1 What is your job title and company? And roughly how many people work for your company?
I am the sales manager for Carcanet Press, a poetry and academic publisher based in Manchester. We are a tiny team of six but one of the leading publishers in our field.
2 What are your qualifications and working background, and when and how did you take on your current job?
I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2010 with a first in English Literature and Creative Writing, then completed an MA in Creative Writing at the same university in 2013. During my MA I began working for Manchester-based short story publisher Comma Press as its marketing and publicity officer, and through Comma got to know Carcanet very well. A position at Carcanet opened in May 2014 and I applied and got the job!
3 What does your average working day entail?
Maintaining and updating title records on all systems (Nielsen etc), liaising with our various distributors and reps, preparing and editing sales material for reps, stock analysis and reprint management, print on demand management, placing orders for bookshops and events, selling advertising space for our magazine PN Review etc… I have many responsibilities—too many to name here—but in general these are the main ones.
4 What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working with our sales reps at Compass: they are great people and teach me a lot about the trade.
5 What achievements are you most proud of?
Writing the submission that won us the Alison Morrison Diversity Award at the 2015 IPG Independent Publishing Awards!
6 What are your biggest challenges?
Making poetry appeal to the masses. We have a loyal and dedicated readership, but reaching the general reader beyond this group is difficult, especially as we work on a shoestring marketing budget. Poetry is only a small niche in a market saturated with popular fiction and celebrity-driven non-fiction, and we are constantly fighting for shelf space.
7 What have you experienced in your job and publishing that you didn’t expect?
This might come across in the wrong way but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people I met in the industry who were so down to earth. I think when I first started in publishing I was worried everyone would be elitist and intellectually intimidating, but I’ve met plenty of very warm, generous and genuine people.
8 What is the best thing about working for an independent publisher?
I’ve never worked for a ‘big house’ so I can’t draw comparisons, but for me one of the biggest advantages of working in the independent sector is that it allows flexibility of movement and more opportunities for professional development. When you work in a small team it becomes necessary to take on more responsibility to cover the workload, so you develop your skills and knowledge a lot faster—plus you work more intimately with other departments so you learn a lot about their roles in the process.
9 How do you switch off from your work?
I'm a fitness fanatic! I train five or six days a week and go to a running club on Saturday mornings with a bit of swimming here and there. I participate in several charity runs per year and in September I will complete Tough Mudder for the third time. Basically if it’s tough, grueling and psychologically as well as physically challenging, it’s my bag.
10 What advice would you give anyone wanting to start or progress a career in publishing?
Digital is key. Marketing is key. I think a lot of people have this sort of idealistic view that working in publishing means you sit around reading manuscripts all day and that a love of books is all you need. Perhaps we should blame the movies for that. Employers will seek candidates with a developed understanding of the significance of marketing and valuable technical skills. The industry is rapidly changing and those with the foresight to recognize or even create new reading habits and trends are the trailblazers. Also, read The Bookseller. Follow Katie Caunt on Twitter