A Tale of Two Publisher's Sales Conferences, Part Two

In my last post, I went into some detail about the purpose of sales conferences for publishers. So this time, since you are now a sales conference expert, I get to be a little more lighthearted. 

I go to four sales conferences a year, both with the primary goal of learning about the new books our publishers have planned for the next selling season. One conference is held on the east coast -- detailed in my last post -- and the other on the west. Each has its own "style" as it were, and the California meetings tend to be a bit more casual. 

For our west coast conference, we usually stay at the Doubletree Marina, which is located just a mile or so from the PGW offices on Fourth Street in Berkeley. You can see a beautiful park just behind the rooms in this photo. It has a walking path around the entire perimeter of the park, which affords a breathtaking view of downtown San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. I try, with moderate success, to run around at least one circuit every morning before starting the day.

The front entrance to our offices on Fourth Street.

Laurel Richards greets you with a welcoming smile.

Being a publishers representative is a lot more than just presenting the publishers books to buyers; you are actually representing the publisher to them as well. Ninety percent of the time, you are the only face a buyer will ever see from a company that is so important to their success.
Below is a sampling of my fellow reps, the "A Team" of reps in the industry, from all across the nation, as we get ready for the first round of presentations. From the left is
Louisa Brody, Charles Gee, Sales Coordinator Leslie Jobson, Ty Wilson, Betty Redmond, Bill Getz, Rob Pine, Cindy Heidemann, Eric Stragar, Mike Katz and just out of the picture is the famous Charles Roberts.

Our Sales Coordinator, Leslie Jobson, seen above and who is the genius behind the planning of the Berkeley conferences, describes her job like this:

"I start the process of planning Sales Conference roughly 3 months out.  We have a planning committee of the Sales Execs and all of Marketing.

Initially we decide which of our publishers are due to present that season; a few present every season but most are every other.  The bones of the schedule are created and then we update that every week until we have a pretty solid draft.  At that point I send the Schedule draft to the internal sales team.  The schedule evolves as we add new publishers or special presentations. About three weeks before the conference, I order all of the food and that takes hours…

The conference itself is usually packed from morning to night but the process runs pretty smoothly. I’ve learned to roll with changes, and that has sometimes been a publisher who doesn’t show up or one who shows up a day earlier than scheduled! 

The most important thing is that the conference is a total team effort! Sophia, Adrienne, Abbey and Amanda, here at the offices, help me with myriad issues.

It usually takes me a few days to get back into the swing of work after conference.  And then a couple of months later I start planning the next one!"

Sitting across from us in the conference room, the publishers take their places and start to go over all their new offerings for the fall. Many publishers present during the week; here is just a sampling of the great presenters we hear from. 
 Grove/Atlantic's Director of Publicity Deb Seager,
 VP and Editorial Director Elisabeth Schmitz,
 and Associate Publisher Judy Hottensen start us off in the morning.

From Parallax is
Nancy Fish from Marketing and Publicity, 
 Publisher and author of Not Quite Nirvana, Rachel Neumann, and Sophie Marchant, also from
Marketing and Publicity.

Here is Richard Hunt (on the right) from
 Keen Communications, with our VP of Marketing/Client Management, Eric Kettunen. 
As you might guess, Richard and Eric are celebrating the addition of the "Unofficial Disney Guides" to the team.

 Legendary Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and Shakti Gawain publisher New World Library is here with their Publicity Director Monique Muhlenkamp
 and  Associate Publisher Munro Magruder.

To introduce their new list, Counterpoint and Soft Skull bring their teams: Soft Skull Publishing Manager Liz Parker and 
Publishing Assistant Dan Smetanka; and from Counterpoint,
 Jack Shoemaker, VP/Editorial Director, the new Publisher of Counterpoint, Rolph Blythe, 
and PGW founder and current Counterpoint Publisher, Charlie Winton.

 To represent Rick Steves' publisher, our own Avalon Travel Publisher Bill Newlin and  
Vice President Donna Galassi 
give us an update on what's hot in world travel destinations.

 The McSweeney's team, publisher of Dave Eggers and the coolest books on the planet:
Isaac Fitzgerald, Publicist

Sam Riley, Marketing & Sales Manager

Laura Howard, Publisher

Adam Krefman, Associate Publisher

Susan Reich, PGW's beloved president, had these thoughts on one particular sales conference from a few years ago:

"One of my most memorable and moving experiences at a sales conference was listening to Karl Marlantes talk about the effect that Matterhorn had on Vietnam vets and their offspring. It was a wonderful reminder of the power of books. I think that it made everyone in the room proud to be in the business of selling books.

The story he told was of a young woman who stood in line at one of his signings and asked him to sign 2 books, one for her father and one for her uncle. She had tears in her eyes and explained that her father had served in Vietnam and her uncle had not. The two had not spoken for years over their disagreement about the war.  Somehow this book was the way they were able to bridge the gap. It helped her father explain to his brother the way the war had affected him in a way that he had been unable to express."

Here is Kevin Votel, PGW’s Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, 
 and our Executive Vice President of Sales, Kim Wylie.

Field rep Jen Reynolds 
and George Banbury, who is here from our UK offices.

Situated in the middle of the building is this wonderful outdoor patio where we have lunch every day.

Marketing Director Heather Cameron takes care of almost 50 of our client publishers, and yet she looks so calm.

At the end of the day we invite our local and visiting publishers over for cocktails and snacks.

Below is one part of the sales offices (the tidy part).

From Canada we have Director of Sales, Lori Richardson, and Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Publishers Group Canada, Graham Fidler.
They are checking out the forthcoming book from Tom Rath, Eat Move Sleep.

It's getting late in the day and our southern California rep, Andrea Tetrick, says it's time for a cold one.

Tin House Publishing brought a special guest, Matt Kish. Matt illustrated Moby-Dick in Pictures, one of 2011's most amazing books. This time he has taken on Heart of Darkness with more eye-popping art work.

Matt, accompanied by his publisher, Nanci McCloskey, kindly signs illustrated postcards and books for the sales team.

After the last full day of meetings we all go out to mingle with the invited publishers. Here is
Zeta Davies from British publisher Francis Lincoln and our own Director of National Accounts, David Ouimet.

Below, one of our Directors of Sales, Keith Arsenault shown here with Marketing Assistant and Social Media Coordinator, Adrienne Mayard, and Leslie Jobson. Keith felt it was important to show that we can, on occasion, imbibe while attending a sales conference, to balance out the intensity of concentration during the daylight hours. Here's to you, Keith!

 Finally, if you think that attending sales conference is all just fun and frivolity, here I am with our president, Susan Reich getting pretty serious……about....... something... Oh, I forget.

Next post will be another in the series of booksellers' homes. This time, Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Books in Athens, Georgia, allows us to peek inside her house that has a very interesting past.


David Abrams said…
Thanks for another terrific, insightful dispatch, Jon. I was really moved by the Karl Marlantes story, of course. Powerful stuff!

Popular Posts