This year, Headline’s annual sales conference was held at 195 Piccadilly, the venue which hosts the BAFTAs. Therefore, the stage was set for a night of glamour, cocktails and emotional speeches. Whilst backless sequinned dresses were thin on the ground, and the speeches were about the world of publishing rather than teary acceptances of awards, there was nevertheless a strong sense of glamour and excitement as the entire Headline staff donned their gladrags and mingled with authors and retailers alike. As a relative newcomer to the Headline fold (new enough for this conference to be my first), I tried to maintain a nonchalant air of cool as if I’d been to a million conferences before (this cool was later punctured by involuntary squealing on my part when the canapés were handed round – ‘mini burgers!’ – ‘mini fish and chips!’ – ‘mini macaroons!’ etc).
After some mingling, chatting and mutual complimenting on various outfits, we were ushered upstairs for the presentation into a cinema more spacious and comfortable than many a local Odeon, with popcorn and a bottle of water to help recreate the genuine cinema experience. The presentation kicked off with a speech from our MD, Jane Morpeth, wherein she recapped Headline’s successes and bestsellers of 2011 and outlined our plans for an even bigger and better 2012. Then followed talks from several of the Headline Editorial department’s brightest and best, who delivered speeches on genres including sci-fi and fantasy, women’s fiction, crime and thriller and so on, summarising how these genres have performed over the last year, and how Headline will be doing its usual thing (sourcing new talent… publishing exciting original stories… cornering new areas of the market… oh, you know the sort).
The speeches were followed by a mix of book trailers and video clips of Headline members of staff speaking about their favourite books. First up was crime and thriller: to my horror, I found the video clip of me speaking about Karen Rose’s NO ONE LEFT TO TELL (which is an excellent thriller, if you haven’t yet read it) was the FIRST video to be shown. Aghast, I watched as my face loomed large from the cinema screen. Unable to focus on what it was that my screen-self was saying about Karen Rose, all I could think was, ‘Is my nose really that big?!’ and ‘My God… my voice sounds like that of a nasal seven year old, and now I must NEVER SPEAK AGAIN.’ Once this horror was over and the colleague sitting next to me had kindly patted my arm to help me through the trauma, I could settle back and enjoy the range of trailers, all created by the brilliant and talented Beau Merchant from Headline’s marketing department. Amongst my favourites were the beautiful and tear-jerking trailers for THE BOOK OF SUMMERS by Emylia Hall (starring our publicity department’s very own Veronique Norton) and THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey ; the dramatic guitar-and-drums trailer for THE 500 by Matthew Quirk which is reminiscent of the trailer for a Hollywood action film; the stirring and super-atmospheric flame-doused trailer for THE GODS OF GOTHAM by Lyndsay Faye (suitably accompanied by a dramatic Irish jig) and the Gladiator-esque trailer for Simon Scarrow’s PRAETORIAN which put me in mind of Roman battles and toga-wearing men duelling to the death. Other Headline colleagues popped up on screen having been filmed in a variety of weird and wonderful locations: on a pedalo in the park (discussing THE BOOK OF SUMMERS); speaking from behind a false set of prison bars (talking about Jason Dean’s THE WRONG MAN).
Once the presentation was over, it was back to the reception room to welcome six Headline authors who were making guest appearances at the conference. These were the lovely, smiley Emylia Hall, the legendary Phil Tufnell (author of TUFFERS’ CRICKET TALES) the fabulous Baker Brothers themselves, Tom and Henry Herbert (TV chefs and authors of THE FABULOUS BAKER BROTHERS, renowned for their handy baking skills and their not-completely-hideous appearances), the whip-smart and very funny Lyndsay Faye, queen of pacy, sizzling women’s fiction Tasmina Perry (author of PRIVATE LIVES) and an author who thinks outside the box, Andrew Zolli – set to become the new Malcolm Gladwell with his big-ideas book RESILIENCE.
As the canapés were slowly whittled away and the crowd thinned out once midnight (and therefore the last tube home) had come and gone, I had the pleasure of chatting with several of our authors. To my delight, Emylia Hall gave me a hug (the highlight of my evening). Lyndsay Faye spoke engagingly and knowledgeably about anything from New York in the 1840s to the Gold Rush, and Tom Herbert of the Baker Brothers demonstrated an artistic streak (in addition to his chef-ing abilities) by drawing pictures in Sharpie pen on the arms of willing Headline staff members: (A warning: a Sharpie tattoo can take a few scrub-sessions to truly wash off. I still had the outline of my ‘bandit with woman’ tattoo just visible on my upper arm several days later…).
Meanwhile, his brother Henry chatted with some Headliners.
At last, in the wee hours of the morning, a thoroughly conferenced-out set of Headline staff and authors agreed that it had been a fantastic night, and, laden with Headline bags filled with books, headed home.
Posted by Emily Kitchin, Editorial