A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…. Pete Selby by SJV
2017/03/20  |  By:   |  Features  |  

Next up in our series of A Day in the Life of feature is the fabulous Head of Books and Music at Sainsbury’s – Pete Selby!

What does the Head of Books and Music and Sainsbury’s do?

Essentially, I manage the teams and strategy for the Books and Music offers across the Sainsbury’s estate. It’s that simple or complicated, depending on your perspective.

Is there such a thing as a typical day, and if so what does it look like?

Being in retail there are various points across the week that remain immoveable ie Monday is all about looking back at the previous week’s Sales, but broadly speaking each day brings something new. And often the ‘something new’ hasn’t been intentionally planned. The one thing that retail teaches you quite early on is to remain quite fluid in your approach. You can’t afford to ever sit still or rigidly cleave to your plans -or indeed diary. But it’s this variety that makes each day exciting. The only real consistency I have is a 5.30 alarm every morning, which is frankly obscene.

The other thing to bear in mind is that you can never live life in the moment – we spent most of January reviewing and trying to understand the Christmas just gone, and then by March we’re starting to preview the forthcoming Christmas. I never have any idea of the actual date.

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?

Engage me.

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?

It’s a pretty constant two feet – although that tends to be ‘work’ and ‘pleasure’ combined. That said, my wife tends to tear into the ‘work’ books before I do. There’s no point trying to bribe or influence me, you’re far better trying to get to my wife.

Have you got a best and worst part of the job?

I count myself exceptionally lucky to work with both the publishing and music industries. Everyday exposure to artistic endeavours that I would be actively pursuing whether I was being paid for it or not is a considerable bonus. And as with most jobs, it’s ultimately all about the people. I’ve made some fantastic, like-minded friends over the years and continue to meet inspirational people from all areas of the industry whose company I enjoy immensely when slightly drunk.

Is there an author you’d sell a limb to work with?

I’d take a planning meeting over whiskey sours with Dorothy Parker at the drop of a hat.

What book do you most recommend to others?

I’m sure the expectation here is to name a classic piece of literature but the honest answer is ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ by Bob Stanley. It is the most exceptional, insightful and entertaining piece of music writing I have ever read.

And lastly our quick fire trivia round…

Thing you’d never leave home without?

Tragically, I suffer from existential panic if I leave the house without my phone.

Favourite place to read?

Outside, by water.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

I am content where I am, but can’t help feeling a degree of regret that I haven’t spent at least a few years of my life residing in New York.

What’s the secret to success?

Listen. And the same thing we teach our children: Be Kind.

What’s on your current reading pile?

‘Art Sex Music’ by Cosey Fanni Tutti, ‘Dig If You Will The Picture’ by Ben Greenham, ‘Into The Water’ by Paula Hawkins

Staying in or Going out?

Depends with who. And what we’re drinking.

Beach break or city break?

With two young children, a long beach break alone with my wife feels like a luxury beyond my wildest dreams.

Favourite Literary Hero?

Dr Seuss.

Famous last words?

I’m hoping a spontaneous and pithy bon mot will reveal itself to me at the point of departure – depending on what I encounter…




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