Want to know what’s so special about special sales? In the latest instalment in our series providing an insight into life and careers in the publishing industry, Phoenix Curland lifts the lid on her role.

I’m in charge of… 

Generating sales and growing my accounts outside of the traditional book trade channels such as bookshops and supermarkets – hence, ‘Special’ sales.

The special sales department and the accounts I oversee encompass non-book retailers. This can be anything from clothing stores, to wholesalers, to online stores, and bargain outlets. I work with such a variety of customers, some of which include: The White Company for their exclusive Christmas Board Book range (this does wonders for my entirely Christmas-based personality that comes alive once a year), Urban Outfitters, Scholastic and many book subscription boxes.

My first task of the day… 

Ugh, I hate to say it, but coffee or an oat latte. That sounds incredibly millennial, I’m aware, but it’s a treat to myself and a great pick me up to start the day! After that, I like to check my emails first thing and review anything that’s come in. I may have ongoing email chains with customer regarding their buying, whether that’s negotiating costings or discussing upcoming book releases that they are interested in. Then, I’ll check my calendar to see what meetings I have for the day and go over my To Do list.

Depending on the day and time of year, I may have meetings externally with my accounts which involve either visiting them at their office or virtually, where I’ll be pitching our books and reviewing our business for the year ahead.

Internal meetings can involve discussing new acquisitions and manuscripts that are being circulated by agents / editors and then discussing the numbers as a business we would put forward for that. My favourite part is reviewing covers at various stages of development for our upcoming titles.

In terms of admin, there’s lot of sales material to generate for meetings such as presentations; PDF sales sheets, which I create on Canva (the second love of my life); and for book boxes in particular where I may need to liaise with different areas of the business to set up author Q&As, signed copies, book markets etc. for books that will be featured. 

The thing I look forward to the most… 

Pitching and presenting. I live for the adrenaline after a sales meeting (especially a promising one!). Meeting people, in person or virtually, to passion pitch our books and discuss plans on working together is so fun to me and is probably my favourite part of the job. 

What nobody else knows about my job… 

How creative it can be, but also how much momentum you need to maintain. What’s great about Specials is that there is so much scope to work with different accounts and businesses. I’ve had conversations with companies like Bloom & Wild; Calm, the mindful app; and Fever Experiences for Stranger Things. These may not have all generated a monetary result but it’s great to make new contacts and connections in different companies or pass on a contact to work with another part of the business such as PR. 

How I got the job…. 

Creative Access! I applied for an internship in the Production team and it was the best introduction into publishing. I really got to grips with the process of sending a book to press, printing the book, cover finishes and the many behind-the-scenes elements of what’s involved in producing books. Then Covid hit and we went into lockdown… My internship finished but luckily there was a position open in sales and I jumped at the opportunity. 

My advice for anyone breaking in… 

I worked in retail for almost two years whilst applying for jobs in publishing, I received a lot of rejection or non-replies to applications that took me ages to complete. It can be tiresome. But just remember… Stay persistent and it WILL happen. The next thing I would say is do your best to meet and reach out to people in the industry. Even once you’re in, the best thing you can do when you’re starting out is to meet people from other departments – this can be as simple as asking them for a coffee, which can lead to an informal and relaxed chat to learn more about them, what they do, and just generally meet people – connect, connect, and connect some more! Even if you’re in the department of your dreams, you will be working with other teams constantly so it’s incredibly valuable to get a better understanding of the business as a whole.

The path I might have chosen… 

My degree is in psychology so in another life I would have pursed further education and became a therapist or worked in child development. I also think in another universe I would have worked in film in some capacity as I am such a movie buff. Some of our books get turned into movies or TV shows… So in a way, I’m still connected to it!

Get an insight into other roles across the publishing industry at our Work in Publishing hub.