Many indie booksellers looking for ways to stay in the know about upcoming releases are hosting special in-store meetings with sales representatives from publishing houses for both staff and readers in the local community.
At Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, co-owner Rebecca Fitting organizes four of what she calls “repathons” per year, where five to six sales representatives come to share anticipated releases with the store’s booksellers. Being located in New York City helps her to host the repathons as frequently as she does, as there are many sales representatives in the area who can easily make the trip.
Fitting schedules the repathons for the hour before the store opens, as she’s found most staff members are able to attend at that time. While it is not a requirement for staff to attend, Fitting does offer compensation as an incentive.
“I’d strongly encourage stores to pay booksellers for their time if they can afford to do so,” Fitting said, noting that these meetings should be considered part of a bookseller’s professional development. “It’s a great tool and asset to helping booksellers be the best they can be at what they do.”
“It’s also important that we be a good partner to our publishers,” she added. “As a former sales rep, I know firsthand how important the rep-store relationship is and how a good rep talking to staff about their titles can really make a difference.”
Karen Hayes of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, who is also a former sales representative, told Bookselling This Week that her store holds Rep Breakfasts in the late spring and early fall. These meetings are open to both staff and a number of local organizations, including representatives from the Nashville Public Library; Humanities TN, which runs the Southern Festival of Books; The Porch Writers Collective; the book editors from Parade; local book reviewers; a popular local book blogger; and BookPage editors. Six to seven sales representatives are usually in attendance and each one presents for 10-15 minutes, with 30 minutes reserved at the end of the reading for an ARC grab.
At Parnassus Books, Rep Breakfast attendees are excited to not only receive advance copies of upcoming titles, but to have one-on-one conversations with the reps as well.
“We emphasize to everyone present that giving feedback to the reps is very important. Not only after you read an ARC, but if you have read a book they are presenting, speak up and let others know what you thought,” Hayes said. “Just start talking to your reps about whether they want to do this...When I was a rep, I was happy to come in the morning and at shift changes to give presentations to the staff.”
Emoke B’Racz, owner of Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café in Asheville, North Carolina, also recommends inviting book club members and local librarians to meetings with sales representatives, as attending can help inform what they select and recommend to other readers.
Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Colorado, also hosts sales representative events for its booksellers and customers, including one specifically for reading group members at a local wine bar.
“It is hard for us to get more than one rep from different publishers as Durango is an overnight destination, but we have pulled it off,” said Jeanne Costello, the store’s buyer. “We also worked toward providing a presentation that included books that were already published so that we could generate some book sales with the event.”
Costello began hosting these events for Maria’s booksellers and customers because she believed it was a missed opportunity for sales reps to go all the way out to Durango and only interact with the store’s buyers.
“It makes our staff that much better informed as booksellers and [makes them] read books they might not have read otherwise,” she added. “Even if they don’t read all of the books from the presentation, they remember these titles and are able to sell them to our customers when they come out.”