Loose Lips Sink Ships and Other Nautical References: Tips for Not Sinking the Whole Darn Ship at Pre-Sales Conference

Musings on a Pre-Sales Conference Part II

It’s been a few weeks since I first wrote about the Pre-Sales Conference, but I’ve been thinking about what kinds of tips this Porcupette might pass along to publishing students, future interns, and fledgling professionals about how to prepare and present at similar events.



The figurative ship we're talking about, happily chugging along, decidedly not sinking.

Stephanie’s Tips for Not Sinking the Whole Darn Ship at Pre-Sales Conference

1. Write good tip sheets.

Before the conference, you’ll likely be asked to provide title information sheets, or tip sheets, containing all of the basic information about the book. Must-haves include bibliographic data, like title, author, ISBN, price, and subject codes. You’ll also need to include a good description of the book, some selling features, notes on marketing plans, endorsements by other authors or reviewers and, of course, a well chosen excerpt.

The tip sheets are absolutely essential to the reps because they provide all of the information they need to pitch the books to book buyers. Reps don’t have time to read every book they need to pitch, especially when they represent multiple publishers. The tip better the tip sheets are, the better they can understand the book, connect with it, and convey the pertinent points to the buyers.

2. Bring materials to support your pitch.

It’s a good idea to prepare a package of information that you can bring with you when you pitch your titles. In addition to the tip sheets you have already prepared, it is also a good idea to bring along a few catalogues, samples of images that might appear in the titles being pitched, promotional materials attached to the books, and any information that you think might help support the reps when they pitch the books to buyers.

You might also consider bringing full-size cover images. Sometimes, the more sales-oriented brains can provide insight into the saleability of a book’s cover, and make suggestions as to how certain covers can be modified in order to best capture the interest of your intended audience.

3. Pitch your books in the order they appear in the catalogue.

Catalogues are a convenient way of keep yourself and your audience on track. Most catalogues are laid out chronologically, and it makes sense to pitch the books in the order they will appear. Most of all, presenting in catalogue order is an easy way to add a level of organization to your presentation. It makes it easier for your audience to follow, and it helps to prevent distracting, agitated whispers of “What page are we on?” as well as potentially off-putting flipping back and forth through pages and pages of paper.

4. Don’t spend too much time on what the book’s about.

It’s tempting as a book-lover to wander off the sales track and expound the literary merits of your upcoming list. Don’t give into that temptation. The sales people you will be pitching to are very smart—they can read the catalogue copy themselves, thank you very much, and they almost certainly have in preparation for your presentation. Concentrate instead on identifying your target audience and giving them an idea of some comparative titles, both stylistically and in terms of sales numbers. Also be sure to talk about your plans to market and sell the book. This not only demonstrates your commitment to the book and the author, but also allows the sales contacts some time to figure out how they can best support your efforts.

Ship Wreck

A sinking ship. To be clear, not what we're shooting for.

5. Be Honest.

There’s nothing to be gained from misrepresenting the facts to the sales reps. They are there to help you sell the book to the right stores and the right people, and there’s nothing to be gained from selling huge numbers of books in most of them will end up being returned. Furthermore, to continue with the nautical theme, it’s true that loose lips sink ships, but tight lips aren’t much better. If an author is unlikely to want to do much promotion, or if he or she does not come across in interviews, say so. You might even get a few suggestions on how to overcome these types of obstacles.

6. Be passionate.

One of the best things about meeting in person is that you have an opportunity to identify which books you, as a company are most excited about, as well as a chance to give an extra push to some of your own personal favourites. Sometimes, a book might sound dull or lacking in sales potential on paper, but all it needs it a bit of a personal touch to show how wonderful it really is. Don’t be afraid to “pick your favourite child” (even if you have several) when it comes to pitching your books. Your enthusiasm may be infectious, and that can make all the difference.

7. Ask questions.

This is a great opportunity to get some feedback about how you’re doing when it comes to supporting the sales staff. Don’t be shy about asking what you’re doing well—or about what you could do better. If you have time, you might also consider tactfully bringing up concerns that you may have. At the very least, any issues will be brought to the sales team’s attention, and you can start to work together to think of some solutions to any problems you have flagged.


This porhole's offering a quick peek into the Pocupette's presentational psyche. Observe with caution.

These tips are intended to offer a glimpse—a porthole, if you will—into my own preparations for presenting our fall titles. They’re all very simple, but it’s amazing how a few small things can boost your presentational confidence and help you make a positive impression on audiences large and small. At the very least, it’ll keep the ship afloat!

This entry was posted in Letters from the Porcupette (the Intern's Blog) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Loose Lips Sink Ships and Other Nautical References: Tips for Not Sinking the Whole Darn Ship at Pre-Sales Conference

  1. Pingback: The Porcupine’s Quill

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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.