Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Meet the ABIA Rising Stars: Ali Hammond

In recognition of the Australian Book Industry Awards’ (ABIA) inaugural Rising Star of the Year Award, Books+Publishing spoke to each of the five shortlisted nominees ahead of the winner’s announcement at the ABIA ceremony on 3 May.

In this instalment, we speak to Ali Hammond, category manager at Dymocks. Sophie Higgins, head of marketing and merchandise, nominated Hammond for her ability to forge ‘long-lasting connections between writers and readers’ and stay ‘ahead of the game’. ‘She has helped create her own “rising stars” within the industry,’ wrote Higgins. ‘In 2017 Ali identified Beau Taplin as a major new voice in short form prose and introduced him to HarperCollins who published his outstanding collection of poetry Worlds of You in November 2017.’

What are the top three things you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

1. Don’t be so bloody scared all the time! People who know me would say this couldn’t be true but I used to be so afraid of speaking up and giving my opinion on things. My two fabulously smart and kind managers have always made me feel like my opinion is valuable, helpful, interesting (even when it isn’t) and that has taught me to feel comfortable expressing my opinions.

2. Don’t focus so much on your weaknesses. I was always so obsessed with the things I did wrong that I could never celebrate the things I was doing well. It’s draining and boring and you just have to accept that you can’t be good at everything (unless you’re Beyoncé, of course).

3. More generally I just wish that I knew there were so many interesting, varied and amazing jobs within the book industry. Even after working in a bookshop from age 14, I still thought there were only publishers and booksellers—and how the rest of it all worked was just magic!

What has been your biggest achievement/proudest professional moment?

I knows it’s a bit lame but I’m proud that I genuinely look forward to coming into work every day—I know that not everybody has that and it means I’m doing the right thing. One of the projects I have been proud to be a part of is the reinvigoration of our Dymocks Book of the Month program. This initiative has allowed us to support books that might not get the attention they deserve in a meaningful way that also has a very positive effect on sales.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned on the job?

To say ‘yes’ to things even when they are not technically in my job description, and even if they pull me away from my couch and the newest episode of The Bachelor.

I try to always say yes (within reason) to any new little job, any task, anything that people need help with. It pulls you outside your comfort zone and has brought me many opportunities and experiences that have come to be some of my favourite things about my job.

What do you think this industry could do better?

Our industry is so good at so many things—we celebrate diversity, champion Australian artists, we provide entertainment and we can find delight in everything (or at least sell everything, from books about farts to books about Donald Trump). It’s an interesting, ever-changing, diverse and fabulous industry, and I love it so much. But if you are going to make me put my serious hat on, the main thing I think we could improve on is to better embrace the changes needed to satisfy a modern consumer. This includes everything from better integrated systems, cleaner and more user-friendly data, and faster delivery of stock.

Where would you like to be in five (or 10, or 20) years’ time? And what do you hope the industry will look like then?

Sixteen-year-old Ali would be so surprised by the job I am doing now. So I don’t think I can even imagine what I will be doing in all the years to come. I do hope that I’m still working in the book industry and that I get to spend every day reading and talking about books and authors that excite me. I also hope I won’t still be speaking about myself in third person!

In terms of the industry, I hope it looks like a sun-drenched Fijian island that serves cocktails, but if we can’t have that, then I hope it continues to be filled with smart, interesting people, and that we are moving with the times to ensure we are meeting the needs and wants of a modern consumer.

To learn more about the other Rising Star of the Year nominees in the coming weeks, and to stay up-to-date with Australian book industry news, sign up to our Daily Newsletter and Weekly Book Newsletter.

 

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Category: Daily Newsletter Feature