Pan Macmillan has hailed the success of its bookseller mentorship pilot scheme, which has now come to an end after 14 weeks.
Called “The Secret Life of Books”, the programme was devised by its UK sales team as a way for booksellers to learn more about publishing and the opportunities that exist in the industry. The scheme was advertised in The Bookseller in May 2021, and seven booksellers from across the UK were accepted.
Pan Macmillan specifically encouraged applicants from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, as well as those with disabilities, to apply for the programme, which began in March. The virtual format also enabled booksellers outside London to join.
Participants spent one to two hours a week attending meetings and making contacts across Pan Macmillan, as well as having regular catch-ups with mentors. Each week, they attended a presentation from different parts of the business, from adult editorial, to design, marketing and publicity, to give them “a holistic insight into the overall 'life’ of books, from acquisition through to delivery to bookshops and beyond”.
As part of the programme, Pan Macmillan created an extensive glossary of publishing terms for the benefit of participants. Staff from departments across all levels of the business fed useful phrases and terminology into the document, with the shared aim of opening up the language of publishing.
Christine Jones, UK sales director, said: “We really wanted to demystify the publishing process, in order to demonstrate that a career in publishing is possible for anyone with a genuine love of books and reading. The lockdowns presented a unique opportunity to run a programme which brought together booksellers all over the UK with Pan Macmillan staff, and we are delighted at how successful its first incarnation has been. It was a genuine two-way learning process, not just for the members of the UK sales team who spent a year putting the course together, but for everyone across the business.”
Sahil Javed, a bookseller at Waterstones in Manchester who took part, said: “I didn’t even know that a career in publishing was possible. Before going into it, it was quite daunting, but now having completed the programme it seems a lot more accessible. There were so many myths that were debunked over the 12 weeks, like that you need to have a degree, or to read a certain amount of books, or stick to a certain genre.
“The experience has definitely helped me to map out the next few steps of what I need to do to get into a career in publishing and has opened a lot of pathways for me. Equally, learning about all the different stages that a book has gone through to get into the store has been super helpful in my current job, and given me a new appreciation for new releases as well as a better idea of how to sell them.”