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Mentor Corner: Tim Murray

VP Sales, Little Bee Books

What brought you to publishing and what was your first job?

A love of reading and books brought me to publishing.  I never seriously considered working in any other industry. 

My first job was in the special sales department at Simon & Schuster supporting gift reps that were selling our books mostly into mom & pop shops around the country.

What was your career path like getting to your current role?

Fun and exciting for sure!  But more specifically, my path started with five years at Simon & Schuster, which included a few promotions, next eight years at DK that included another couple of roles with increasing responsibility, then back to S&S for a sales directorship.  Worth mentioning that during this time I also went to graduate school at night for an MBA.  I’m fortunate and grateful that I received help via tuition reimbursement from my employers at the time.  I then joined a publishing tech startup called BookShout for three years to head their sales and marketing efforts.  At the beginning of 2018 I started my current tenure with Little Bee Books. 

What advice would you give to those who are either just starting out or are in their first few years in publishing?

Work hard.  Lace em’ up each day with intent.  Be a sponge for knowledge about all facets of the business, learn to listen and listen to learn, remain teachable.  Simultaneously, be confident and advocate for yourself, know your worth and enjoy what you’re doing.  

How have you seen book sales change over your career? The past year? What do you think the future is?

Yes, a great deal of change for sure.  Of course the rise of online sales, eBooks, and digital audio have been paradigm-shifting changes to how publishers help connect authors and illustrators with readers. 

Pivots and reinventions of the traditional bookstore towards more localized and experiential business models, aided by the rise of social media, have also been exciting to watch. 

This past year pandemic-related closures have certainly presented unique challenges for many book sellers.  I’m very hopeful for these retailers that this chapter is coming to a close with the vaccine rollout.  That said, with so many families finding themselves mostly at home this past year, we saw an increase in sales.  With kid’s books in particular, I think the uptick had much to do with parents, like myself, regularly seeking non-screen content to engage kids.

I think the future for publishing is bright and that in order to be so, it will ever increasingly need to be more friendly, diverse, and inclusive.  I also don’t see any signs of human beings’ ancient love of telling and hearing stories slowing down.  The incredible spectral utility of books, from mere entertainment to tools of learning, change, and course correction in humanity’s journey, should hopefully only continue to grow. 

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