Victor Iannone is the National Accounts Sales Manager for Simon and Schuster. After majoring in English, Victor went on to work in the corporate division at Borders before joining S&S. He currently resides in Ann Arbor, MI, and when not discovering new authors he can be found cheering on the University of Michigan Wolverines (“Go Blue!”)
We talked to Victor to learn more about what it’s like to work in sales for a publisher, his love for Leif Enger’s Peace Like a River, and how book tours are still an important part of the industry. “There are so many cities (outside of major tour cities like New York, Chicago, etc.) that don’t often have authors come through,” Victor says. “For those places, an author signing really is an event!”
Togather: How did you get involved in publishing?
Victor: I received a degree in English/Literature, and promptly put my degree to use managing Waldenbooks stores in upstate New York. From there I joined the corporate offices for Borders/Walden in Ann Arbor, MI. I held various positions, including book fair-coordinator, children’s marketing specialist, and working within the buying department. In 2006 I made the leap to the publishing side, when I joined Simon and Schuster and the Children’s Sales Division.
Togather: What do you do as an account manager? How does it differ from the role of an editor at a publisher?
Victor: As an account manager I have numerous responsibilities, but the main ones include selling our frontlist (and ensuring sales growth on our backlist) and ensuring the successful execution of marketing campaigns at my accounts. I’m able to provide feedback on potential acquisitions and input on jacket direction for new titles and repackaged backlist. I’m accountable for accurate estimating and forecasting to ensure our print runs are in-line. For me personally, I view my role as being both an advocate for the publisher to my accounts and as an advocate representing the needs of my accounts in-house.
Regarding the role of the editor, I think we work in tandem. Having a strong relationship with the editorial team allows me to share ideas, particularly regarding what I’m seeing working (and not working) within the marketplace. I’ve developed a reputation as someone who is passionate about our books, and many of our editors look for early reads from me to help build buzz on their titles in-house.
Togather: Do the authors you work with do a lot of events?
Victor: Yes. I think it’s important for our authors to tour, particularly so they can connect with their fans. I’ve attended many, many events with our authors, and it’s amazing to see the way readers interact with our authors. I was at a particularly well attended event with Ellen Hopkins, where the Q&A session went on for a while, and where girls (and their moms in some cases) were sharing their personal stories with Ellen. She’d obviously connected with them through her writing. At an event with D.J. MacHale there were two teens in attendance who had driven 6 or 7 hours to meet him. That’s dedication. D.J. was phenomenal with his fans, and I have to believe the relationship’s he’s forged with his fans has played a part in his success.
Togather: What do you think makes for a good book event?
Victor: I think with all of the changes we’re seeing within the industry, our most successful authors are those who are savvy with social media and who get out and meet/connect with their readers, letting their fans know where they’ll be signing through Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook I’ve seen Lisa McMann ask her fans where they’d like her to tour, and that type of feedback can help guide our publicists in shaping a tour. There are so many cities (outside of major tour cities like New York, Chicago, etc.) that don’t often have authors come through. For those places, an author signing really is an event!
The best events I’ve attended are those where the event has been well publicized. It may seem obvious, but I’ve been to poorly attended events with best-selling authors, and it was clear the event wasn’t properly publicized. The stores need to have in-store announcements (signage, bookmarks), and let their customers know through newsletters and websites. Schools are an important part in the success of juvenile events. Our authors often do 2 or 3 school events in a day, and a book store signing at night. Brandon Mull did such an amazing job talking up his events at his school appearances, we had to air-freight in more books. In terms of having a problem, that’s a pretty good one to have.
There are challenges, too. Teen events can be difficult, as teens have a lot of demands on their time (jobs, school, friends) so a YA author event can have a modest turnout. We’ve had success in pairing up established authors with debut authors who write in a similar genre, both to encourage a larger turn-out and help build the new author. We’ve also toured multiple authors together, such as on a “Summer Lovin” multi-city tour where different authors may join for selected events.
Togather: What books are you reading now that you’re really stoked on?
Victor: We have a new novel our list from Andrew Smith that I honestly could not be more excited about. It’s one I’ve been talking about for over a year, and it’s finally releasing in May. Winger is a coming of age novel set in a boarding school, filled with humor and heart. It’s one I couldn’t put down, and I’m thrilled with the way the buzz is building. It just recently received its second starred review, and accolades continue to come in. I was at an account trade show recently, and I went through my pile of ARCs in minutes. I guess my pitch was working, as I had folks coming to my booth and asking me for a copy.
Last year I read (and loved) The Art of Fielding, and one of my all-time favorite books to recommend is Peace Like a River. I tend to want to share what I’m excited about with anyone who will listen. A few years back I won an industry award, and was honored for being passionate about books. I think that’s pretty cool: Getting recognized for being able to share what you love.