an author hasn’t sold well that they’re always going to struggle to get into supermarkets?
Do you think memoir is still selling?

isthatapugunicorn Tue 02-Jul-19 19:45:08

Ok Paid for literally means - you want your new book to go in at the no3 spot on a chart in a train station that’ll be £10K ‘marketing’ money. And 65/70% discount off the books RRP and if that book doesn’t sell in 2-3 weeks in high enough numbers it’s out.

BloomedAgain Tue 02-Jul-19 19:48:31

Is there a way to see what revenue particular books have earned?

HanarCantWearSweaters Tue 02-Jul-19 19:52:14

Great topic op!

My question is - how important is it for you to have a concrete idea of a book’s genre or where it fits? Can a book ever be successful or ‘work’ for its own sake if it bridges several genres or doesn’t tick all the boxes of what it’s labelled as? I have been writing something for a few years now and while i feel like I know it inside and out and it’s everything I would like to read in a book, I’m worried it is too floating between genres for it to be easily marketable. I wonder if I should pick one direction and rewrite to give it more of a distinct feel - or can a combination ever work?

HollowTalk Tue 02-Jul-19 19:52:29

So the "paid for" money goes directly to the supermarket? So if a publisher has a novel, let's call it "Gone Girl" and wants it to be sold in Tesco, they will pay Tesco a sum of money so that they will stock it? And repeat for all the other stores? And that sum of money is a one-off payment so that if Tesco doesn't sell one copy throughout its stores, then the £10K is lost?

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