Alex Pryce — Diary of a Salt Intern

Author photo ? Susan Collins

Monday 25th May

The fact that the rest of the UK is enjoying a sunny bank holiday makes me feel slightly apprehensive as I dutifully present myself at the door to the Salt offices in Fulbourn at 9.30 a.m. Chris is most welcoming, and once we are settled down with a cup of tea (milk, no sugar, I note) he explains the basic structure of a publishing business. Much of this is new to me as an English student, but Chris makes it very easy to understand and soon the office whiteboard is full of graphs to do with front and back list sales projections. Chris makes it quite clear that Salt have struggled financially, and that the Just One Book campaign (which I?m already up to date on through Twitter and Facebook) is a very serious part of keeping the business afloat.

Chris and I had already decided that we wanted to work on audio production ? something I know about from my project PoetCasting. I settle down to some real work and rustle up some guidelines to help Salt authors to produce podcasts of their own work. I?m suitably pleased with a productive first day at work, and I?m excited about the rest of the week.

Tuesday 26th May

I arrive by bus to Fulbourn and am pleased to see the office peopled this morning by Tom, Charlotte, Jen and Chris. Having made my introductions we set about approaching the direct website UK sales. Again, this is entirely new to me but I quickly find my way around the online sales details and the boxes in the store room. It is all hands on deck pretty much all day to hand pick, write and pack each of the orders, but I can?t think of a better way to familiarise myself with the Salt list. I?m pleased to see some of my favourite Salt books (The Ambulance Box, A Fold in the Map and Me and the Dead) are selling well.

This afternoon, Kirsty arrives in the office to give us a hand. She helps by writing the hand written notes for each package and we all end up giggling. Aside from the direct sales impact, the viral campaign has been attracting some very welcome press attention too and we are pleased to hear that Chris (who is currently working from home) will be heading down to London tomorrow for an interview for Newsnight Review. In the office, we wonder what he will wear …

Wednesday 27th May

Chris sets me to some database work this morning. I?m not totally unfamiliar with the concepts having studied the theory at A Level, but I feel a certain burden of responsibility ? what if I accidentally delete the entire thing? Thankfully, I don?t ? but I do email all the Salt authors (a considerable number!) to ask them to confirm their contact details and keep them informed of plans for Salt?s future. It is quite inspiring to see that despite the economic concerns, Salt are still innovating and looking forward.

A very positive post on the Just One Book campaign has appeared in The Guardian Books Blog ? as well as hundreds of other places on the net. In literary terms, it seems Just One Book may be the largest and most successful viral on the net yet.

After I?ve completed this I continue with the packing of orders ? although it is frustrating that some can?t be completed because the books have to come from the printers. Tom, Charlotte and I are climbing over the mounds of packages as we have run out of franking stickers ? although they will arrive tomorrow.

Thursday 28th May

In the morning I update the author details that have been returned by email. I am initially tentative about the database (not least because I am using a Mac for the first time in years) but I soon come to grips with it. There are lots of messages of support landing in the inbox, and I email off some thank you notes too. Everyone is very touched by the support the Just One Book campaign has generated.

The franking labels have arrived, so the mountains of post can finally be moved ? although it takes several sweaty and out of breath runs to the Fulbourn Post Office before we can see the office carpet. Books, even poetry books, weigh a lot in volume!

Andrea Porter, a Salt poet, arrives at lunchtime to read some of her poems into my microphone both for PoetCasting and her Salt author page. She brings cake too, and Jen and I heroically tuck in as it simply must not go to waste! Andrea records 10 poems from her collection A Season of Small Insanities.

Friday 29th May

Today is my last day with Salt, and I am sorry that my week has been so short! I didn?t end up making the coffee or doing photocopying; I was welcomed into the team and took a hands on role in a manically busy week.

Jen has brought her small woollen friends Travis and Lily to visit before Travis starts his world tour. We leave them alone for 5 minutes and find that they have caused havoc with the mail, climbing all over it. Jen also pursues me around the office with her camera until I relent and grudgingly smile ? it seems I am much less photogenic than Travis.

We fill what orders we can, although we are eagerly expecting a delivery of paperbacks needed to complete lots of orders. Everyone heads across to the pub for a well earned lunch before heading back for one last push now the paperbacks have arrived. We spread them out and get through loads of orders in the final dying hours of the working week. There is no space for clock watching at Salt. I am satisfied by the piles of post I have left behind me, and the order screens seem largely completed.

I make my exit, accompanied by Cameron and Chris to catch my train home from the flat fens of Cambridgeshire to Leicester.

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