After another delicious breakfast meeting yesterday, (with Deb Woodward, one of the best reps around) I am reminded again how important sales reps can be to an independent bookstore. A good sales rep can act as an extension of the store with the publisher acting as an advocate for you with all publishing departments.
A sales rep’s job description is to work hard on the publisher’s behalf to sell their books. Good reps make you feel like they’re working for you, not the publisher, and when this happens it’s a lovely, lovely thing. Meetings with good reps — and I feel blessed to only have good reps — should be fun, they should be informative, and the buyer should leave feeling great about their order. I am known for quick opinions and judgments and sometimes this gets the best of me. I love a rep who steers me clear of the “Oh, but it’s a cute bear picture book” fiasco I am about to embark on, and instead makes me read the book about the dog and monk that’s amazing. A rep’s job is tough, but the good ones make it look easy. They know what I’m likely to buy and what my customers are likely to respond to, so when he or she is excited about getting a book in my store, I trust them. And when they say, “You don’t need that”, I happily skip that book.
Reps go to bat for you with the publicity department to try and fight for you in getting authors to come to your store. I have some reps who automatically put in author requests for me when someone great is touring. This kind of inside pressure is often the thing that tips the scale in my favor in securing great authors. Some of my reps help me out even more by checking in with me two weeks before the event to make sure I’ve got enough stock, as sometimes even the most seasoned of us can forgot to order stock. We recently had an event scheduled for a Saturday for a local author’s book launch and by Thursday morning we had yet to get the books we ordered months earlier. I called my rep, somewhat frantic, and said, “Help! What should I do?” She overnighted a carton of the books, at the publisher’s expense, to ensure that I would have them for my event. I know some reps who carry a carton or two of hot books on midnight party release dates, just in case some accounts didn’t get their orders in time.
A good rep can help you navigate co-op. I love my reps because they email and call me with reminders about co-op deadlines that are rapidly approaching. This allows me to gather my info and send it in before I lose the money I’ve earned. They don’t have to do this, since the less co-op bookstores claim, the more money the publisher makes, but they do it anyway. A few reminder emails can go a long way to make me be a better bookseller.
So, as my fall buying season winds down, I just want my reps to know that I rely on you more than I can say, and I appreciate you far more than you’ll ever know. I hope you all have a great season and I look forward to our next meal. This time, maybe I’ll treat.