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Book Jobs Not by the Book: Dana Trocker, Speakers Bureau Relations Coordinator

Dana Trocker

Dana Trocker

From working in a Book Publishing program through her college in Oregon, Dana Trocker is now a Speakers Bureau Relations Coordinator for Macmillan. At a time when digital networking is so prevalent, Trocker says nothing compares to personal interaction with clients.

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What was your first exposure to book business (internship or first job) and what were the most important things you gained from it?

My first “book job” was working at Ooligan Press, the independent publisher affiliated with the Masters in Book Publishing program at Portland State University in Oregon. I got a great, well-rounded education because the curriculum includes classes in editing, marketing, digital, design, etc. But I got great hands-on experience as an event planner when I co-organized the Write to Publish conference—the largest annual fundraiser for Ooligan Press. Planning the conference taught me so many things that I was able to translate directly into my current job in the speakers bureau of a Big Six publisher.

How do you explain your current job to people?

Usually, to save time and confusion, I just say that I work in book publishing at a major house. That generally launches people into talking about their favorite books, asking for recommendations, hinting that I should help them publish their book, or mentioning the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon (honestly, this happens a lot, and strangers tell me all kinds of weird things I don’t necessarily want to know).

But, if someone is really interested in what I do, I will explain that I am, essentially, a speaking agent who represents the authors published by my company. I often have to explain the difference between the publicity department (responsible for book tours) and the speakers bureau (responsible for booking events—usually one-offs—where the author/speaker gets paid for their time). I rarely go into too much detail about all that I do, because I wear a lot of hats. It would take all day to explain!

I work with event venues and authors, negotiate fees, write contracts, and plan travel. I make sure the author knows where to be and when, what they are expected to do and say and wear (and eat!), who they will be addressing and why. I also make sure that the venue pays in full and the author gets paid on time. There is a lot of juggling and a lot of details.

Macmillan Publishers

Macmillan Publishers

What is the biggest challenge in your current job? In what ways did your previous jobs or internships prepare you for what you do here?

As with most jobs, the key to mine is organization and attention to detail. Since I am responsible for all aspects of an event from the time a client calls about booking a speaker to the well after the author returns home from the event, it’s very important that I keep track of all the steps along the way.

Since I’m often dealing with clients and authors, it’s also important to be helpful, personable, responsive, and prompt.

My time as an event planner for Ooligan Press was very helpful. Though I am now representing talent, I work closely with people planning fundraisers, meetings, and community events. I think it’s helpful to know what my clients are going through so I can anticipate their needs and try to alleviate some of the stress they are under.

What value has this job brought to the way you think about book business as a whole and your own relationship to books?

I have been an avid reader all my life and was always interested in the real lives of the people who wrote my favorite books. But growing up literary-minded before the rise of the current young-adult market meant that I was often encouraged to read the classics. So, when I was reading about Dickens and Fitzgerald and Austen, their lives seemed so foreign and fantastical compared to mine that they almost had the quality of fiction. Now that I work so closely with contemporary authors—speak to them regularly on the phone, retell their triumphs and accomplishments to clients, plan out their international travel and their road trips to the library two towns over—I have a new-found sense of authors. Where they once were untouchable and mythic in my mind, living wild fictitious lives, they are now just people. Working so closely with authors, I now find myself wondering about the real person behind the words I read, from novels to news articles to memes on the internet. 

How are speakers bureaus integral to the book business as it is now and as it will continue to develop?

In-house Speakers Bureaus are relatively new to the industry. All of the Big Six houses now have some sort of Speakers Bureau. However, authors have been doing paid speaking engagements since well before in-house bureaus rose in popularity. In the past, speaking engagements were booked by outside bureaus. Now that publishing houses handle our own bookings, we are able to bring in revenue and offer a service to the authors we publish. In the changing world of modern book publishing, it is increasingly important for an author to connect with their audience in as many ways as they can. We provide one more outlet for a book or an author to reach the audience. While Facebook and Twitter communication are a key part of building a relationship with readers, there is nothing that compares to connecting in person. The events industry also helps extend the lifecycle of a book by extending sales—sometimes long after the book’s initial publication.

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