Katie McGarry: A Great Rep

Josie Leavitt - January 11, 2010

The publishing world is changing these days, and until last week I was not particularly saddened or enraged by job cuts until my Simon & Schuster rep, Katie McGarry, was among the several field reps who were let go last week in favor of a telephone sales force.

What I can say is how much I enjoyed working with Katie over the past decade. Katie’s humor and smarts made meetings with her a joy. In the last few years we’d taken to having breakfast at Shelburne Farms talking about ourselves and a little bit about publishing. After breakfast we’d take our coffee to Adirondack chairs overlooking Lake Champlain and go through the samples and the catalogs. It was heavenly. Honestly, if you want me to buy more of your books, feed me a little first,  and tell me what you love from your catalog.

Katie knew her books. Even when S&S restructured her job a few years and she did adult books as well, she hit the ground running and could speak conversantly about the entire list. And let me tell you, an S&S list is possibly the largest list out there — the kids’ catalog alone usually hits 300 pages. She took her time to get to know our store and what we stocked, so a 300-page catalog involved a lot of skips. There was never pressure to buy books. I would often buy books on the strength of her saying she loved it. Her descriptions of books were to the point, and she let me read the F&G’s without talking about what happened to the duck. She had her own opinions about the books and that was refreshing. She would always let me raid the back of her car for galleys. She never got mad when I lost my catalogs. She loved our dogs and they loved her (this can’t be said for everyone). I always felt like Katie was working for me, not the other way around. She finessed the system when trying to get us authors for events. 

Last year, S&S restructured again and Katie’s territory changed. She called to say that she would no longer be our rep and I got choked up. I felt the loss of Katie immediately; I knew I had not only lost a great rep, but no longer would we have an excuse to have those wonderful breakfasts. Katie is just a lovely person, whose meetings I looked forward to, whose funny stories I loved hearing and would often repeat, who happened to just love books. She would handsell her catalog the way we handsell books in the store.

Katie is a great rep, and some smart publishing company, which realizes the value of two people sitting down face to face, should snap her up in a heartbeat, and make sure her territory includes Shelburne, Vermont. 

21 thoughts on “Katie McGarry: A Great Rep

  1. Suzanna Hermans

    We lost our rep, Jim Naccarato. Jim has been a great rep of ours for many years, and he lives only about 15 minutes from the store, making him our most local rep. We will miss working with him terribly but he will always be welcome at Oblong – we’re his family.

  2. Ellen Scott

    Let me just say that out here in the Midwest (Omaha, Nebraska), our Simon rep extraordinaire has been Larry Epps. He knows us and he knows his books and we will miss him greatly. I have been personally buying Simon, formerly the old McMillan/Scribner/ etc. since the late 80’s and we’ve gone through crises together (the closing of my old store; the death of his first wife). I consider Larry a friend in books and hope that he and Lisa will keep in touch.

  3. Cathy Anderson

    I have also been missing Katie since the first cut, and sorry to hear she was let go. Simon and Schuster will soon realize their mistake in lower sales. In addition to agreeing with all the praise from others, I would add that she even offered to cover my shop if I needed time off, and I will never forget her reading of Angela and the Baby Jesus in a perfect Irish accent!

  4. Angela DiTerlizzi

    Josie, Thank you so much for writing such a thoughtful and heartfelt reaction to Katie’s dismissal. We are very saddened to hear that Katie, Charlie Young and Gillian Redfern will no longer be sales advocates for our books. Having spent much time with them at events and on book tours they have been nothing short of amazing and supportive for all that we have done both personally and professionally. We wish them all the best.

  5. Virginia Amos

    Josie – Thank you for writing about what it means to lose a rep. I don’t know Katie but I do know Charlie Young and I was a rep myself for almost 30 years. The feelings are mutual – my accounts were my friends and my family – and losing YOU hurt just as much as you losing us.

  6. Tami

    I also lost a great rep/friend in the Simon and Schuster change up. Leah Hays is still with S&S, luckily for them, but not as my rep. I will now have a telephone rep, as well. And I’m sure this new rep will be fine, I’ll get used to not having face to face discussions of books, yada yada yada, but it will never be the same. Leah knew me and my store – she’s actually BEEN INSIDE THE DOORS – and could offer great advice about what I should have and could possibly pass on. She never steered me wrong. We will still be friends – Simon and Schuster can’t take that away from us – but these changes are not for the best interest of my store OR S&S, in my opinion. Best of luck to all who lost their jobs – and also to those still with S&S but with quite different territories!

  7. Brownell Cadbury White III

    Not my real name as I am still in sales. I had the pleasure of working with both Katie and Charlie. Both enthusiastic, knowledgable reps who love children’s book and are great advocates for their accounts. S&S now has only 7 reps to cover all of the field accounts in the US and they are selling Adult Trade, Audio, Mass Market and Children’s. Clearly they have written off the independent accounts. Good luck to them with their midlist titles, particularly if one of the big box accounts goes under.

  8. Susan RoAne

    Josie Leavitt’s post about Katie McGarry is a lovely tribute.It’s sad in a “big picture” way. We are losing special benefits of face to face encounters; including trust, personal connection and longterm business relationships. Publishers and authors are losing book sales that occur over coffee & conversation.

  9. Lea Wait

    One more voice to cheer the contributions of Katie McGarry, and I’m sure, many other great reps …. but Katie was the one I knew best. As a new author she walked me through my very first signing (an event never to be forgotten!) and was always there to answer questions, and to let me know which bookstores loved my books, and therefore should be loved in return. She was (and is!) a very special book person — and book people are, of course, the very best kind.

    1. Joan Hiatt Harlow

      Lea: You and I did a book signing together in Nashua, NH with Katie. I wonder if you remember. I had a broken arm at the time. 🙂 And you met my daughter who had a summer place in Ocean Point. You were signing for Stoppin’ to Home. and I was signing for ??? Joshua’s Song? Can’t recall.
      S&S will miss out on a special and wonderful rep who knew everyone, believed in the books she showed; and was fun to work with. We went together she and i up the coast of Maine years ago to promote my book SHADOWS ON THE SEA. I could tell that the booksellers looked forward to her and she knew their needs and answered their questions. My books sold beautifully with Katie at the Helm. I wonder where she is now? She’d do very well as a publicist. Hey, there’s a thought.\
      Nice to see your post here. Joan Hiatt Harlow

  10. Kelly Kyle

    I am still reeling from the news that Simon has decided to do away with Charlie Young-our sales rep for the last 14 years. Pound foolish-telephone sales never achieve the sales goal that a field rep does.

  11. Carol Chittenden

    Thank you, Josie, for noting the latest slings and arrows. Katie has made such a difference at Eight Cousins. Over time it dawned on me that the bright, cheery, upbeat person presenting the lists was just the sparkly exterior of an unbelievably thorough knowledge of the industry and the market. She, like a few other field reps, earned our trust. One wonders what the cost of trust will be for the accountants and bankers who slough their field staff like last year’s skin. One hopes that its value will be snapped up by another company.

  12. Kenny Brechner

    Even though we are too far afield for a field rep, I still went to Katie for information and service when complications arose, and to check in with, and for, opinions. A great rep like Katie had an impact even on tele sales accounts.

  13. Jean

    It is my hope that some of these truly amazing reps (Charlie Young was my rep and my friend since he was at Random House Childrends) are grabbed up by publishers who can see the value these fine professionals bring to the process. With all of the responsibilities they bear–beyond their primary responsibility to get their arms around their publishing program and get the right books in the right places–it is hard to believe that their talents will be missed all along the sales chain from editor to credit rep; from buyer to happy reader. Any reps who have survived this long aren’t Polyannas or complainers. They understand this is a tough business and always found a way to make sure that the publisher was getting their money’s worth. These talented individuals are too young, too smart and too valuable to not be employed and rewarded in the field that they love so much.

  14. Niki Burnham

    Thank you for writing about Katie. I met her a few years ago at NEIBA and we hit it off instantly. Her knowledge of the YA market, obvious love for books, and approachable demeanor make her a gem for authors as well as for booksellers. I owe her a great deal of thanks for all she did to get my books in the hands of readers.

  15. ShelfTalker Alison

    I too am utterly dismayed over the news of Katie McGarry’s dismissal. I’ve bought books from Katie for over 10 years now, and I can’t begin to express the extent to which which she made my job easier, made me a better bookseller, AND made me a Simon & Schuster fan — just by putting such a good-humored and intelligent face on the company. Katie read every children’s and YA novel on the S&S list and could readily intuit which of those titles would sell best for each of the accounts she sold to. In this way she was an invaluable asset not just to booksellers but to S&S authors and illustrators too. For these reasons and more, Katie’s routine presence in our store will be SORELY missed. Her presence at the next company smart enough to hire her will inevitably be a great boon to them.

  16. CuriousCity

    I have know Katie McGarry as a fellow sales rep and as a buyer for 13+ years. When I was a wholesaler rep, I often observed Katie in our mutual accounts and tried to model her ease, enthusiasm, and title knowledge. I saw many people in that context and no one matched Katie. When I was a buyer at an independent store Katie with extremely efficient. There was not a second wasted nor did I ever feel rushed. Time with Katie was well spent. I felt both informed and excited about titles. Having Katie and her fab smile come through the door changed the whole tenor of the day. Now I am a buyer for a literacy group a.k.a. “a national account.” I am not one of Katie’s accounts, but she will often idle her car in front of my office on the way somewhere else and run in with an F&G that she thinks will work for the program. Have I bought books because of these impromptu visits? Yes. In the 10’s of thousands. I know the publishing world is suffering and that because of it relationships with customers are seen as too expensive. Any company that can still afford these crucial relationships should scoop up Katie McGarry. She is the best I have seen.

  17. Jackie Miller

    Thank you for writing about Katie; it has always been a delight to see her each year at NEIBA. Book reps do make a difference in so many ways not just to their accounts but to the authors and publishers. I buy for the literacy market and my reps are key to things going well for Reach Out and Read programs across the country. Times are tough but publishers might consider that the value of their sales people is not to be calculated in the dollar amount of sales alone. Reps’ book knowledge, awareness of buyers’ needs and troubleshooting skills are invaluable. More reps, please!

  18. Ellen Mager

    I had the same reaction last week when I found out that CHARLIE YOUNG, my rep, and I can happily sa my friend, for the last 11 years, was let go by Simon and Schuster. Like Katie, Charlie was also selling adult books as well as Children’s. I can honestly say that Charlie is one of the best sales reps that I have ever had. He KNEW his line, could tell be about specifics and he LOVES Children’s books. He probably could have written my order before he walked in and there would be maybe some quantity changes and additional books that I probably would not have considered without his additional input. So much of what you said about Katie was how Charlie treated us especially “I always felt like Katie was working for me, not the other way around. She finessed the system when trying to get us authors for events” and Yes, Charlie did handsell his list like I handsell in my store. I “understand” that this move was for economical concerns and not anything about the specific sale force. I do think they knew they had high quality people in their force. Your comment on sitting down face to face is right on as well, but it’s especially true when the perdon sitting across from you has a love for his or her job and an understanding and respect for what your store means to you. He celebrated our anniversaries and would send me article or pictures that mentioned the store, or me, or something that was mentioned outside of books, that I might not have seen. That was how Charlie was for me and Katie for you. How sad for us all. We can just hope that they do find something that is as perfect of a fit for them soon. Thanks for opening up this topic, Josie

  19. Trish Brown, Hooray For Books

    Josie, we lost our S&S rep, Charlie Young, too. I guess S&S had better judgment in the past, because they obviously hired some fabulous people. I feel so sad to lose Charlie, who I’ve known for 14 years. It suddenly gets very personal when it’s someone you know.


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