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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What My New Job is Like Part II

So I realized that when I posted last month about what my job as a field sales rep is like, I really only talked about half of the job. Each season (and book publishing only has 3 seasons, not 4), I am on the road for about two months, but that means I am in my home office for about two months. What am I doing during those two months?

Well it all begins with Sales Conference. I went to my first one just 4 days after starting my new job. It was in Nashville (my hometown!) and it was kind of fun, although also completely overwhelming. But I was still in the stage where I didn't know what I didn't know yet, so I wasn't very anxious. I just tried to pay attention and hoped I was writing down the right things and I asked a lot of questions (not in the presentations but to my colleagues) and it was fine. I have some very nice, very helpful colleagues, thankfully, and I felt like I got up to speed fast.

This season, I was kind of scared of Sales Conference. After all, it was virtual. Which meant instead of sitting next to Anne and Ben and asking them questions, I was in my home office, on 6-hour conference calls for 4 days. Compounding that difficulty, my landlord is moving a carriage house from behind my house to next door. They were digging and pouring a foundation literally 8 feet from my office that week. But it was not bad at all, considering! It was a bummer that I couldn't speak up thanks to the construction noise, instead I had to type all my comments into the chat box, but that's not a big burden. Did I mention that PSE&G has also been jackhammering the street in front of my house off and on for the last month? So much fun. I did end up consulting a children's picture book to find out the names of all the construction vehicles, so now I know a back-hoe digger from an excavator.

In Sales Conference, the publishers present their bigger books, or books that could use more attention, and hopefully they tell us some interesting things about the books that we can then use to sell the books to our accounts. So throughout the presentations, we're all frantically typing notes into Edelweiss for every book. They're not in the same order, Edelweiss has some issues sometimes and doesn't always cooperate, and on the last day I had some problems with the presentation software and couldn't see the PowerPoint for most of the morning. But it was still much better and smoother than I had imagined.

Afterward, we then take about a month or six weeks to prepare to hit the road. Usually, the last season (Fall 2017) still has some mopping-up—I still had a couple of sales calls over the phone, and I had a half a dozen orders to enter. I had some huge expense reports to submit. I also had a ton of emails to address as while I was on the road, mostly I was only able to put out fires and everything else had to wait. And to prep for the next season, I have to plot out my calendar for when to go where (which is harder than you'd think, especially trying to squeeze in a 2-week trip to NC and VA around Labor Day, Columbus Day, two family visits, my anniversary and my husband's birthday, SIBA and NAIBA's fall trade shows, and get it all in before the next sales conference. I can't go to my college stores in VA and NC in mid-August because of back to school, and I can't go to my beach stores in DE until after Labor Day.) Then I have to send emails and try to schedule 38 appointments. Once I get those set, I have to book all my hotels, and I have to make a flow chart for where my F&Gs will go. F&Gs are Fold & Gathers, or the ARCs for picture books. They used to be just printed pages that were literally folded (not bound in any way) and just gathered together. Today they do tend to be stapled. I don't get 38 of them. I get 7. We like to be kind to the environment, stores don't like to have to figure out what to do with all of these from all publishers at the end of a season, and it is a cost savings that helps us do more for stores. So Store #1 needs to send their F&Gs on to store #8. Store #2 has to send theirs to Store #9, etc. I have to figure out the flow chart, and print UPS call tags for every shipment along the way, which I bring to the sales call, so the stores don't incur the shipping cost. I also send ARCs to my stores that I think they will like (and stores make a ton of requests which is so nice as then I know they will really want what they're getting!) Finally, I have to get back to Edelweiss and finish making my notes. See, even in four days, my publishers can't possibly present 1200 books to us. Not by a long shot. So I have to go back to book 1 and I look over the tip sheet and launch sheet (which ought to be attached) and listen to the audio presentation (these are cool—the editors talking about the books, hopefully not just rereading their copy I already have, but talking about why they bought the book, what the author is like, what inspired the story, etc.), and the catalog copy. I then distill that down and I write a 1-2 sentence description followed by 2-5 bullets of selling points for the accounts. Some accounts really only look at my mark-up notes when making their decisions, so I put a lot of effort into them. My predecessor wrote really funny ones, and I can't compete on that, but I do add fun facts and personal anecdotes and a couple of gifs. I can do 80 on a good day, but that's balanced with 10 on a bad day (when the emails don't stop coming). I pretty much max out at about 250/week. A couple of my colleagues share theirs (as do I) so I can sometimes crib from them and that can help (although it can also hurt as I won't be as familiar with those books when it comes time to sell.)

Oh, and the last thing that I do? Read. Read read read. I have a goal this season to read 75 books. Now, a bunch of those are picture books so it's not as crazy as it sounds. I managed to read about 25 of those in 2 days. I've read 53.5 so far. So 21.5 left. I am hoping the children's department will upload more of the picture books, but I'm feeling pretty good with how I'm doing. I started reading Winter 2018 books in May, and I'm giving myself through August before switching to Spring/Summer 2018 books. It's funny—I might not make my Challenge to read 31 2017 books but it's not because I'm not reading new books—it's because I'm reading even newer books than that!

So that's the other part of my job, which is just as big and important as the part where I drive around and visit stores.

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