Talking Books with HarperCollins Canada’s Sales Team

Publishing is one of the coolest industries to work in, but it’s also a little mysterious. When most book lovers think about publishing (myself included!), they typically gravitate towards the editorial department. But how, exactly, does a book go from 300 bound pages to the bestsellers list?

That’s where the sales department comes in! In this new series, we’ll be talking to our colleagues at HarperCollins Canada all about their jobs, their reading habits, their bookshelves, and their tips for people looking to break into the publishing industry. Without further ado, here’s the sales team!

Mathew, Sales Data Supervisor

SR: Describe your role at HarperCollins Canada.

MS: My role is Sales Data Supervisor, and I manage a small team who oversee all things metadata for our titles for internal cataloguing and external vendor listings. I also oversee bookings for one of our biggest national accounts, present titles to vendors, and am a member of Team Frenzy!

SR: How do you organize your bookshelves?

MS: I have no organization to my bookshelf, other than keeping series together, of course! I have a small shelf for my all-time favourites, otherwise it’s haphazard (and I’m quickly losing space).

SR: Describe your bookshelves in one word.

MS: Lawless.

SR: What is the most expensive book on your shelf?

MS: Lady Gaga X Terry Richardson, a photobook from 2011. I’m her biggest fan, I’ll follow her until she loves me! (She did retweet me in 2016, though, so I think that counts.) I also own a very ornate copy of Little Women. Otherwise, cookbooks (how unexciting!).

SR: What is one book that you think all readers should have on their bookshelves?

MS: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

SR: What book that you still haven’t read has been on your shelf for the longest amount of time?

MS: The gargantuan 1Q84. My current total of attempted reads is 4 – I will finish it one day.

SR: What is your most prized book on your shelf?

MS: My signed copy of Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House.

SR: What advice would you give to someone looking to make it in the publishing industry?

For one, READ! But since you’re already here, I bet you do! It’s very important to immerse yourself in as much of the industry as possible, be it through volunteering at literary events, participating in online book communities, reviewing advance reading copies for publishers – all will make you well-rounded, and in some cases may lead to visibility with publishers. Experience as a bookseller is a definite asset! And, of course, if you have the means of enrolling in a publishing program, you’ll find the most immersive overview of how publishing works on a whole from active professionals, as well as some in-depth opportunities for learning if you find you’re interested in a specific corner of publishing (Editorial, Sales, Marketing, Publicity).

Karen, Sales Representative

SR: Describe your role at HarperCollins Canada.

KM: As a sales representative, I sell our books to book retailers and wherever else books are sold. It involves talking to buyers and working on books all day and I love it!

SR: How do you organize your bookshelves?

KM: I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I don’t organize my bookshelves. Everything is all mixed in together yet I somehow know exactly where everything is.

SR: Describe your bookshelves in one word.

KM: Beautiful.

SR: What is the most expensive book on your shelf? 

KM: Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairy Tale. I’m a huge Guillermo del Toro fan and I love leafing through this gorgeous book and reading behind the scenes tidbits! It also has fun inserts and art and it’s one of the most visually beautiful books on my shelf.

SR: What is one book that you think all readers should have on their bookshelves?

KM: This is so hard to answer! The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a book that I would recommend to absolutely anyone. In terms of historical fiction, I adored The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi so I would recommend that to anyone as well! Also, I just finished Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and it was incredible. If you’re into gothic fiction you must read it. (I guess that’s technically three books…)

SR: What book that you still haven’t read has been on your shelf for the longest amount of time?

KM: I’ve had One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez on my shelves for the longest time! Perhaps this is the perfect year to finally read it…

SR: What is your most prized book on your shelf?

KM: My copy of Heather O’Neill’s Daydreams of Angels is one of my most prized books. It’s signed by Heather and she even wrote a sweet happy birthday note in it so it’s very special to me and it brings back a lot of great memories.

SR: What advice would you give to someone looking to make it in the publishing industry?

KM: Besides loving books and reading, having an awareness of what’s happening in the industry is very helpful. The Quill & Quire is a great place to start. Other than that, try to make connections with people in the industry if you can! COVID has made in-person events and networking challenging but I’m always happy to (virtually for now) talk to people who have questions about the industry. You can find me on Twitter @karenfma.

Justin, Sales Manager

SR: Describe your role at HarperCollins Canada

JB: I am a Sales Manager for children’s books, responsible for managing one of our distribution clients and selling to both big-box stores and many medium-sized accounts. I am also responsible for retail-level sales reporting and market analysis.

SR: How do you organize your bookshelves?

JB: By category and then by alphabet. Anyone who does otherwise is fundamentally untrustworthy.

SR: Describe your bookshelves in one word.

JB: Overloaded.

SR: What is the most expensive book on your shelf?

JB: I have a gigantic, $180 Collins Dictionary given to me during an office clean up by a former CEO who prefaced the gift by saying, “I don’t need this anymore, take it.”

SR: What is one book that you think all readers should have on their bookshelves?

JB: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Most of the basics needed for navigating this world like a decent person can be found in those 192 pages. An argument can be made for another E.B. White classic, The Elements of Style.

SR: What book that you still haven’t read has been on your shelf for the longest amount of time?

JB: The aforementioned $180 dictionary.

SR: What is your most prized book on your shelf?

JB: A copy of Just Like Heaven by Patrick McDonnell heavily annotated by my wife.

SR: What advice would you give to someone looking to make it in that publishing industry? 

JB: If you can, go to publishing school as it’s the easiest way to get an internship. And when you get an internship, take it seriously.

Rhysa, Sales Representative

SR: Describe your role at HarperCollins Canada. 

RL: I am a Sales Rep who is in charge of handling all special markets sales requests across Canada, including bulk ordering, author ordering, corporate sales, and (mainly) the gift store market.

SR: How do you organize your bookshelves?

RL: This may disappoint others, as it disappoints me, but I do not organize my bookshelf unfortunately. It is more like a game of Tetris, trying to make sure everything fits, not having enough space… If I could, it would probably be by genre, then alphabetical.

SR: Describe your bookshelves in one word.

RL: *sigh*

SR: What is the most expensive book on your shelf?

RL: An Atlas I received from work when we were cleaning out the office.

SR: What is one book that you think all readers should have on their bookshelves?

RL: A book that is tied to a memory of story; I do not think it matters what it is, as long as it makes you happy. For me, it was Garden of Angels by Lurlene McDaniels. It was my favourite book as a child and I let my cousin borrow it and she loved it so much that I gave it to her. That edition is now out of print so I wasn’t able to replace it, but it is still one of her all-time favourite books, so I don’t mind. That or Wuthering Heights.

SR: What book that you still haven’t read has been on your shelf for the longest amount of time?

RL: The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint. My sister gave it to me as a birthday present when I was in grade 8 or 9 and I still haven’t read it and can’t give it away because it was a gift.

SR: What is your most prized book on your shelf?

RL: My Lurlene McDaniel collection of books from childhood.

SR: What advice would you give to someone looking to make it in the publishing industry?

RL: A love of books doesn’t necessarily ensure you get a job in publishing, but it helps you to not give up in your pursuit of getting a job in publishing. Experience is very key, so grab it anywhere you can: go to publishing school, work in a bookstore, work/volunteer at libraries or university campus bookstores. Also, open your mind to all types of jobs in publishing because it is so much more than being an editor, and the earlier you know, the more opportunities you will see.

Next month, we’ll be interviewing our colleagues in publicity to get an in-depth rundown of the day-to-day life of a book publicist. If you have any questions you want to ask, feel free to reach out to us in the comments or on Twitter @SavvyReader!

Happy reading,

Jesse

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