Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book Sales: A Day in the Life

Random aside: happy 9/9/09 at 9:09 AM!

Now then: a couple of you asked, among other things, about what I and my bosses actually do all day. Come with me then, gentle readers, on a magical journey...



Enter INTREPID SALES ASSISTANT at 9:00 AM sharp. He turns on his computer and begins downloading, formatting, and e-mailing information on electronic orders that came in from ACCOUNT overnight.

Enter BOSS #1.

BOSS #1: "'Morning, INTREPID ASSISTANT. Did you print out IMPORTANT EXCEL REPORT for me?"
INTREPID ASSISTANT: "Yes. I highlighted your titles and left it on your desk. I also left you sales kits I made for IMPORTANT DROP-IN TITLES."

BOSS #1 thanks INTREPID ASSISTANT and locks himself in his office for the rest of the morning. Several titles have DROPPED IN (i.e. been added to the list with little or no notice) and must be sold to ACCOUNT over the phone, as BOSS #1 already sold in that month/span the last time he went to visit ACCOUNT.

Enter BOSS #2.

BOSS #2: "Good morning, INTREPID ASSISTANT. Before I forget, could you upload XYZ TITLE to ACCOUNT? I was asking them about it yesterday and they don't have it listed in their system."

INTREPID ASSISTANT busies himself for the next two hours with relaying information on electronic orders, placing orders that came in non-automatically from ACCOUNT, formatting and distributing daily/weekly sales information from ACCOUNT, and uploading missing titles to ACCOUNT's system so they can be properly sold in.

10:00 AM: INTREPID ASSISTANT e-mails daily sales information to various folks in-house.
10:01 AM: INTREPID ASSISTANT receives 1,042 responses, which comprise of out-of-office messages, requests to be removed from the e-mail distro, and requests for confirmation that these sales numbers are, in fact, correct, as they appear either far too low, far too high, or, somehow, both.

BOSS #1 (opening door a crack): "INTREPID ASSISTANT, could you please go over to ACCOUNT's local store and let me know what the CO-OP looks like?"
INTREPID ASSISTANT: "Sure. Can I do it after lunch?"
BOSS #1: "Yes. Also, I just e-mailed you the report on XYZ MONTH's SELL-IN. Could you update all those estimates in FANCY COMPUTER SYSTEM?"

INTREPID ASSISTANT spends the last half-hour before lunch (12:00 sharp—INTREPID ASSISTANT likes to eat ASAP) entering BOSS #1's estimates into FANCY COMPUTER SYSTEM.


INTREPID ASSISTANT does one of the following for lunch:

1. Eats in the ever-pricier but nonetheless pretty good company cafeteria;
2. Acquires a sandwich/hot dog/&c from an inexpensive local restaurant/vendor;
3. Works through it because PUBLISHING IS A HAPPENIN' PLACE

After lunch, INTREPID ASSISTANT goes to ACCOUNT's closest store and examines the CO-OP.

INTREPID ASSISTANT: "Hark, kind sir! Where is ABC TITLE that is supposed to have FRONT OF STORE CO-OP?"
HELPFUL STORE CLERK: "I don't think that's how you use 'hark.' And it's right here."
INTREPID ASSISTANT: "Thank you for your assistance! And what about HIJ TITLE?"
HELPFUL STORE CLERK: "...I actually don't see that one here. We'll get it out right away!"
INTREPID ASSISTANT: "Most excellent!"

Having recorded (and possibly helped correct) the CO-OP, INTREPID ASSISTANT returns to the office around 1:30 PM. He spends the next hour or so going over CO-OP contracts for previous months, entering them in FANCY COMPUTER SYSTEM, and, when necessary, untangling any mysterious financial errors in said contracts. It should be noted that INTREPID ASSISTANT has been answering dozens of e-mails all the while (they start around 8:15 AM and end around 7:00 PM).

RANDOM CO-WORKER: "INTREPID ASSISTANT, the printer is jammed!"
INTREPID ASSISTANT: "'Zounds! I'll repair it post-haste!"
RANDOM CO-WORKER: "Also, the copier!"
INTREPID ASSISTANT: "Great Caesar's ghost!"

BOSS #2 (emerging from office): "INTREPID ASSISTANT, could you please mail these 842 galleys and ARCs to the appropriate buyers at ACCOUNT? Also, could you print out X, Y, and Z covers and send those, too? We didn't have them for sell-in last month."
INTREPID ASSISTANT: "Most assuredly!"

BOSS #2 returns to office to continue endless call with BUYER at ACCOUNT who agreed to certain BUY and CO-OP but is now changing his/her mind about it. Meanwhile, BOSS #1 is on the phone with IMPORTANT IN-HOUSE PUBLISHER to explain why some of his titles got different buys than previously anticipated at ACCOUNT.

2:30 PM – 3:00 PM: INTREPID ASSISTANT takes periodic breaks to read industry blogs. Hilarity occasionally ensues. Whenever IMPORTANT COWORKERS walk by, INTREPID ASSISTANT pretends to have been studying IMPORTANT-LOOKING EXCEL GRID the entire time. He is not generally successful. But industry blogs, people! Publishing research is publishing research!

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM: IMPORTANT MEETING at which INTREPID ASSISTANT records minutes. This is pretty much the only IMPORTANT MEETING that INTREPID ASSISTANT is required to attend. BOSSES #1 and #2 are required to attend several such meetings every day. IMPORTANT MEETING chiefly concerned with monthly sales figures, year-to-date sales figures, important titles about to go on sale, anything newsworthy going on at ACCOUNTS, &c.

INTREPID ASSISTANT spends the last hour of the day replying to e-mails, both in-house and from ACCOUNT, following up on random requests from BOSSES/ACCOUNT/various people, and tying up any loose ends so he will not have to deal with additional panic/doom when he returns to the office the following morning.


INTREPID ASSISTANT leaves work at 5:00 PM (if he can afford to—he sometimes works as late as 7:00 and has been known to work as late as 10:00) and heads directly to LOCAL BAR, often with other ASSISTANTS, where he imbibes

1.) Four beers or
2.) Two martinis or
3.) One pitcher of beer

But never 4.) all of the above unless it is 5.) Friday. He leaves LOCAL BAR by 7:00 (again, unless it is Friday).


INTREPID ASSISTANT, now garbed in white t-shirt and superhero pajama pants instead of collared shirt and dress pants, sits at his laptop, e-penning another post for his blog while eating SLIGHTLY UNDERCOOKED PASTA with perhaps SOME KIND OF CHICKEN. He generally goes to bed by 11:00 in order to be well-rested enough to begin the cycle anew the following day.




  1. Oh, that sounds SO much nicer than my last job. Honestly, any job without time sheets sounds good to me...

  2. My typical work day starts at 5 am when I leave home and, depending on whether it's a two-job day or not, can end at 9:30 pm when I finally stumble in the door and collapse into bed. There are no stops at home in between on those days. They're also why I'm certain my blood is a mix of plasma and coffee as that's the only thing keeping me awake.

  3. Thank you, INTREPID ASSISTANT. When do you have time to read? I voted you best industry blog, BTW. I hope you get out of ASSISTANT hell someday (if that's what you want).

  4. I'm wore out just reading your schedule.

  5. That was pretty magical.

    Magically terrifying! I would hurt someone if I had to do it all, just being honest. It amazes me that people envy this job.

  6. Hi Cara--

    I mostly read on nights and weekends, after my own writing but before blogging for PMN.


  7. That's so much different than my old job. My schedule was like:

    8:00-8:30 AM Delete e-mail and read morning web-comics.
    9:00-10:00 AM Play Mankala on my cell phone during pointless meeting.
    10:30-10:45 AM Take first Gameboy-in-the-bathroom break.
    11:45-1:15 PM Take early lunch (or late, depending on who's asking and when they caught me leaving/coming in).
    1:30-2:00 PM Read blogs and comics that updated over lunch.
    2:00-3:00 PM Attend second pointless meeting to explain to my bosses why What They Want To Do won't work, while carefully avoiding the implication that I'm a lazy bum.
    3:00-5:00 PM Try not to look at the clock every 5 minutes.

    (If any of my old bosses are reading this: I kid! I was such a hard worker and never did any of these things! ...OK, I did all these things, but I was such a hard worker!).

  8. Funny, fun, fun.

    INTREPID ASSISTANT you just made my morning happy. Thanks!

  9. A job that doesn't start at 8am? Huzzah! I can feel my spirits lift at such a notion. The real question is, does the INTREPID ASSISTANT wear a tie with that collared shirt? And if so, are they themed ties?

  10. Hi Eric - thanks for the great post, and thanks for taking time to write the blog, even with the very busy schedule. But was also wondering about the other distractions - the eight kids, ranging in age from 11 yrs to 6 weeks who are usually running around the house, making noise, crying, screaming, fighting with each other, needing a drink, needing to go potty, wanting to talk to you constantly even when you occasionally try to type something on the computer. The ones with the snotty noses who will not agree to take a second to anything, especially the computer, or writing, or anything that remotely has to do with "me" time? Ooooops - that's my life. (And that's only after I get home from a ten hour work/commute day, after trying to write/blog a little before work at 5:30). (But I guess time is probably what we're all short on.) But don't you feel better about your evenings?

  11. What INTREPID ASSISTANT is politely not mentioning is that bosses numbered one and two are actually drinking martinis and watching Youtube videos behind their closed office doors all day while poor underpaid INTREPID ASSISTANT does ALL THE WORK.

  12. Wow!!! Holy Stress Test! I need an INTREPID ASSISTANT!!!

    I'll buy you four beers, 2 martinis and a bonus margarita after work, cook you good food and let you come in late. can wear your superhero pajama pants all day long. And do take two hour martini lunches. You deserve it.

  13. zounds! this reminds me much of what things were like when i was an intrepid Ass.

  14. The staring at the excel spreadsheet schtick is priceless (and strangely familiar) ;). Thanks for sharing your day!

  15. RE: solidarity: see you at the bar, kid. Wait'll we UNIONIZE.

  16. Great post!
    Seriously, it was nice to read something that was informative, and kept be entertained all the way through. It's always really interesting to see what other people do as part of their job.

  17. Maybe when I worked in publishing, I should have worked in sales and not editorial. Sounds like a pretty interesting job actually...except I think I'd have a problem with the Fancy Computer System and the spreadsheets, so back to my red pencil. Oh well.

  18. What I found interesting about this is that even though my day job title is totally different (nothing at all to do with sales) and I work in a completely different industry (banking), this sounds a lot like the tasks and hours for someone with my job. Just life under fluorescent lights, maybe? It certainly sounds like you're on top of it, anyhow!

  19. I love the stilted English. May I suggest that when responding to higher authority, (BOSSES 1-infinity,) just use the ever appropriate "Your Highness." You don't even have to remember their names.

  20. Done your job! Especially the fix the printer because it's easier to just get it done without a committee. Keep up the good work!

  21. Oh, I remember my days at MAJOR TRADE PUBLISHER. Four years I put in. You forgot the BOSSES YOU DON'T LOOK IN THE EYE and the art of choosing your food at the salad bar by a interesting ratio of Most Filling to Least Weight.


    I can still fix a copier with my eyes shut...

  22. Many thanks, Intrepid Assistant, for a fun and fascinating post.