We have two sales conferences a year here at AMACOM, and for many of us; it’s one of the most stressful times of the year. Before we even get to the actual sales conference, every single detail of our catalog has to be finalized – including the catalog copy describing the book, the trim size, the cost, the correct titles and correct spelling of author names. The emails fly back and forth at lightning pace – often to the point that it’s difficult to keep up. And this is before we even decide which books each one of us will be presenting at our sales conference!
A few weeks before sales conference, the folks in marketing call a brief meeting where we decide who will be presenting which book. In my case, I’ll usually pick something I’ve worked on, and maybe another title or two that I’m completely unfamiliar with, beyond knowing that it exists. With the books I’m unfamiliar with I’ll ask my colleagues for the manuscript, notes and any other pertinent information they may have about the project, and read through as much of it as I can while doing the day-to-day tasks of my job. The deadline is tight because we have to make sure that we have a final version of our speeches before the sales conference.
Despite having experience as a freelance music journalist and working with tight deadlines on a frequent basis before joining AMACOM, I still have a fear of missing deadlines because of writer’s block. I often feel better even if I just put down a few rough and jumbled ideas, knowing that if I were pressed for time or somehow had the worst case of writer’s block imaginable, at least I have something. Sometimes, my initial ideas are pretty well fleshed out, but generally I have to develop my ideas some. And then I worry about grammar, syntax, and so on. Usually, there’s something I’m unhappy about, and I wind up nitpicking and rewriting – sometimes a sentence or two at a time. How this is done in the midst of a time crunch and while giving day-to-day work the attention it deserves is amazing to even me.
Let me give you a couple of examples of the number of times I’ve rewritten things before the sales conference: I rewrote my speech for The On Demand Brand 10 times; I rewrote my speech for Black Faces in White Places; and the speech for How to Write Fast Under Pressure –four times. Usually the books I’ve had some direct involvement in are the most difficult to write, and they’re the ones I wind up really obsessing about in a way that borders on unhealthy.
But it turns out that all of those hours of rewriting and obsessing are worth it in the end. By the time I read them during the run through before our conference, there are usually only a few minor tweaks and suggestions here and there, and it often makes the couple of weeks of fretting and worrying seem – well, silly. And then it’s on to the nerve-wracking few minutes of actually presenting in front of the entire company and our sales reps!
William Helms is an Editorial Assistant at AMACOM. He performs administrative tasks such as preparing contracts but does editorial work as such developing contracts and has recently begun to acquire books. His first acquired book, I Got My Dream Job and So Can You was published by AMACOM in March. Previously, he was an Editorial Assistant at Hippocrene Books, a midtown Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens-based, family-owned, independent publisher of bilingual dictionaries, language guides, travel books, and international cookbooks. He has also been a freelance music journalist and photographer with photos and articles published in New York Magazine’s Vulture Blog, the New York Press, LIC Notes, Glide Magazine, The Noise Beneath the Apple, and others.