In the spring a young porcupette’s fancy is suddenly wrenched to thoughts of book sales.

Musings on a Pre-Sales Conference Part I

Spring Garden

To paraphrase Tennyson ... In the spring, a young porcupette’s fancy is suddenly wrenched—with impressive force, I might add—to thoughts of book sales.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that, when you’re in the business of selling books, you do have to take some time to think about how you’re actually going to, oh, I don’t know, sell books. Getting caught in the roller-coaster of the editorial process and taking on marketing tasks like social media and website updates are all well and good, but none of these important tasks can be completed without the money to pay for them, and that money comes from, you guessed it, book sales.

At PQL, our sales force is a bit of a mash up. We do a bit ourselves—some cold-calling, or cold-emailing, as it were. We send out some notices to bookstores and other accounts about our upcoming books. Sometimes we research possible opportunities for course adoption and the like. Our intrepid publishers, Tim and Elke, have demonstrated some excellent results when it comes to taking care of our export sales.

Here at PQL, we also enlist the help of the Literary Press Group of Canada (and through it, the Canadian Manda Group) to help us get our books into bookstores—and into your hands.

Children reading

Books in hands. A lofty goal, perhaps, but we're optimistic like that.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that we have not, in fact, perfected the Vulcan mind meld, so presenting the reps from the Literary Press Group with the information they need to sell our books requires some form of mutual presence.
Enter the pre-sales conference.

Pre-sales conference takes place twice a year, before the fall and winter seasons. It is the point at which all of the editorial efforts of PQL start to take a turn toward marketing and sales. It is also excellent opportunity of getting some face-time with the folks in whose hands may rest the saleability of our upcoming books. The idea is to give the LPG tools that they can pass along to the Manda sales force to help pitch upcoming titles to buyers at bookstores across the country.

For the past few weeks, I have been in full-on, no-hold-barred, DEFCON-1 conference preparation mode. I spent hours re-familiarizing myself not only with the fall titles that we would be pitching, but also the marketing plans surrounding them. I wrote notes on plot points and style, I investigated comparative titles and selling features. I penned a few passionate pleas for some of my favourite (and I fear, most apt to be underrated) titles. I also spent quite a bit of time working through current orders and sales numbers, which I can tell you, as a former English major, was not my forte. (Thank goodness I had lots of support on that!) I even put together a little visual presentation to show on my iPad, so that I could show a few examples of some of the more image-based upcoming releases.

Last week, the time finally came to put all of my hours of preparation to good use when I hopped a bus to Toronto for the LPG pre-sales conference.

Victorian Train

OK, so I'll admit that this is a bit of artistic licence. I took the bus. But light rail was probably involved at some point during my travels about the city.

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, I presented myself at the LPG offices in Toronto to take my shot at my first literary pitches.

I was ready for action. With all of that preparation and a somewhat shaky confidence (which was mercifully propped up by our intrepid publisher’s assurances), I took a deep breath and dove in. Then time warped somehow, and before I knew it, the whole thing was over.

The presentation went fairly smoothly, and I was able to get a few ideas from the LPG folks in terms of some of our ideas. I even managed to get in a few good words for some of my favourite books, which, I’m told, was very helpful. I left feeling strangely euphoric that I (probably) hadn’t just screwed up a season’s worth of book sales.

I am glad to have given the opportunity to experience the pre-sales conference first-hand. I learned so much in the preparation and execution, something that I never gained during past internships spent simply sitting in and taking notes. This time, I learned by immersion, by doing, by choosing to swim instead of sink.

It was still overcast when I left the LPG offices, but I think I detected a few rays of sunshine.

Next up: check back a few tips about preparing for sales conference.

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.