Inside Dundurn with Margaret

Inside Dundurn with Margaret

Posted on December 21 by Kyle in News
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

If you’re looking for someone who enjoys talking books, you’re going to want to meet Margaret, our director of sales and marketing. She’s responsible for the company’s overall sales performance and marketing efforts, as well as overseeing a team of nine other people. Of everyone on the marketing team, she’s been at Dundurn the longest, starting in August 2007.

And that’s just her recent experience; she’s been in the book business for a long time, over 20 years so far.

“When I started working I thought I was going to be in telecommunications,” Margaret says matter-of-factly. “I was working at Motorola after finishing at Ryerson but I wasn’t really happy there. Then one day I got a call from a friend’s neighbour about a field sales rep job for a company called Wiley Canada in Montreal. She had forwarded my resume on to them and they wanted to meet me. It was my first job in book publishing. It was also the first time I worked with Beth Bruder.”

Side note, Beth is now the vice president of Dundurn. Yes, Canadian publishing is a small world.

Effectively, Margaret’s entire career has been in book sales and marketing. She’s been on both sides of the sales table whether as a field rep or sales manager selling on behalf of the publisher or buying books as a category manager at Indigo.

But if you know Margaret, you know it’s not the thrill of the sale she enjoys most, it’s the process.

“I love finding efficiencies in our workflow and ways to improve what we already do well,” she says with a wide smile. “For me, the point of doing this is to support our authors and their books as much as we can. So I’d say finding the best ways to do that is my favourite thing about my job.”

One such instance is a relatively new development for what we call the “Advance Materials” process we have with authors. This is when we ask new authors for a number of things like social influencers, a short biography, awards, prospective buyers, and various materials to help the marketing team be fully prepared to sell their book.

“We used to do it in a way that many authors found very inconvenient. We used one massive Excel spreadsheet. We loved it and it worked for us, but not our authors. Once we identified that, it was a quick matter of changing the process to be easier and even more powerful.”

A fun fact about Margaret is that she and her partner both work in book publishing. Maybe it runs in the family? So we wanted to know, what would be Margaret’s response if her daughter wanted to follow in their footsteps?

“I’d be very enthusiastic! It’s no surprise, I love what we do. My initial advice to her would be to get a job early on at a library or a bookstore. You cannot learn what consumers like to read without that direct experience.”

So the advice to getting the job is to first find a job?

“It’s really good advice!” Margaret swears, “And I’ll tell you why. There are four publishing programs in Toronto that are turning out wannabe publishers constantly. And to us, what can really differentiate all these candidates with a university degree or certificate is actual boots-on-the-ground experience.”

And of course, if you want to know what people like, you have to know what you like. So what kind of books does Margaret read?

“I like mysteries. I read a lot of Scandinavian-style thrillers. I like literary fiction and chick-lit,” she begins to list, “I love great narrative non-fiction. I’m reading a great one now about the history of Canada told through map-makers. I’ll read anything, really.”

So with a taste for so many types of books and a large quantity to choose from, how can one best choose what to read next? For our busy director, she prefers to leave it to “the pile.”

“I read whatever is on top. At home, I have all my books on my bedside table, with the spines turned inwards so I can’t see what they are,” Margaret explains, “There are three piles and I pick the top one on the highest of the three. That’s what I read next.”

If she likes it, she reads through the end, and if not … well, there is a little free library down the road. So for all of you who agonize over what to read next, leaving it up to “the pile” could be an easy solution.

Speaking of books, Margaret brings her own share of acquisitions to Dundurn. So we asked her which ones she is most looking forward to in the new year.

“One of them is Journey Through Genocide, and oh, we just got the ARC for that,” she leans over her desk and picks it up.

“I’m also really looking forward to Being Prime Minister. The author is a writer I’ve been following since I was a teenager. Truly, I used to look for his letters to the editor in the Globe and Mail. So I’m really excited to be working with him.”