10th May 2022

My life as… an international sales executive

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In the latest instalment in our series providing an insight into life and careers in the publishing industry, we’re speaking with international sales executive Amanda Percival.

I’m in charge of… selling Bonnier Books UK’s full range of adult and children’s books in English to bookshops and distributors across the Middle East and Asia.

My biggest regions are Singapore, working with our distributor; China, where I work alongside a wonderful rep; the United Arab Emirates, where sales of YA books continue to soar; and South Korea/Taiwan who love our Sam Usher and Colour Monster picture books. Customers range from big distributors to tiny bookshops stocking English books across the other side of the world.

My first task of the day… Coffee! Then I look at what meetings I might have that day. After this, it is straight into emails. All requests, orders and queries come in overnight due to time zone differences. Queries range from prices, book titles, stock, dealing with any returns and sending out any book samples requested.

Other parts of my job include making highlights and bespoke bestseller lists for customers. Every customer is different, and some titles work better than others in specific territories. Asia is very children’s book focused for English language learning, while the Middle East takes more of a range.

Around bookfairs, and on travel trips, I schedule meetings with customers and work with the International team to put together presentations, order forms and other sales material that we can share to our customers. As I started working with customers in the pandemic I am excited to experience my first bustling bookfair!

The thing I look forward to the most… is presenting the books to customers! It is lovely when a customer matches the enthusiasm for a particular title! Since starting at Bonnier all my customer meetings have been online, so I am looking forward to meeting a handful of my customers in person.  Also, I will hopefully have the chance to travel and see the bookshops across the world. It is so interesting to see how the bookshops in different countries are stocked and what it selling – it really helps me refine the Bonnier list to each customer to match exactly what they are looking for.

What nobody else knows about my job… There can be a fair amount of royalties’ calculation and maths involved when offering special discounts and/or working out the cost of a direct shipment (I am a fan of a good spreadsheet!). Due to the political nature of my territories, some also require censorship checks. A lot of the time they require the finished physical copy for approval. Therefore, even if I personally love a new acquisition that comes in, I must think critically and determine whether it is likely to be approved.

One side of my job is working closely with our warehouse to ensure the stock arrives to the customer shippers. I had the pleasure to go on a trip to Felixstowe, ‘the Port of Britain’ , with Bonnier back in 2019. It was a great chance to experience the full chain of events directly: from the stock arriving to the shippers, the sorting and loading onto the ship, and how one minuscule delay in the sequence can prolong the delivery times by 4- 8 weeks.

How I got the job…. It has been quite a journey and involves several career changes! After studying Italian Language and Literature at university I entered the world of finance for an advertising and marketing company. I started studying for my finance qualifications and worked as an accountant for about three years. After this I decided to travel the world. Two years later, I settled in South Korea and worked as an English teacher. Returning to the UK I missed the travel lifestyle, and I made it a goal to find a job where the opportunity to travel was a major part of my work.

Using my finance qualifications, I started working in publishing on the agency side for Curtis Brown as a royalties co-ordinator. I oversaw Ed Victor’s list of clients, contacting authors, paying out royalties and dealing with tax exemption forms. It was a great initiation and I realised that many of the skills I had learned in a completely different industry could be transferred to the publishing world. Working for an agency I  learnt how publishing operated, how authors were signed and how book rights were sold. I then found the job as international sales assistant at Bonnier Books UK and decided to make the move. I was interested in Bonnier’s range of titles available – from beautiful picture books to bestselling fiction. This, and the opportunity to work with people all over the world made it the perfect match. I have since been working with Bonnier for almost 3 years!

My advice for anyone breaking in… Don’t focus on your lack of experience if you come from outside the industry. As my less than traditional personal journey into publishing shows, having experience in other business fields is useful. There are many different sides to the publishing industry, not just creative roles. The work can even vary within the same department! For example, there are 4 sales teams selling the English editions of the book and each has very different customer needs: International, UK, Digital and Specials. It is important to research what type of role would work best for you.

Read widely! It’s not always about the classics, focus on your enjoyment of reading. Whether it’s a pacey commercial crime, a book TikTok made you read, or perhaps you’re currently only reading board books to your new-born, publishing has spaces for all types of books.

The path I might have chosen… I do daydream about my backpacking days, climbing mountains and exploring beaches! However, I have worked in many different areas, which has given me the opportunity to determine what type of career path is right for me. After university, I never would have guessed that a career in sales would be such a good fit. Doors never fully close, there are skills that can transferred to a range of roles, both within publishing and outside to other industries.

For those looking to learn more about other roles in the industry, you can also take a look at interviews with colleagues in audio, rights, and editorial. And don’t forget to check out our Instagram @Inside_BBUK