Emily Meredith: I do! I also work for a physical bookshop and I blog.
GR: Awesome! Sounds busy though, I don't know how you have time!
EM: It is pretty busy, but it makes me happy being around books all the time. And being paid for it is even better!
GR: So, to start off with, can you give me a bit of an idea of what your role is in publishing?
EM: My role is as a sales assistant. I help four sales managers by collating sales data and sending high-res images to customers, sorting out their orders and a bit more admin stuff.
I also work closely with the warehouse as part of my role, ensuring that we have the stock to match customers' orders.
GR: "Customers" in this instance being booksellers, yes?
EM: Yes, but I work with the head offices, not the individual booksellers.
GR: How many customers do you work with?
EM: I work across eight accounts. There is another girl in the same role who does six or seven, and if one of us is away or very busy we help the other.
GR: Are you both part time? Full time?
EM: Both full time!
GR: Is the bookshop you work for (part time, I assume!) one of your customers?
EM: Yes, I only work at the shop on weekends. They aren’t one of my direct customers but I work with the head office of the group they belong to.
I had to go through HR to ensure that everything was above board when I took on my second job.
GR: I imagine there's rules in place to ensure you don't influence stuff like what's on a display, but do you find your first job helps your second in other ways, like being able to give customer recommendations?
EM: I actually find my second job influences my main job more, as I am aware of everything that is on the market and not just the books we publish! But certainly, as I have more access to our titles, they do tend to be the ones I recommend.
However, I read very very quickly (in 2016 I read 366 books) so I tend to read very widely across the board.
GR: I am jealous of your speed reading! Bigger places like Dymocks or QVB (or Borders, back in the day) would have their own head office, but how does it work for smaller independent booksellers - e.g. somewhere like The Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft?
EM: I know that a few independent booksellers band together to buy stock in bulk and publish catalogues together. However, a lot of independent booksellers will just deal with the sales reps.
GR: Sales reps being people such as yourself?
EM: No, the sales reps are on the road!
GR: Ahhh, and do they then report to a sales manager?
EM: Yes, I believe so. As I am very junior in the team I’m not 100% sure on all the specifics!
However, as an example, Dymocks Head Office receives a visit from a sales manager and each individual store is seen by a rep. So there are two tiers of engagement on that side.
GR: And your role is less direct in terms of influencing what they buy, more in managing the $ side of it?
EM: I only assist the people who do the money side. And I don’t do anything with the money itself, just support the sales managers however I can.
GR: Sending bills, tracking warehouse stock etc?
EM: Warehouse stock, email admin, blurb and image requests, facilitate event orders, that kind of stuff.
GR: I think a lot of writers (and readers) don't realise just how many roles there ARE out there and likewise, those who self-publish and might want their book in a bricks-and-mortar store have a huge uphill battle trying to cover all angles.
EM: There are so many varied roles, it’s crazy! Trying to explain my job is one of the hardest parts of it. Self publishers have such a battle, because bookstores want to know the marketing that will be going behind a book before they commit to huge quantities.
GR: I can imagine! Saying you work "in publishing" is a shorthand for many many things
EM: Most definitely. I always wanted to be in the publishing department but I am loving sales.
GR: Does your role cover books of all genres? And the sales managers - are their responsibilities divided up by customer or genre or something else?
EM: Their responsibilities are divided by customer, and yes, we cover all genres.
GR: So it sounds like working in sales requires you to be across a very wide range of books - as does working in a bookstore!
GR: How did you get involved in the publishing industry?
EM: I was that person who didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school and I switched degrees (from Science to Arts) after my first year. I got a casual job as a bookseller and decided that I wanted to stay in books forever more.
I did an internship at a magazine about books, went to a few industry events through that and as a bookseller, and made a lot of connections. That was so important. I worked in bookshops for four years before I moved into publishing ,so I knew a lot of people. I applied for a different role, which I missed out on, but was then referred to apply for my current role.
GR: In the end, was your degree a BA? What did you major in?
EM: I have a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) majoring in Marketing and Latin. Latin has always been a great talking point.
GR: Haha, as in... why?
EM: It is good for that! Mostly, I love the language and wanted to continue it after high school. But it turns out quite a few people have always wanted to know it, so they love to ask about it!
GR: Was your degree part of the qualifications needed for your role? A marketing major would be helpful to a sales team.
EM: My qualifications weren’t needed, but I’m sure they helped. Marketing is useful, but I don’t use the skills I learned in my degree as part of my role.
GR: Does the sales team cover both Australian titles and books you’ve acquired international rights to?
EM: Yep! They obviously focus on the biggest titles more than the smaller ones, but are expected to be across all titles on the order form each month.
GR: Obviously it would vary a bit depending on what the bigger titles are, but overall, is there more emphasis (proportionate to number of titles) on Aus or overseas titles?
EM: When a title is acquired by us there is a lot of enthusiasm so I think we all get excited about Australian titles!
GR: What about in your own reading - do you deliberately seek out Aus authors?
EM: I tend to read a lot of Aussie authors. Last year I aimed to read at least four a month. It has been a bit less this year, but still a big part of my reading. I always list on my blog, in my reading recap, which books are by Aussie authors because I do like supporting our industry, and I love recognising settings and language.
GR: Do you have a favourite genre to read yourself?
EM: If you’d asked me at the beginning of the year I would have said fantasy and YA without hesitation. But I have read a lot of science non-fiction and biography this year and I am loving it.
My favourite book of the year has been I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell.
GR: Do you read mostly physical copies, or on an e-reader, or a mix?
EM: Always physical! Though I did read a few ebooks on my phone recently while I was travelling.
GR: You must be running out of room in your house... or do you make good use of the library?
EM: I am running out of room! I am very lucky to receive a lot of free and discounted books through both jobs. I would love to use my library more but it isn’t open on Sundays, which tend to be my only free day.
GR: My next question was going to be if you get a discount ;-)
EM: I do! I have worked at four different bookstores since uni and every time it has varied so I won’t give a number.
It tends to be at the discretion of the owner and the business. My publisher job mentioned it in the letter of offer as a staff bonus.
GR: I used to work for Borders, back when they existed in Aus, and staff discounts were so complicated - a different rate for books vs DVDs vs CDs vs stationery… But I digress!
When you're choosing your own books to read, are they usually titles you've come across in one of your jobs, or do you look for reviews and recommendations from other places
EM: I am an impulse purchaser.
GR: So anything that grabs your eye at the time!
EM: Exactly! I also love talking about books so if a friend or family member is interested in something I’ll buy a copy for me too.
GR: Thanks so much for taking the time today. I’ll let you get back to reading!
You can follow Emily on twitter or instagram @emmy9394