The Publisher's Sales Force and Sales Reps

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William Morrow, a major trade book publisher headquartered in New York City, is a division of the Hearst Book Group, which in turn is a part of the giant communications organization the Hearst Corporation. Morrow and its four juvenile imprints publish about four hundred books a year. The responsibility for selling this extensive list to bookstores and other outlets rests with Morrow's trade sales department.

There are ten salespeople who work exclusively for Morrow and who cover the large book chains and independent bookstores in the major cities. To complement the efforts of its in-house sales staff, Morrow contracts with commission reps who cover the smaller territories. Reps typically handle as many as fifteen or twenty different lines of books from a number of publishers.

The Globe Pequot Press, headquartered in Connecticut, publishes about a hundred books a year, specializing in travel subjects. It has a national trade sales manager in the home office and no company- employed sales people. Instead, Globe Pequot relies on six regional reps, and one each in Canada and Europe. It also has five other reps to cover the library trade. All of its reps work on a commission basis.

Although reps often attend publishers' seasonal conferences to gain perspective on their upcoming lists of new titles, it is almost impossible for them to absorb the information from the combined output of all their publishers.

Each publisher must choose between having an exclusive sales staff, commission reps only, or a combination of the two.

Career Tip

Book sales, whether for a publisher directly or for a rep firm, can be a worthwhile career for the individual who enjoys selling and does not mind traveling. Salaries are similar to those in other such sales situations. Jobs are not too difficult to find. Success in this field may lead to sales manager positions at a publisher's headquarters.

What does it take to become a good book salesperson? High on the list of attributes is a love of books, but it also takes the ability to focus on a large number of new books each season. To be an effective salesperson, one must also know what kinds of books the bookseller is capable of selling, and direct his or her purchases accordingly. This function becomes increasingly significant, since booksellers don't always have the option of full return on unsold copies.

In addition to his or her sales activities, a sales rep often performs a credit and collection role. A typical conversation with a book dealer might be something like this: "I'd like to sell you our new line, but my credit department says that you paid so slowly last year, I'll have to sell you on a COD basis this year." Diplomacy and negotiation skills are the tools of a professional book salesperson.
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