Chris Moody is the founder of Bang the Drum. He has over 35+ years of experience in publishing and has worked with some of the largest UK publishers prior to going freelance and moving to working with smaller publishers which he says, “was a real eye opener.” He set up Bang The Drum to handle sales to UK booksellers on behalf of independent publishers. According to Chris, “sales is a great place to learn about the business of publishing. You are exposed to customers, pricing, scheduling, content, marketing, profitability, the whole ecosystem- and you can use this experience and knowledge to make a real contribution to a publisher.” Read on to get a further understanding of what it’s really like working in sales for the publishing industry.
What does Bang The Drum do? When and why did you start it?
Bang The Drum handles sales to UK booksellers on behalf of independent publishers. I have been freelancing as a sales person for about 5 years and set up Bang The Drum about two years ago
Tell us a bit about yourself, and what drew you to publishing? Do you think the route you took is possible in the current marketplace?
I have worked in publishing for 35+ years, for the majority of that time in sales. I started at 18 as a publishing trainee at Hodder. This involved spending around 2/3 months in each publishing function within the business – from the warehouse to editorial – and at the end of two years you would be offered a permanent post. A mixture of a love of books and where I lived at the time (I was within walking distance of the offices in Kent) meant publishing seemed a good fit for me. I am sure this route doesn’t exist now– I was able to live at home initially (not London), I didn’t have a degree, and I got a great grounding in how the ecosystem of publishing worked.
What’s been the most challenging part of running this business, before and during Covid?
To be honest the challenges generally have been the same, getting books into the available customers. During the pandemic there were obviously fewer titles being published and fewer booksellers open. I was able to dip into government support at the beginning of the pandemic and as I sell across a range of different customers it meant I wasn’t exposed to relying on sales through one particular sector being forced to close.
You’ve worked with various independent publishing houses over the years. How do you feel the size of a publishing house impacts your day-to-day at work? What are looming challenges or positives trends we should look out for in the next five years in book sales and distribution.
I had worked at some of the largest UK publishers prior to going freelance and moving to working with smaller publishers was a real eye opener. When you are carrying an established publisher’s lists your emails get answered quickly and your phone calls returned. Representing smaller publishers has meant a lot of chasing customers and clients, constant following up and thinking about how to use fewer resources effectively. It took me a while to get my head around the change. Selling now means so much revolves around presenting titles at the right time with the right information to the right customers at the right price. Not all smaller publishers have the resources to do this– so part of my challenge is to work with them to maximise the return on their resource. I would hope that one of the positive trends that will emerge is indie publishers working with sales agencies effectively to combine their efforts, giving those sales agencies compelling lists of publishers with which to engage retailers,
What are you most proud of in your publishing career so far?
Still being here, having good friends in the industry and that people still come to me for advice.
Favourite book(s) you’ve worked on at Bang The Drum?
I have had the privilege to work on so many great books during my career both at larger publishers and my indie clients. If you are forcing me to make a choice from my Bang The Drum clients I would say Nature’s Toybox from Storyhouse, Chill With Lil from Ragged Bears and The Most Important Animal Of All from Mama Makes Books.
Do you have any advice for people aspiring to work in the publishing industry and specifically in sales and distribution?
Sales is a great place to learn about the business of publishing. You are exposed to customers, pricing, scheduling, content, marketing, profitability, the whole ecosystem- and you can use this experience and knowledge to make a real contribution to a publisher. I know many people who have married their knowledge of sales to a creative drive and made their way in corporate publishing or created wonderful indie publishers.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with Neem Tree Press, Chris!