My dearest Suzy-kins,
Sales conference was mostly a smashing success, thank you for asking. And now that we've survived another year, I have a bit more time to explain how it all works...
The goal of sales conference is, in short, to tell the whole sales force (60-70 sales people) about the entire upcoming list (remember, list=all the books to be published in a specific season) so that, within a handful of days, they can begin selling the books to their "accounts," i.e. bookstores and stores that sell books (not always the same thing, of course.)
Sounds like a simple task, correct? To tell the sales force everything they need to know about 250+ books--in a day and a half!--so they can go forth and do battle... ahem... sell the books into stores.
Sounds crazy now, right? Well, I guess there's a little more that goes on behind-the-scenes than just that. To break it down quickly--here's how it's done:
Weeks before sales conference, we, the marketing managers, begin feeding the sales force with information about the "big titles"--the ones that we expect to sell very well and hope will hit the bestseller lists. We might feed them basic information about the book, for example: "Hey guys, just thought you might want to know that we're publishing MADONNA'S tell-all book about her SECRET LIFE-LONG AFFAIR with OJ SIMPSON! This is going to be big! Already PEOPLE magazine has promised to do a 10-page feature story...".
And other times we actually try to get them to read an excerpt, a handful of chapters, or even a whole book early... "All, this brand new book by first time author X is like nothing we've read in our lives. It's everything you never knew you wanted from a book about the life of a African mosquito lost in the wilds of New York. Please read at once. Oh, and please enjoy this complimentary gift of a mosquito net to drape over yourself as you read." (Yes, occasionally we bribe them with little gifts... who doesn't want a book AND a present?)
So, by sales conference, many on the sales force are aleady familiar with the "lead" or "key" (i.e. big) titles on the list. Also, BEFORE sales conference, each sales person gets our catalogue which--as you've already guessed--is simply a big catalogue with all the pertinent information about each and every book: titles, cover, price, author bio, summary, marketing plan, picture of the cover, and sometimes early quotes. One could argue that this is the single most important thing (jointly) created by the marketing and creative services teams since it is the single tool every sales person uses every single time they meet with an account (remember? account=bookstore or store selling books) to sell in our titles.
Between being force-fed info about the big titles and reviewing the catalogue, the sales team should already be relatively familiar with the list by conference. Conference really just serves as our one chance to really talk about the books to a captive (sales) audience... "This isn't just your average baby-name book--this is the NEW, DEFINITIVE BOOK on how to choose a GREEN name for your precious, earth-conscious baby! It's exciting! It's innovative! We love it and your should too!"
To move things along, the marketing team puts together a powerpoint presentation that incorporates each and every book on the list. For the most part, it's just a slide show of the covers--but the key titles may have extra slides to explain stuff that couldn't fit into the catalogue. For each book, one person (either the editor-in-cheif, the marketing manager or the publisher) has 30 second-3 minutes to talk about the book.
Whew! And there you have it. Sales conference. Perhaps I've spent a long time talking about what is, at heart, a day and a half of talking about books. But please realize, Suzy-dear, that it is of utmost importance in the publishing cycle. It may seem like the most important "sale" is the one that happens at the cash register in a bookstore. But just think, if we don't "sell" the books to the sales force first... how will the books ever make it into the stores?
I hope you're doing well. We're finally getting buds on the trees, daffodils in yards, and winter coats are being hung in the backs of closets. Please do share what's new down your way? I haven't heard any good stories from home in what seems like forever...
(Ms.) Sally S.