It’s no surprise that here at Kill Your Darlings we love books and everywhere they pile up. We visit bookstores, hibernate in libraries and stack our to-read piles high. But these books don’t arrive the way we receive them – there are hundreds of small tasks and different skill sets that take each book from a writer’s manuscript to the copy in our hands. This podcast touches on just a few of them.

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TRANSCRIPT

Hello and welcome back to the Kill Your Darlings Podcast. I’m Meaghan Dew, and instead of interviewing authors today, we’re going to do something a bit different. Today is a day in the life of the book industry. We’ll start a bit before 9am.

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Hi, my name is Meghan Cummins, and I’m the inventory coordinator at Pan Macmillan Australia. As the inventory coordinator, my role is mainly concerned with making sure that we have enough stock to support demand, without having overstocks, and it’s not a role that exists in every publishing company in Australia – even as a company as large as Pan Macmillan, I’m the only team member who sort of exclusively deals with stock management. My days are pretty varied, and while looking after inventory probably takes up around two thirds of my time, I also spend a lot of time liaising with various internal and external stakeholders. Because I am sort of the go-to person on stock levels, sales reps will usually come to me if they have a question about availability of stock, and these are the sorts of queries I am answering every day. I also talk a lot to our key account managers in regards to the stock that they need for their major DDS and chain accounts, and often they will check with me in regards to stock availability or give us a heads-up before they confirm which titles will be catalogued or part of a sale. I’m often emailing our colleagues at Pan Macmillan UK and US about new titles and stock that we order from them, and then I also spend a bit of time in contact with our production and publicity departments up in our Sydney office. Managing stock, it’s the kind of job that needs monitoring all day every day, it’s not something that can be done for two or three days a week and then left for a few days and just sort of forgot about. So often this means I am ordering stock from the UK or the US every day, or I am emailing our printer or production department to get quotes for reprints and to get reprints going, so this sort of thing, we are constantly monitoring to make sure we don’t go out of stock of major titles. And while everyone I talk to is important, I do have a particularly good relationship with our warehouse, they usually come to us with a really varied list of queries, it can be anything from their customer service department or from the shipping coordinator or inventory or logistics, and these can range from anything like a question about title availability, to damaged stock or shipping information. And on top of all this I am also responsible for uploading and managing ebook metadata, so I do that every month, and we have a fair amount of interaction with the digital department because of that, so that’s really interesting too. So I guess as you can see, it is a really varied role, and a lot of my responsibilities, like stock ordering, are weekly tasks – things like ebook metadata are monthly tasks. So it took me a bit of time to really get a sense for how the process runs on a weekly and on a monthly basis. And it can be a pretty full on role at times, which I like, having a bit more of a full on role, and I work with a really great team, which was makes it much easier when you are doing that, when you have got busy days, it makes it 100 times easier. Probably my favourite task as inventory coordinator is the chance that I get to interact with a heap of different other departments. In the product department we are probably the only department to liaise with every other department in the publishing process – except probably publishing and editorial – but we do have our fingers in every other pie, from production to publicity to sales, digital and marketing. And working as part of a bigger publishing company has been really great, because it has given me a chance to interact with, as well as a huge selection of apartments, a lot of other people, I get a chance to interact with a really large list as well. So we, at Pan we release hundreds of titles a year, so I am always looking at frontlist titles, as well as backlist titles to try and maintain a kind of balance there, depending on the season and sales and everything.

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Hello, my name is Jackie, I am a senior marketing executive for Penguin Random House. It’s currently 9:30 in the morning and I would usually have been at work for about an hour or so now, and the first thing I would do is get in and read my emails, and eat my breakfast, and get ready for the day ahead, make my to-do list. And then at this time I would come and get coffee, so that’s what we’re doing now. Then immediately after getting my coffee, I have a meeting every day, scheduled for 9:30, with my partner Bec. So she is also a senior marketing executive, and together we work across all of the title campaigns for Penguin books, both local and international. And what we will do in these meetings is look at the books that we have all across the board, so while I am responsible for Penguin books and Bec is responsible for Random House books, we work together to ensure that all of our books are being represented in the right way, that they have enough activity planned for them, and that if I have got a crime book and Bec has a crime book, it makes sense to pair them together in some way, if it’s appropriate – whether that be online or through print advertising, or whatever other kind of promotional activity we can do. After my meetings with Bec, I will go back to my desk, and something that I would do a regular basis is brief in artwork to our amazing design team. So today for example I got some artwork back from our design team for an airport light wall, for John Safran’s new book, Depends What You Mean By Extremist. And it looks amazing, it looks really really cool. So we are going to reuse the same artwork for some bill posters, which are going to be placed around Melbourne and Sydney, so that’s really exciting.

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Good morning, my name’s Richard, I work at the Kathleen Syme Library in Carlton. It’s 10:47 in the morning, and today we are currently serving customers and helping them out with their book requests, and we have also got a number of computers here, so people have come up and asked for a bit of assistance with their printing for computer enquiries. We also have a lot of book reservations, so somebody might have ordered a book from another library, and we will unpack it and make sure it goes under their name so that they can come and pick it up. There is also a bunch of enquiries relating to children’s programs that we have this morning, so there is Songbirds, so we have families come down after Songbirds and have a play in our children’s area, and they might find some books as well. So it’s… kind of quiet here at the moment, there’s a few people walking around, but we still get quite busy with the library tasks that we have to do.

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Hi, my name’s Veronica Sullivan, and I’m the prize manager for the Stella Prize. So it’s 11 o’clock in the morning, at the moment I am working on promoting our shortlist for 2017, as we are in the leadup to the announcement of the winner in April, and so a lot of our energy goes towards really getting the word out about our amazing shortlist and trying to get stores to handsell the books and make sure that readers know about them, connect with book clubs, so there is a lot of marketing related stuff. This week we’ve been packing up many, many boxes of point-of-sale stuff for bookstores and sending them out. So that’s kind of manual labour, and that’s probably a bit of, you know, it’s a pretty drudgy part of the job, not my favourite part, but it’s all in the service of promoting these amazing books, so it’s really exciting. And I am also working on the planning of the 2017 award night, so that is a gala cocktail event and there are speeches and, you know, there are celebrities, in the very limited sense of the publishing world, but it is the most glamorous that we get, really! So that is really fun, that is kind of event planning. And another thing we are focusing on at the moment is that we’re about to launch Girls Write Up, which is an annual festival that we run through the Stella Schools program, and it’s for teenagers, and it is sort of aimed at looking at the intersections of language, gender and power, and encouraging young people, especially young girls, but people of all genders, to feel kind of empowered and to question gender structures and to kind of break beyond those and find their creative voices. So that is a really exciting to be part of, and we’re super, super excited to be announcing that really soon. So that is just the three things that I have been focusing on recently, but the work at the Stella Prize is kind of very piecemeal, and there is a lot of things constantly vying for attention, which is really great, because it means you are never bored and there is always something completely different that needs doing, especially at this very, very busy time of year!

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Hi, I’m Alison Menzies, and I’m the Digital Manager at Text Publishing, we are located in the city on William Street. What time is it? It’s 12, lunchtime, the middle of the day, and what I am doing at the moment is I’m setting up our newsletters that we send out on pub date, every month – we do two newsletters, one is for the general sort of book buying public, we call them booklovers, the other is for more industry-based recipients, so booksellers, and news kind of people, like journos and the sort of people, so we have two separate newsletters that we send out, so I’ve got to set this up via templates, and get them already to go. So it takes probably, I reckon, about a day and a half of full work to get these things together. So they are a little bit different to what we send to each of them because of the different information they need – for instance, the industry based one, we tell them a bit about rights that we’ve got available, and a little bit more about each book so that booksellers know what it is that we think is important about our books, and why we think they’re something they really need to have on their shelves or they really need to promote. Whereas, say, for the booklovers newsletters, we emphasise quite a lot our events, that we have got on around the country, for all our amazing wonderful authors that we have. For instance, I have got one here – so we’ve got Kate Grenville, who recently won a prize from the Australia Council for lifetime achievement in literature, so we’re pretty proud of that, she is doing quite a lot of events around the country to promote her book The Case Against Fragrance, so I have got to list all of those that are going on, as well as all of our other wonderful authors. So a lot of this is actually, I don’t know what – it is very time-consuming, and one of the reasons is because we have to sort of have lots of links that go everywhere, to our website, so for every single book we’ve got to make sure it’s linked correctly back to that book on our website, and every time we mention that book we sort of link it back, so it’s easy for people to find those sort of details. And you know, and we have a giveaway as well so I have to decide which books I want to give away too, as well, and so then I also have to, we have a little ‘meanwhile in other bookish news’ on our booklovers, so I’ve got to find interesting links that haven’t been done to death on Facebook or Twitter already – for instance I was thinking about that one, there is a recent case where the comma won a court case in the US, which I saw that and thought, ‘oh, that’s going to be a fantastic link’, but within two days it exploded everywhere, so I’m not using that as a link that people can read, because everyone’s already looked at that, so I’ve already trashed that link as an idea. In terms of whether or not is my favourite job… it’s interesting, I think that the length of time it takes to do all these links makes it a little tedious. I also do the twice-weekly blog post, which I find, I think I find that to be the most interesting part, so finding things to blog about twice a week in terms of what’s good about our books that we want to promote that week, or what’s going on, those kinds of things, so we put, I put those together, that always has to be run of course by our editors, so I don’t think I have done one yet when they haven’t found something to correct, so that is always a blow to the ego, but that is how it is.

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You’re listening to the Kill Your Darlings Podcast. This episode of the podcast is brought to you by this month’s Book Club pick, Stephen Greenall’s Winter Traffic – an epic novel of corruption, murder and the true nature of justice, Winter Traffic announces a compelling new voice in literary crime. It is out now with Text Publishing.

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Hi, I’m Allie, and I’m a learning consultant at Cengage, working in the higher education team. It is almost 1 o’clock now, and I’m out at a university campus, I have just come out of a meeting with a science academic where I showed them our newest textbook and demonstrated the technology. Demonstrating technology is my favourite part of the job, as it makes the learning experience so much better for the students. They get to practice the things they are learning, not just memorise them. I am off now to the campus bookstore to check how my titles are selling, and I’m going to pop in to see if one of our authors is in his office for a quick catch up.

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Hi, I’m Cosima McGrath, I’m the new assistant editor at Affirm Press. I’ve only been in the job for maybe three months, so the training wheels are very much still on, but I’m having an amazing time. And the job I’m currently working on, at approximately 2 o’clock in the afternoon on a Wednesday, is three books which I’m taking to print. Taking to print basically, for me, kind of seems like babysitting three different books, so I’m helping them go from the author’s hands through to the printing and production side of things. So that involves organising proofreaders, getting the typeset ready, and organising for ARCs, which are advanced reading copies. And then I’m also organising the photo section for one of those books, which is quite a fun job for a Wednesday afternoon. It just involves printing out all the photos that we’re going to put into this memoir, and deciding which ones I think look best, and which captions we can go with them, and making sure that the story of the book is displayed well in those images. So at the moment I’m cutting out each image and making a little storyboard, and it kind of feels like primary school and just craft day, which is a lot of fun!

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I work in sales for a trade publisher. It’s about 4:30 in the afternoon, and I’ve finally got to do quite a boring task, which involves looking through a massive order from one of my export customers and reporting back on anything that we couldn’t supply. So I’ve actually got to go through line by line and note all the backorders, and then check when the stock is coming in so I can feed that information back to the customer. If we don’t have stock on order, I’ll need to contact the product inventory person and see if we can get more stock coming. It’s one of those boring spreadsheet jobs which is not my favourite thing to do. Having said that, it is all part of the customer relationship I have, and it is good to do these things and keep the communication and the information up-to-date. I have got that, which I have been working on, and I’m also working on a list of special reprints for a key customer, and this involves printing to spec, editions of fiction and non-fiction. The customer will then take the stock in one drop, and we schedule these titles throughout the year. It’s great revenue, I love doing the deals and negotiating on price, but it is great to eventually get the orders and know that I have got that business locked down, ready for the rest of the year. The other task I need to do quite soon is send out a newsflash to a couple of customers, and it’s to do with joining a print run which is for a title that’s been printed in the UK, so I’ll get my customers to join, they’ll get a better price and we boost the print run and we all make more money. There is a pretty tight deadline, I have got to get the orders in by tomorrow, and we will need to have the orders placed on our system, so I need to do that as well. So sales, great, love it – task I least like is the admin, I just want the sales, the books invoiced, the customer happy, and then I’m free to just keep making more deals!

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I’m Gerard Elson, and I work at Readings in St Kilda. I am essentially just a general staff member working at the counter, on the weekends I’m the duty manager, and occasionally I get to arrange events. Right now I’ve been on the counter for the past few hours, so we are open till 9pm, the night shift is kind of two til nine o’clock, but now I’ve been shelving and up the back actually helping people with music and similar such things. Certainly increases your knowledge of literature, I mean, something I always say about this job – I’ve been here for almost 7 years now, and I say this without a hint of facetiousness – is that working in the store has been the best education I’ve ever had, I think just the knowledge that I get from my colleagues, from the customers, we have a lot of great regular customers who always come in and want to have a chat, and want to discuss and enthuse about the books they’ve been reading, and kind of share them with us, there is a lot of back and forth as far as that goes. And it’s just actually seeing what’s out, what’s arriving on the shelf, because of course we have to shelve everything here, so you are actually holding everything that’s coming in all the time. So it is really great for just awareness of what is out there and what is being published. So Readings, I suppose, is a great company to work for because they have such cultural cachet, and they run all these great events with authors and musicians et cetera, and so we are able to arrange events for the store here, a lot of that happens out of our head office in Carlton, but they also give us quite a lot of free reign, they really encourage us actually, if we have an author that we want to get in here in conversation or a band or a musician that we’d like to come in and perform in store, we have a lot of freedom to try and arrange that stuff ourselves as well. So that is a really fun part of my job, I do a bit of that. And occasionally I host those in-store events, so one of the coolest ones I have ever got to do was with John Darnielle a couple of years ago, when his first novel was published. And he is back in the country at the moment touring with his band the Mountain Goats, and we are told his record label has him on a pretty tight leash, so he is not really doing any book promotion, but because he had such a fun time here last time, he is doing a signing with us this week on Wednesday, so that’s going to be pretty fun, of course. So yeah, there’s all kinds of different stuff. We can write for the website, for the Readings Monthly if we want, that’s really encouraged. And we can also, there is a Readings Podcast which has just been started recently, so I did my first interview for one of those with a really wonderful Melbourne-based musician and songwriter, who all of us here actually really love, called Rough River, her name is Kate Skinner, she is a solo artist primarily, and one of the great things is we got to arrange her to come in and she is playing on Thursday night, so there is all this fun stuff that we get to do here too. And as I say… (MAN INTERRUPTS)

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Hi, my name is Danielle Gori, and I’m a publicist at Scribe Publications. It’s around 6:30 on a Tuesday night, and I have been accompanying one of my authors, Jessica Friedmann, for a Kill Your Darlings Podcast interview in our offices – this isn’t something I would do on a regular basis, but it is something that pops up every now and then in my job. I do quite enjoy staying back and doing these kind of things with authors, I really enjoy going to launches as well, but it would be nice to get home and have some dinner, so… (LAUGHS) I guess there is joy in doing these sort of out-of-hours tasks, but at the same time it is nice to have a normal Tuesday night sometimes too. My favourite thing about being a publicist is going to writers’ festivals, I really love going to authors’ sessions and also taking care of authors during the festival. I get a lot of joy out of doing that – I worked for a writers’ festival before I was a publicist, so I think that could be why I enjoy it so much. The thing that I enjoy least about being a publicist is the occasional long hours, but look, that’s occasional, so I can’t really complain at all, and the perks definitely outweigh the negatives.

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You’ve been listening to the Kill Your Darlings Podcast. Thank you to everyone involved in this one, both for the time you gave up, and for the work you do on a daily basis to get books into readers’ hands. We will be back in a month, but in the meantime please do visit us at killyourdarlingsjournal.com, and don’t forget to come along to our trivia night and launch, which is later this month. See you next time.