Name: Lesley Brown
Degree and University: Homerton College, Cambridge, BA in Education Studies with English Literature, MPhil in English Studies.
Can you give your work title and what it is you actually do?
Sales & marketing executive at Allison & Busby (www. allisonandbusby.com). I look after a number of accounts at A&B, including wholesalers, some high street retailers and, left-field, suppliers to ferries and cruise liners. So that involves making sure they have relevant information on our titles and seeing what deals or offers we can work out. I also create much of our sales material – primarily Advance Information sheets which have all the necessary information (ISBNs, price etc) and sales points. And though most of our marketing budget is eaten up by the cost of getting books into 3 for 2 and other promotions, I do some marketing on a small scale such as adverts in trade magazines and our own catalogues of course. I’m learning more and more about Adobe InDesign as time goes by. We recently took responsibility for the sales of another small publisher, Snowbooks (www.snowbooks.com). This has meant a greater variety of titles and different sales avenues to work with.
What made you choose this career path?
Although I love literature and I’m a voracious reader, by the end of my Masters I’d had enough of academia, and while I had seriously considered teaching, I don’t think I could have hacked it. I have great respect for those on the coal face in classrooms, but I don’t think I would have been happy there myself. I came to the conclusion that I’d rather be part of the industry producing new books rather than analysing old ones in a classroom.
What, if any, difficulties did you have to overcome to get this job?
I set myself a deadline when I was job hunting, and thankfully I found something before that deadline was up – but only just! Six months of applying for jobs and doing unpaid work experience was hard on the ego and the bank balance. I was literally sleeping on other people’s floors towards the end. Also, I was applying for editorial jobs before I got my first position at A&B of sales & marketing assistant, and the competition is extremely fierce for entry-level positions, especially if, like me, you don’t have any experience when you start out. I jumped at the chance of the job here as I’d already liked the atmosphere and felt that I’d seen beyond Editorial having chatted with my now boss about her experiences.
Do you have a publishing qualification (e.G. Masters, PGDip)? If so, has this helped your career?
No, my Masters was very literary in focus and has been no use whatsoever!
What do you like most about your job?
I work in a small office with five other people who are great fun and who I’m learning a lot from. The fact that it isn’t a huge corporate beast was a big attraction. I often sum up to myself that I get paid to talk about books – surely it doesn’t get any better than that?
Are there any downsides to what you do?
Occasional frustration – getting shelf and promotional space for our books when buyers are inundated with titles can be difficult. But when it goes well you can really pat yourself on the back. There is a common idea of publishing as a glitzy profession, I wouldn’t recommend it if you want a very nice lifestyle straight away. All of my teacher friends were earning considerably more than me when I first got a foot in the door. I’ve been to some nice author events but entry salaries are low and that seems more important when rent is due. All in all, it’s a case of supply and demand; lots of talented people want to get into Publishing, so companies can pretty much pay what they want – we keep coming back for more.
Do you feel that graduates who are interested in publishing concentrate too much on editorial careers?
The impression I get from many of the work experience people we have at A&B (and an outlook I shared when I was in their position) is that they aren’t really aware of the other departments. Editors do fantastic work, of course, but there are so many other areas – whether creating a buzz about your books in Publicity, persuading buyers and booksellers to give them a chance or selling and licensing various rights both home and abroad. The book itself wouldn’t get very far without those people.