Musings of an Introvert Publisher, Part 2

In the first part of this three-part interview, you met Gary Krebs, an introvert who sells for a living. Dealmaker by day and homebody on weekends, Krebs climbed the ladder from an entry-level editorial job to vice president and group publisher at McGraw-Hill Professional. Along the way, he moonlighted as the author of a book about rock stars. Now his form of rock and roll is making deals with authors and agents, mentoring his editors, and moving books from concept to cash register. He uses words, mostly spoken, to inspire, persuade, and sell. How does he do that as an introvert? Read on.

NA: Once you’ve acquired books, what happens?
GK: At that point, the editors must generate excitement for the books as they are edited.

NA: It sounds as if the editors—whom I suspect are mainly introverts—are responsible for a lot of selling.
GK: My industry is all about persuading, selling, and communicating. Editors need to “sell to the salespeople” so they have answers to any potential buyer’s objections in advance of a sales call.

NA: Many introverts, who prefer to gather their thoughts before speaking, would be well suited for that task. However, I know it’s not always so simple.
GK: Sometimes it can be a challenge for an introverted editor to sell to a sales team that tends to be more outgoing and extroverted*. That introvert may be facing a group of hard-edged, outspoken people who have no reservations about shooting things down. But if an editor wants his or her books to capture internal mindshare, it’s very important to know how to sell and generate excitement.

NA: How do they do that?

GK: We have a series of sales meetings at which editors present the titles to the sales teams so we are all in sync about positioning the books and the salespeople have what they need to go to their buyers at their accounts—which include Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, Borders, and independent bookstores. If the editors arm the sales team with data—such as sales history and market trends—and demonstrate their passion for the project, they are already more than 50 percent there. We work closely with our marketing department to help provide materials—such as sample manuscripts, to confirm final marketing and publicity plans, and to let everyone know about the author’s efforts.

NA: Last time we spoke you mentioned your role as a coach and mentor to young editors. What guidance do you give them to help them build their sales skills?
GK: I always tell them to think and act like salespeople, anticipate objections in advance, and not be afraid to respond when grilled. It’s like a high school bullying situation; you never want to show that the words hurt or the other party will rail into you again the next time. Most of all, I tell editors to pretend they are acting a part, which is something I sometimes do. If you pretend you are a confident, successful influencer, often you surprise yourself and actually become one.

NA: That brings to mind the old saw, fake it until you make it. What advice do you give to introverts who avoid the spotlight?
GK: From my perspective, the biggest thing an introvert can do is recognize that in business you won’t advance if you are not visible to your manager and other executives.

NA: That makes sense. You’re not suggesting that there’s something wrong with introverts and that they need to be fixed. Instead, wherever you draw your energy—more from internal or external sources—you get to make a choice in your career. Introvert or extrovert, it’s up to you to get recognized for your contributions. Of course, that can be tougher for an introvert, who gets immersed in the task at hand and finds it challenging to come up for air to spread the word about her wins.
GK: I have seen extremely talented editors get lost in an organization because they were introverted and were “laying low”; at the same time, their exceptional work never got noticed because they stayed in their seats all day. The work always has to get done, but the important thing is to get up and mill around every once in awhile and be engaged with coworkers in some fashion.

NA: Would you share a specific example?
GK: One brilliant editor I knew at a past company was never properly credited by the larger organization because he holed up in his office 10 hours a day. No matter how much I sang his praises, his efforts were poo-pooed by the other executives because they saw him as deadwood who sat at a computer all day.

NA: How unfortunate but common. Then what happened?
GK: I encouraged the editor to chat with people more, but it didn’t happen until one day he was in the coffee room and happened to start a conversation with the sales director. Out of the blue he opened up about a manuscript he was working on and eloquently described the high quality of his current book, with specific examples.

NA: How did the sales director react?
GK: She was blown away by the details of the editor’s examples, rushed to her desk, and called a meeting with her sales team to make the book a priority (lead) title. By week’s end, the sales of that book out the door to bookstores doubled. Now that’s an introvert in action!

NA: Yes, we do best in one-on-one interactions, and of course when we’re talking about something we’re passionate about. Any other advice?
GK: You have to learn to overcome fears, take calculated risks, and get out of your comfort zone to get ahead and succeed. Introverts tend to be exceptional listeners, and I find this is a tremendous advantage in business. People always love a good listener!

In the third part of this interview, Krebs offers advice for aspiring authors, with special insights for introverts. Publishing biz tidbit: As the author of a recent book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®, I’m often asked about my book tour. Did you know that for most authors book tours are a thing of the past? Come back next week for more.

*Also spelled “extraverted” by Carl Jung and the communities of the MBTI® and other personality assessments such as the Five Factor Model.

Copyright 2010 © Nancy Ancowitz

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