Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bookish Jobs For Bookish People: Cathy From Random House

As a blog run by college aged kids, the thing most on our minds,  aside from books, is what the heck we are going to do with our lives. We  all joke and dream about having a job where we could read or blog all  day and feel pangs of jealousy when we encounter someone who does just  that. In my (Jamie's) job search, I've realized that there are so many  different types of bookish jobs out there that I had never even thought  about. In college I never thought I could be in the book industry  because I never wanted to be an author or an editor or a publisher. I  didn't think there was anything else out there. I've come to realize  that there so many types of bookish jobs out there for people of varying  strengths and abilities and I want to spotlight these jobs... and thus  began our monthly feature--See past  Bookish Jobs For Bookish People.

Name: Cathy Serpico
Job Title - Online Sales Coordinator for the Amazon sales team at Random House. I facilitate getting content like videos, photos, essays, blog posts, and site ads on Amazon. I also get to play with customer search data and set up campaigns that drive users to our books. Since Amazon is, obviously, wholly an e-retailer, merchandising space like you see in a physical bookstore is much more limited, so you have to get creative about how and where you can lead a customer to a book!

How long you've been in this position: since May 2010.

What prior position(s) did you hold before this position? Marketing Coordinator for Harper Paperbacks and Avon, and before that, Amistad.
What type of higher education or training do you have? I’ve got a B.A. in English with a minor in Religious Studies. I spent a lot of time reading in college. Not much has changed… though I probably read less about Hell now. (Seriously, that was one of my religion classes. Appropriately, the class was made to squish into a room the size of a closet.) My favorite non-office job was waitressing – it teaches you so much about how to be human to people, manage expectations, and have a sense of humor about things. You can’t learn that from a class and you need it to survive in the working world!

What degree would the ideal candidate for  this position hold? You must love books. Why else would you bother? I’m going to assume your blog’s readers have got that part covered. Honestly, getting a job in publishing is less based on what you majored in versus having a passion to bring what you know to book publishing. So much is changing in the industry with e-readers and the many different formats people can come to a story through now. It’s an exciting time. Anyway, I digress. First and foremost, you must love books. Second, any background with sales, marketing, business, and online marketing/search know-how – COMBINED with loving books – would probably make you a very attractive candidate – for what I do, anyway.

Describe what a typical day looks like for you:  I run some pretty exciting reports every morning. That’s a constant. Past that, it varies by day. Some are spent coordinating content with marketing, having phone calls with Amazon to make sure we’re good on stock, brainstorming new ways (or improving existing ways) of merchandising, managing Amazon’s early-reviewer program, keeping my team on track so we’re submitting book nominations on time. And somewhere in there I eat a sandwich.

Three qualities/skills you should have to excel at this job
: Multi-tasking, being able to see the forest for the trees, knowing Microsoft Excel quick-key shortcuts. Yes, you must excel at Excel.

What is your least favorite aspect of your job? I spend a lot of time in Excel. While this in itself is fine, one day I’m probably going to need glasses. Also, there was poop on the floor of the bathroom once. True story.

EW POOP?! Haha. Biggest perk of your job: Free books! My awesome team! Did I mention the free books?

The Illumination: A NovelTell us one of your best memories on the job: It’s always gratifying when you’re a super advocate for a book you love and it gets noticed. We send Amazon a monthly slideshow of our top books to get them on their radar for when they pick their Best of the Month books, and everyone on the team puts a burst on their favorite. (It’s the little things that make my day.) This month one of Amazon’s BotM books was Kevin Brockmeier’s THE ILLUMINATION, which was my pick for February! Not that I think that tipped the hand, but it was validating that someone else shares my undeniably good taste in literature.

What do you think the biggest misconception is about your position/industry? That it’s dying? It’s not dying. I want to punch people when I hear that. It’s changing. And change can be good.

Complete this sentence. This job is not for you if.. you can’t juggle a hundred things at once, and remember to finish the second thing you started that morning.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in your position? Definitely educate yourself on all the developments that are happening with digital books. In many ways it’s a new frontier and publishers are just dipping their toes in the water of how to navigate it all! I was going to make a Louisiana Purchase joke there, but I’m not sure how to tie it in now.

And now for something random to end the interview...what is one job you just don't think you'd be cut out for?  Club promoter. So outside the realm of my personality. I would be the worst club promoter in the world.


  1. That sounds like a fun and very challenging job!

  2. Such a great interview -- Cathy, you are hilarious. And your job sounds superb. Minus that one poop part, but you know, every office is a little shitty now and then.

  3. BAHHAAH. ANNA. "every office is a little shitty now and then"

  4. I love this feature, so much. I would love to have a job dealing with books all day.

  5. Entertaining and informative interview! Thanks for all the great insight.

  6. Thats is soo cool! The bit on free books got me! I like this job!! Can you get into this field in High School? Like part time? or an apprentice..
    Thanks for the insight!

  7. I do enjoy these little posts. i like that the business is changing. for someone who only completed 3 years of college but has 10+ years in bookstore experience and now library experience AND LOVES BOOKS LIKE CRAZY, it's nice to know there is hope for us in the job world of publishing.

    Thanks for this!