Samantha Fanaken works as part of Random House's sales team as a Senior Key Account Manager, and here she discusses selling literary fiction into bookshops.
One of the most enjoyable parts of working for a literary publisher like CCV is reading large piles of paper that will one day turn into books. Reading a book long before it has a cover means you come to it with no assumptions, only the enthusiastic description from the editor when they asked you to read it.
It’s hugely useful to have read as much of our fiction list as possible before presenting them to retailers. Non-fiction is easier to categorise, it’s usually simpler to assess whether a book will appeal to classic military history buffs or foodies etc, whereas fiction is much more subjective.
So, it’s helpful to know a book before trying to recommend it – so you can do the quick reductive ‘it’s a bit blah meets blah’ or ‘if you liked that, you’ll love this’ but then go on to talk about a book in more detail – the characters you can’t stop thinking about, the scenes that stay with you, the plot twists.
The Einstein Girl has much to offer. It has a rich seam of history, set in Berlin just before Hitler comes to power, and uses a little-known fact from Albert Einstein’s life as its core. There’s a mystery to be solved - a young woman is found naked in the woods outside the city with a leaflet to a lecture by Albert Einstein in her hand as the only clue to her identity. There’s a sweet sad love story between her and her psychiatrist, a man battling with his own scars left by the Great War. Slowly between their conversations and the psychiatrist’s own research, the greater story of Einstein’s family and its secrets unravel.
Enough sly pitching of the book at you. Read it, it’s great.
So, reading the book helps give me a steer on the potential readers and how we might best reach them through our retailers. When talking to a retailer like Waterstone’s, who are very supportive of new and developing writers, we have a good discussion around who might buy the book and whether that makes it a candidate for promotion front of store in its first outing in hardback or trade paperback, or whether it’s best to push the paperback a year later. In this instance, I’m pleased to report Waterstone’s are as keen as I am on The Einstein Girl and it is available in all stores in their 3 for 2 throughout August.
Philip's editor at Harvill Secker has kindly squirrelled away five copies of The Einstein Girl for us. If you'd like to be in the running for one of them, all you have to do is answer the following question: where did the designers find the photograph which appears on the cover of The Einstein Girl? Send your answers to "competition at philipsington dot com": next week, Philip will select the five winners at random and I'll announce them here.