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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Upskilling Dictionary: Sales

By Sukhpreet Chana, Misha Manani and Joe Pilbrow


The sales department of a publishing house is the last link in the chain. Once everyone else has done their job and the book is ready to sell, the sales team takes over. They have a huge influence over how well a book sells, so the work they do is crucial to the whole company’s success. There are all sorts of roles at different levels within the sales department, including Sales Assistants, Key Account Managers and the Head of Sales. Sales employees will often find themselves working on a wide range of different books, so if you enjoy variety in your job and thrive in target-oriented roles, a job in sales could be perfect for you!


  • Back Order: An order that cannot be fulfilled straight away due to a lack of stock. The sales team holds the order until the book is available, at which point they send it out.

  • Digital and Online Sales: This is when electronic versions are promoted on the publisher’s website. Customers can download material, including academic articles and eBooks. This raises awareness and helps customers get the best deals, online and instore. These include Amazon, Apple Books, Google Books, Audible and Kobo.

  • Field Sales: The practice of making sales outside of the office. This could be at book fairs, libraries, conferences, or just at the customer office.

  • Gross Margin: The total earnings from book sales minus the amount spent on publishing and marketing costs, to give you a net profit. Then divide the total by your net profit.

  • Key Accounts: This includes sales to important supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s. These stores have a high uptake of commercial fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, memoirs and celebrity biographies.

  • Key Selling Points: When a publisher identifies unique elements that support the sale of a book. This could be anything from appearance to genre and how the book appeals to the target audience.

  • Non-trade: The Works, Aldi, Lakeland, Urban Outfitters and gift shops in museums and galleries fall here. These are places that you would not traditionally associate with selling books because they have a diverse range of other products.

  • Point-of-Sale (POS): This is material connected to the title that helps to create a buzz and sell the book, usually in bookshops. It includes bookmarks, badges, pens, magnets etc. Waterstones and Foyles are popular for this.

  • Pre-order: You can place an order for a book before the publication date which guarantees you a copy in the initial print run. Pre-order sales are a key figure because books that are highly anticipated have a greater chance of selling well.

  • Print-on-Demand (POD): This can vary between companies, but if a title has a first print run of 1000 or less and they are not sold out, they can fall under POD. These are books with limited demand, but this can also occur after several years.

  • Recommended Retail Price (RRP): The price that the publisher recommends that the retailer should charge for a book and usually the price you’d pay for the book in a shop.

  • Retail Landscape: When applying for jobs in sales, it is important to have a strong commercial awareness of bookstores, non-trade sales, supermarkets, retailers and e-commerce. You need to know about the various demographics, the geography of the larger stores and the genres that sell well.

  • Sales Catalogue: The list of titles from the autumn and summer season with metadata, key selling points and the book cover image. This is usually displayed on the websites, but it can also be given to booksellers.

  • Sales Pitch: An in-person presentation given by a member of the sales team designed to persuade someone to buy a book and stock it in their store or on their website. This will include a short hook and synopsis, as well as important details like RRP and stock information.

  • Special Sales: Different ways of marketing and selling books through non-traditional channels, such as repeat print runs, rebranding out-of-print books or selling large volumes at a discount.

  • Stock Keeping Unit (SKU): A code that is used to track stock levels, taking into account book sales.

  • Total Consumer Market (TCM): When you add up the amount of books that have been sold in bookshops, stores and websites. It is shown in newspaper bestseller lists, especially The Sunday Times. But not all retailers and UK book sales are in the charts.

  • Wholesale: This refers to the practice of buying books from the publisher in bulk at a discounted price. Bookshops, libraries, etc. can then buy smaller quantities and sell them for a higher price.


Thank you for reading Issue Seventy-Nine! Join us again for Issue Eighty where we will cover Upskilling Tips for Gaining Industry Experience.



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