Where I work
I live in Hackney in East London and with Barrington Stoke in Edinburgh I have always worked from home. At some point or other I have worked in every room in the house except the bathroom. At the moment I have a large desk in the sitting room, with plenty of knee room which is unusual and a real treat. And bliss compared to the early days when I used to work in the bedroom with a fax machine spurting out export orders all through the night!
In the past I was accompanied by my cat Jake who would curl up in my intray for the duration, and drink any left over cold tea lying around ”“ although when he was on his last legs he was once sick on my laptop and broke it. I now have two dogs, Reggie and Teddy. As a cat person I am appalled on a daily basis how I let that happen. They curl up on the sofa right next to me. Reggie, who is 9 and likes his sleep, will only stir when I have biscuits at coffee time. Teddy, who is 3, spends most of the day on the back of the sofa, watching the local cats and squirrels. He is well-known for barking at the worst possible moments, especially during conference calls. He also likes to go through visitor’s handbags and munch their Oyster cards. (Sorry Mairi).
How I started
I started working for Barrington Stoke about six months before we launched in 1998. I was pregnant with my first baby and did a few hours a week working with the founders Lucy Juckes and Patience Thomson, organising the launch, the party and the PR, setting up the sales and marketing systems and working on our 6 titles, which included stories from Michael Morpurgo, Viv French and Mary Hoffman. Lucy set up Barrington Stoke in the front room of her house in Edinburgh. Patience was in Oxford but we used to meet in cafes in London quite a bit. She was very well-connected in the educational and special needs areas, and also wrote an educational ”˜agony aunt’ column for The Telegraph at the time, and, looking back, the PR side of things was a bit of a dream. Lucy had been the Sales Director of Bloomsbury and had loads of connections in the book world and that too really helped. We all worked funny hours, Lucy and I particularly, as we both had small babies and it was not unusual to have hours on the phone after 8pm. It was a happy, exciting time ”“ and a world away from the larger companies I had worked for before.
Sixteen years on and I am still here! My boys are huge and have grown out of the Barrington Stoke books I fed them on and I now work with a larger-though-still-small, but lovely team led by Mairi in an actual proper grown-up office in Edinburgh.
What I do
In lots of ways, the job hasn’t changed. We have a lot more books ”“ and definitely much better books ”“ but there are a lot less accounts to sell to. In the last 10 years we have lost many important supporters and opportunities ”“ Ottakars, Hammicks, Borders, Books Etc and Dillons, as well as wholesalers such as Heathcotes, THE and Barnicoats and I now see only a handful of library suppliers, although the business we do with those left is huge. The indies have always been at the heart of our business and certainly we have lost quite a few over the years but plenty of exciting ones continue to open.
We’ve been with our agents Bounce Sales and Marketing since they started in 2002, mainly because MD Robert Snuggs makes great cakes and terrible jokes. We see the team there every two months to brief them on the plans for the list and get feedback from them on the market. I also work closely with their brilliant reps and their key customers. I really like talking to and visiting booksellers and finding new ways of reaching our readers. It’s a constant challenge to find ways of communicating what we do, why and how, to consumers and their gatekeepers ”“ without actually saying it on the books.
I look after some of the larger export territories myself and work with Bounce on others, including the mighty Sweden who sell Barrington Stoke books like you would not believe. In the UK, I look after a cluster of the larger non trade accounts such as school book clubs Pandora, Scholastic and Troubadour. Most of the business is by email or phone now and in person at the London and Bologna Book Fairs. I love the buzz of the book fairs and wearing a ”˜different hat’ at every 30 minute appointment slot throughout the day.
One of the best aspects to the role is the contact with authors. They are so key to our success and it’s really important to me that they feel well cared for. Having the best authors also makes talking to our customers so much easier and that, coupled with the passionate message behind Barrington Stoke, means selling and marketing the list is a real treat. Most people I deal with want the same thing as us ”“ for more people to read, to read more and most importantly, to enjoy reading. So we work together to find effective ways of doing just that.