A Day In The Life Of…. Richard Hawton by SJV
I’m so excited to share the next A Day in the Life of… feature, with non other than UK Regional Sales Director here at @TeamBATC, the BRILLIANT Rich Hawton! He’s been a huge part of the team from Day 1, has been at S&S FOREVER, and there’s NOTHING he doesn’t know about this crazy world of books we live in. So… here goes my friends, grab a cuppa and settle in for a whirlwind tour of life on the road…
First up Rich, what DOES a UK Regional Sales Director actually do?
There’s not actually one thing that I can point to and say, “hey, that’s precisely what I do!”, as the job is so diverse. I head up a wonderful and knowledgeable team of Sales Managers who sell our fabulous books to Independent Booksellers for the delectation of our lovely readers. Every one of them, including myself, have all been booksellers, so can empathise with and hopefully understand the highs and lows of owning and managing a bookshop. Especially at the moment when COVID is having such an impact on the High Street. We’ve all been moved by how innovative booksellers have been over the past year, setting up websites, mail order services and even biking books to local customers. Their resilience and creativity has been a joy to behold! There are 850 Indies across the UK, so it’s more than likely that you have a bookish treasure trove close by, so check it out if you haven’t already. It’s so important that we support them right now. I also look after sales into the Republic of Ireland (although haven’t been there yet, thanks to the virus! Cannot wait to sample a Dublin Guinness!), Waitrose (their Belgian Chocolate Cheesecake is to die for!!) and school library suppliers (heroes all!). I also liaise with publicity and marketing departments to ensure Indies are best represented and supported by us with author events (albeit online and virtual currently), and special exclusive and signed editions. Phew, it’s a full time job. Can I have a holiday now please?
Is there such a thing as a ‘typical’ day, and if so what does it look like?
Firstly, and most importantly, Seb, my Greek rescue hound, demands to be walked! I’m lucky enough to live down in Hove, 10 minutes’ walk from the seafront, so we get a lot of fresh sea air and plenty of exercise, even at the moment. Then it’s back home for breakfast and straight to the laptop. No day is like any other. The week is punctuated with various Zoom meetings (and I know how much you’re all fond of those!) with different departments, our many Client Publishers who we represent, presenting their new books to us and lots of catch ups with the team. We try to keep it chatty but professional, running through the latest acquisitions, new title releases and selling in titles to our customers. However, if you can get through one Zoom without shouting “you’re on mute!” or “you sound like a Dalek!” you’re lucky! It’s not the best way of working and we miss seeing our colleagues in the flesh, but it’s kept us connected over the past year. The greatest downside is not being able to talk about books in the pub after work!
For the record, if I was a budding debut author, faced with the dreaded blank first page, what would be your top tip to bestseller success?
Remember you’re a reader yourself! What first hooked you when you read your favourite book of all time and how did that writer hold your interest? First impressions last a lifetime, right? And love at first sight is definitely a thing. Read and review that first page and chapter, pass it to friends and family for their honest feedback and listen to your editor! Always. And stay connected to your readers. They love to know your inspirations and influences and how you’re getting on with the writing process. Social media can be a real boon in that respect. Use it wisely and it’ll reward you.
We’re obsessed with other peoples TBR piles, how high is yours? And do you have 2, one for ‘work’ books and one for ‘pleasure’ books?
I’m quite a butterfly of a reader, and have lots of work books on the go all at the same time, dipping in and out when I have the time, trying to get a flavour of the writing and comparable authors. I’m quite eclectic I guess but my core genre will always be science-fiction and fantasy, so tend to have more than I should from that subject area on my TBR pile. Read what you enjoy I say, whatever it is! Virginia Andrews or Virginia Woolf! Never be ashamed of reading purely for pleasure.
Have you got a best and worst part of the job?
Best part – I just love working with books! I started as a part-time bookseller at an Independent chain in Crawley, called Hooks Books when I was 16. I’m now 54 and have worked with books all that time either on the shop floor or in publishing. I think we’re really lucky to be in this industry working with such a talented and diverse range of authors. It’s great fun!
Worst part – Sorry Bill Gates, but email and spreadsheets. Someone make them stop!
Is there an author you’d sell a limb to work with?
Well, I already have! I managed to work with him, limbs intact. A true highlight and privilege of my career was spending a few days with Buzz Aldrin, second man to walk on the moon. I spent a day in the office with him whilst he was signing books for our customers and also at an event in Bath. Despite being in his eighties, he had a real twinkle in his eye and never visibly tired of answering the same old questions that he must have heard 100’s of times before. A true gentleman.
What book do you most recommend to others?
In terms of Simon & Schuster books, one that stuck with me for many years is a book called The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. It’s a story of what would happen if the Earth were to slow on its axis and the days were to become longer. From 24 hours, to 25, to 27 and so on. I love an apocalyptic novel and this sort of fits into that genre but it’s so beautifully written from the perspective of a teenage girl. You have this huge dramatic backdrop of a world trying to cope with this weird and changing environment but also the story of a girl finding love for the first time. It’s so different and will stick with you for years to come.
And lastly our quick fire trivia round…
Thing you’d never leave home without? My dog. Unless it was a posh restaurant, natch. He has no table manners.
Favourite place to read? In bed with a glass of wine and a packet of pistachio nuts.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Brisbane, Australia where my cousin and 2 beautiful god-daughters live.
What’s the secret to success? Staying upbeat and enthusiastic and seeing the best in people. Success = happiness.
What’s on your current reading pile? Tom Allen’s No Shame.
Staying in or Going out? Going out! Remember that?
What’s your Signature dish? My Sunday chicken roast. Back off Nigella, I’m coming through!
Beach break or city break? City break in Winter. Beach break in Summer. Or vice versa. Anything at the moment. Anywhere!
Favourite Literary Hero? Frodo Baggins.
Famous last words? “I told you I was ill” Spike Milligan.