The reboot of our “Beacon Behind the Books” series is still rolling! In these times when readers are responding to our books “more than ever,” when our authors—including Colm Tóibín, Sheryll Cashin, Robin DiAngelo, Eboo Patel, and Gayl Jones—are appearing in the media, their ideas going viral on social media, their voices being heard on so many platforms, we thought it would be good to take a break to focus on some of the staff who work hard to find, shape, edit, produce, and promote those works. Our blog series introduces to you a member of our staff and gives you a behind-the-scenes look, department by department, at what goes on at our office.
For the month of August, we introduce you to our sales and marketing assistant, Brittany Wallace!
What drew you to publishing, Brittany? How did you find your way to Beacon?
When I was a kid, my favorite store was Barnes & Noble. I’ve always been a reader, and quite frankly, I’ve only ever really felt qualified to work with books. I started out with the starry-eyed vision of publishing everyone has: editing. I learned in graduate school that being an editor probably wasn’t for me and, feeling a little hopeless toward the end of my graduate career, took a marketing and sales class. It changed the game for me, and I realized I could get paid to use my favorite bookselling skill: connecting people with books they’ll love.
I found Beacon in a roundabout way. I had an informational interview with my now-colleague Haley Lynch when I first moved to Boston in 2019. When I finished my master’s program, I applied for the Business Operations Assistant role, met several Beaconites during the interview process, but ultimately didn’t get the job. Little did I know, a sales and marketing assistant position was opening, and the hiring manager graciously passed along my application materials to the hiring manager. A few interviews later, I got the offer. I’m not a big believer in fate, but the journey to this job swayed me.
What’s a typical day in the life of a sales and marketing assistant?
I’ve just taken up journaling again—couldn’t recommend the Morning Pages approach more—so I wake up about thirty minutes before I start work to write. Then my partner makes me a Nescafé frappe before he leaves for his very cool job as Master Model Builder at Legoland, and I crack open my trusty work laptop.
I check email for about twenty minutes to make sure I don’t have any fires to put out, and then I write down my top three goals for the day in my planner. If I don’t do this, the day feels too nebulous, and my attention span suffers even more.
Some days are more sales heavy than others, where I work with outside organizations and authors on bulk sales, but my days recently have been more marketing forward. I email with authors and editors, create digital assets, execute various marketing plans, and schedule Facebook ads. I also run our bookseller newsletter, so you might catch me making GIFs for it in Canva.
I tend to work straight through the day with short breaks in between to snuggle my dog or do a quick ten-minute meditation. Once my day wraps, I take the two-foot walk to my bed and scroll through Instagram to decompress.
What are some of the challenges of being a sales and marketing assistant? What do you find most rewarding?
My biggest challenge as a marketer is that I like to think outside the realm of reality, so I have to be pulled back down to earth. But that’s also one of the most rewarding things because I have a supportive team that lets me flex my creative muscles (see: my tea towel for Breaking Bread). My relationships with our authors and my colleagues, though, are the most rewarding.
The “it takes a village” phrase has been co-opted to death, but it really does apply to book publishing. I think of it as a road trip, where we’re all driving our little cars to the same destination and supporting each other along the way.
What are your experiences attending conferences like and how do they add to your work?
One of my very favorite meeting types is the sales conference, where we get to share our forthcoming books with sales representatives and hear their feedback. Sales reps are the unsung heroes of book publishing. It’s easy to congratulate the author for a great book, to thank the booksellers for their great work promoting the book, to even pat the publishing team on the back for their behind-the-scenes work. But sales reps are the heart that pumps excitement about books to each other and booksellers. They’re all so brilliant—and I’m not just saying that because I want them to like me. I learn something new each time we meet with them and come away with excellent advice for how to better position my books for readers.
What’s your advice to someone interested in entering the publishing field?
Get a bookselling job if you can swing it. There are all kinds of prohibitive factors that I don’t want to discount with that advice; for many, bookselling won’t pay the bills. But if you can be a bookseller, even for a year, you’ll learn so much more about books and what goes into them than you will from any degree. You’ll learn about the consumer (your favorite regular who loves thrillers!) and the business behind it (the finicky inventory system that, once conquered, will make you feel like you can learn anything). All of the (literal) on-the-ground experience primes you for pretty much any publishing job, but especially editorial, publicity, or marketing.
In an alternate universe, what career would you have?
I think I’d be a jewelry designer. If you know me, you know I’m a ring person, and I love to accessorize with various baubles. I’d love to create custom designs for myself and for others.
Favorite book ever?
Tie between Rachel Harrison’s The Return and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. The latter fills that need for dark but romantic, even if problematic, while the former is dark, smart as hell, skin crawly, and such a brilliant interrogation of female friendship through horror.
Hobbies outside of work?
Hiking and watching my dog run around in the woods, living her best life.
Favorite type of music?
Right now, I’m really into the music that you’d hear if you tuned into the radio in the 1940s. Is that blues? Jazz? I don’t really know.
Name three things at your workstation that you can’t live without.
My wireless mouse that is both pretty and silent, my mechanical keyboard because it makes those fun clickety-clackity sounds, and my houseplants.
More About Brittany Wallace
Brittany Wallace joined Beacon Press in 2021 after completing her master’s in Publishing and Writing at Emerson College. Previously, she worked as a bookseller and magazine buyer at a Boston-based independent bookstore, and before that, she was at Barnes & Noble. She also has several years of experience editing at an online magazine, where she curated the fiction and nonfiction sections. When she’s not working, Brittany is likely hiking in the forest while listening to a true crime podcast telling her to stay out of the forest. You can find her yelling about books and her dog on Twitter @thebooseller.