Monday, May 12, 2008

Guest Blog - Alethea Kontis of Ingram Books

This was originally posted on an excellent blog called Magical Words (, run by a group of writers that includes friends of mine, David Coe and Catie Murphy. In fact, in the intro below, Catie mentions people throwing themselves through hedges at her. She’s been telling that story for over two years now, and I want to set the record straight that it was not a hedge; it was a dense row of potted ficus trees in a hotel lobby and I didn’t throw myself anywhere, I just poked my head through and startled her a little. I mean, really, there’s a big difference, people.

Guest Blog: Alethea Kontis

Originally posted on by cemurphy (Catie)

Catie's note: I met Alethea a couple of years ago at World Fantasy Con in Austin when we were both on a shuttlebus together, and she and her friends very kindly enveloped me into their group and invited me to lunch. We (all) hit it off splendidly, embarking on a weekend that involved people throwing themselves through hedges to greet one another and other such silliness, and it is my utter delight to have invited her to post about a day in the life of an Ingram Buyer.

Ingram Books, for the uninitiated, is the world’s largest wholesale distributor of books. As such, it is very, very important, and not a little mysterious, to those of us who write, and so we thought a back-door look at what the people who help bring our books from publisher to bookshelf actually do day-in and day-out might be interesting…and it is. :)


A day in the life of Alethea Kontis, Incredible Whirlwind of Beauty and Dynamite — Ingram Buyer by day, New York Times best-selling author by night.

April 14, 2008

3-something a.m. — The rumble of thunder wakes me up. I stumble out of the bedroom in the dark, unplug the laptop, shut down the desktop, and stumble back to bed.

6:15 a.m. — Wake up before the alarm goes off. Check my email. Solaris got my copyedits yesterday, but they can’t open the attachments. Can I please resave them as .rtf and send them again? Sure. Walk down to the office to power the desktop back up.

6:22 a.m. — Walk back through the kitchen. Put bread in the toaster. Look out the window. Laugh hysterically. What woke me up at 3 a.m. wasn’t thunder.

6:25 a.m. — Grab my digital camera and walk barefoot through the cold grass (there’s a freeze warning tonight) to take pictures of the dead tree that has fallen from my next-door neighbor’s yard onto my back fence. I know to take pictures of the evidence before anyone has a chance to tamper with it. I watch CSI.

7:23 a.m. — Arrive at work. Turn on computer and multicoloured rope lights. Stop by International Department for chai tea. Stop by fellow buyer’s office and check out the thumb she broke while swordfighting. Assemble audio bestseller report for NY Times. Review orders that have come up for release. Check out what my weekly returns cycle looks like. Not too bad.

7:45 a.m. — Send an email to my supervisor reminding her that I’ll be working lunches and staying late this week, because I’m leaving work early Friday to catch the plane to NY Comic Con. I still have no idea what to pack.

(Poster’s note: All this before 8am. I don’t think I do that much in a *day*. And yet there’s more!)

8:03 a.m. — Receive an email from facility services that they will be shutting off the water from 3:30 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. for maintenance. Make a mental note to drink less water today.

8:55 a.m. — Receive call from Publisher A. Apparently, the street date for an important title is not showing up on iPage. Immediately start the emergency email-tree and proceed to remedy the situation and notify all parties involved.

9:02 a.m. — Place call to insurance company. They recommend a local fence company and suggest I call them for a request. The number they give me turns out to be a fax number. After some Googling and trial and error, I finally speak to someone who promises me an estimate this week.

9:45 a.m. — Finish daily orders and start work on returns.

9:58 a.m. — Receive .pdf from Accounts Payable of a check from Publisher B, with no description attached. Three people instantly need to know what this is for. I email our rep for the publisher. She is at Sales Conference this week.

10:16 a.m. — Receive email from Distributor C about a title from a publisher they recently acquired that has been postponed so many times our purchase orders don’t match up any more. Send a file to the rep so he can manually make their systems match ours. Still working on returns.

10:30 a.m. — Receive a quick call from St. Martin’s Press — they would like me to add a column of info to the Dark-Hunter trivia questions I’m doing to promote the Sherrilyn Kenyon series. There’s a chance it could be a Facebook application. How cool is that?!?

10:53 a.m. — Receive a list of active publishers from Distributor C, for use in reconciling our systems. Forward that list to the three departments who will need it.

10:55 a.m. — Receive email from branch of the emergency email-tree requesting clarification on street date issue. Still more returns.

11:09 a.m. — PW Daily arrives. A quick skim reveals that the London Book Fair is really expensive, and it’s the 50th anniversary of the Crayola 64-pack. Shoot…THAT should have been my angle for the storytime books intro I recorded last week for the Ingram Podcast.

11:31 a.m. — Receive an email from C.E. Murphy asking me to guest blog “A Day in the Life of Me.” I laugh and tell her that today would make a very good example. I start taking notes.

11:59 a.m. — Lunchtime already? Put lunch in microwave and pop in an audiobook to listen to while I work on even more returns — Cecelia Ahern’s If You Could See Me Now. It’s pretty fabulous, and very well-performed. A busy woman loves her audiobooks.

12:02 a.m. — Rep from Publisher B sends details for that no-longer-mysterious check. Microwave beeps.

12:06 p.m. — Customer Service gets in touch to verify street date title.

12:23 p.m. — Publisher C sends an email to say that they discovered one of the titles they sent is defective. They are sending replacements, but they are not interested in getting the defective stock back — we should just throw it away. Makes sense, but I still have to check with several people, because the system doesn’t have a “throw it away” key. (Probably a good thing.)

12:40 p.m. — “…the tone of his voice was like a favorite song she wanted to blare and put on repeat.” Brilliant, Cecelia. Her heroine sleeps about as much as I do, and I’m suddenly craving coffee.

1:01 p.m. — Finish the week’s returns. Start reviewing monthly title forecast exceptions.

1:30 p.m. — Weekly Staff Meeting. We decide it should be spelled “e-books.”

2:04 p.m. — Come back from staff meeting to an email from Publisher D regarding a new title buy that got skipped. After ten minutes of searching through sell sheets, I determine that Vol. 1 was bought, but Vol 2 was never presented. I place a buy for Vol. 2.

2:30 p.m. — Ask my supervisor who would need to okay my “Day in the Life” blog for public consumption. Realize I am having the famed “case of the Mondays.”

2:45 p.m. — Break down and make a quick trip to Starbucks, since caffeine and whipped cream are the key to happiness. Drive slowly due to abundance of trucks and ticket-happy cops in the industrial park. I smile at a baby in red socks and listen to Chris Martin from Coldplay tell me how beautiful I am. I know he doesn’t mean it, but it’s still nice to hear.

3:00 p.m. — Enter August new title buys for Publisher C.

3:37 p.m. — Set up new drop-in titles (titles outside a catalog) so I can place those buys tomorrow.

3:45 p.m. — Check set up of Fall titles for Distributor E while chatting on the phone to Dan Gamber from Meadowhawk Press. He requests a blurb and convention advice, among other pleasantries. It’s all about multitasking.

4:15 p.m. — Send around an email asking for help on a project I’ve been asked to do for Children’s Book Week in May.

4:19 p.m. — Clean up and add a quick intro to my Sarah Addison Allen “Genre Chicks” interview for the May Library Services e-newsletter. Her new book The Sugar Queen is one of my absolute favorite books this year.

4:50 p.m. — Pack up to leave and…and don’t use the restroom. The water is apparently still not back on. Good time to be getting gone.

5:20 p.m. — While driving home, realize 1.) it is already starting to rain and 2.) I forgot to thaw the chicken this morning. Arrive home / cover flowers in the back yard with sheets / use facilities / thaw chicken / check email. In that order. Check in with my writers group. Set my Facebook pet dragon to attack “Doombringer.”

5:38 p.m. — Indulge in a walk on the treadmill and an episode of CSI:NY. The writers on this show are the best of all three CSI incarnations, and the cast has great chemistry. This time, the killer was the publisher. Figures. Have some dinner.

6:43 p.m. — Clean up Jay Lake Q&A for Subterranean Press Online. The hard part will be coming up with an intro worthy of someone like Jay.

7:00 p.m. — Continue work on Dark-Hunter trivia questions. (Facebook, here I come!)

8:30 p.m. — Receive a call from my friend Priscilla in NY. Talk while typing. It’s all about multitasking.

9:05 p.m. — Receive short story email rejection from Clarkesworld Magazine. I have to wait seven days before submitting again. I know which story to pick next; I’ll mark my calendar.

9:10 p.m. — Start typing up this blog from notes on several scattered scraps of paper I’m sure I’ll lose.

10:08 p.m. — It’s ten o’clock already?!? I have GOT to jump in the shower and get to bed. After all, tomorrow is another day, and I want to squeeze in a few more chapters of Ken Scholes’s Lamentation manuscript — my favorite book of next year…so far. Nighty-night!


Alethea said...

You know, reading this over again...there is so much I *didn't* say! But I think I got the important stuff.

And that dead tree is still on my fence. *sigh*

Edmund R. Schubert said...

Wanna borrow my chainsaw? I've only ever used it on writers and agents, but I'm sure it can handle one lil' ol' tree...

Alethea said...

Come on over.

You bring the badness; I'll buy the beer.