By Deb Werksman
Sales conference is our twice a year event, where each season’s list is presented to the sales department with great excitement. Coming out of this meeting, our sales force gets ready to present each book to the buyers. It used to be that the editors were the ones presenting, but now everyone participates. Anyone who particularly loves a book they heard about at launch can be the person to present it. Our managing editor presented a parenting title, and I presented a college guide for parents, since I had just dropped my son at college and had been using the book all summer. This makes for a lively exchange of ideas and fresh points of view.
As part of our presentations, we use charts, graphs, photos, author videos and book trailers. It’s a great idea for all authors to create a short (2-3 minutes) video, talking about why you wrote the book, what was the inspiration for the idea for the book, your writing process, or anything else you think readers would find fascinating. It’s amazing how much these short encounters with authors help the sales and marketing departments in their thinking.
By the time we get to sales conference, many books have at least a preliminary cover concept (a lot of our romance titles didn’t this season, since we’re still researching models, etc., so if you haven’t seen your cover, don’t worry). We talk a lot about the effectiveness of the covers, about what people like and don’t like, we take votes, have discussions, and get lots of direction and feedback. In some instances, titles are flagged for more work, catalog copy gets rewritten or a whole positioning gets sent back to the drawing board.
One of the strengths of our approach to publishing is that we “iterate” the book constantly. (This has also been called “torturing” the book. As our Editorial Director likes to say, we really torture the biggest books—all the others just get a sound beating.) Every time we have the opportunity we ask ourselves the tough questions again and again: WHY this book? Why will readers want it, why should the buyers stock it, how will it stand out in an already crowded marketplace? Has anything changed in the environment that we can take advantage of? This is why that “hook” that I’m constantly talking about is so important.
Sales conference is an all day party celebrating books and authors. We at Sourcebooks are clear that books change lives and that people who love books make a difference in the world.