Sara Mulryan, Head of Retail Management for Nielsen BookData
Sara Mulryan will present a round up of Irish book sales figures at the Annual Irish Publishers Conference Trade Day in November
How I started in publishing
After leaving school I joined the marketing and publicity agency in a local medical instruments company. Here I learned how to do typography, and pre-computer artwork for instructional manuals and advertising. This then led to several studio jobs with advertising agencies in Soho, London, in the dying embers of the hot metal press print era. A solid redirection took me off to Middlesex University to study Writing and Publishing with a side order of French.
At the sister shop to Hodges Figgis in Dublin, I ended up running the front of shop desk
After the degree, I responded to an advert for a book chain called Dillons, now in the Waterstones empire, to help set up new shops, but was offered a chance to work for Hatchard’s of Piccadilly. At the sister shop to Hodges Figgis in Dublin, I ended up running the front of shop desk buying all the hardback fiction titles and getting to know all the reps from the publishers. I chose to go into retail initially as during the entire 4 years at college, no one had mentioned Sales, and I wasn’t quite sure that I was ready to commit to just one publishing vision.
After 6 crazy years in retail (surviving 6 Christmases), working with some fabulous colleagues at Hatchards (I can curtsey in an approved royal/rock/film star welcoming manner!), I moved to the Sales department of Headline Publishing, then an independent part of the Hodder Headline Group, and subsequently on to the Orion Group key account sales department.
Both of these groups are now part of the Hachette empire, but my heart was really with the Gollancz Fantasy and Science Fiction imprint, enabling me to read the list as fast as the authors could write.
Where I work now
Since 2008, I’ve been at Nielsen BookData, in the Book Research division working with all kinds of retailers who report into the BookScan book sales tracking services in Ireland & the UK. I can be speaking to any type of book seller, High Street, Online, specialist bookselling chains, festivals, supermarkets, galleries, tourist destinations or indeed the independent booksellers like Kenny’s of Galway, where the careers of so many writers begin and grow.
As the industry tries new and innovative routes to market, BookScan keep step
My role is to help retailers use the market data to understand their position in the market as well as maintain the panel membership and uncover any eligible corner of the book selling trade that wishes to join in the weekly census panel. As the industry tries new and innovative routes to market, BookScan keep step.
The best thing about my role
There is never a dull day, and it’s genuinely exciting (nerve-wracking) as we head towards the peak sales points in the year, seeing which of my favourite books do well and watching new trends develop.
It’s all about getting the right book to the right reader
Helping clients understand and use the market research to their benefit, from buying and stocking the right titles for their shop to helping spot trends as they form. It’s all about getting the right book to the right reader.
A mistake I made
Not getting into books sooner!
My most fulfilling moment so far
Meeting so many lovely colleagues and authors in the bookshop and publishing houses. Among some of the more memorable moments are Tommy Tiernan doing standup at a sales conference, meeting Neil Gaiman at Headline when he was signing huge stacks of the new novel American Gods, meeting David Bowie in Hatchards whilst he was browsing poetry, being in the team at Gollancz when authors such as Joe Abercrombie and Sarah Pinborough really took off.
It has been very fulfilling to see the scope and reach of BookScan sales tracking panels grow, giving a really accurate profile of the readers’ purchases each week, especially in Ireland since moving here to County Mayo!
What the future holds
Here at Nielsen we are looking at an exciting merger with another market research company GfK. This development allows both companies to access more territories around the globe and allows trends to be tracked worldwide and at the local level with equal focus. This can illuminate the differences and celebrate the unique in each tracking panel, allowing publishers, retailers, and readers alike to really understand who is reading what, where, and when.
Book recommendation this month
Currently reading The Art of Darkness: The History of Goth, by John Robb (Louder than War Books) but eyeing up Witch’s Forest: Trees in Magic, folklore and traditional remedies, by Sandra Lawrence (Kew Books).