Sales Reps and the Art of Bookselling: Some Questions to Consider

October 30, 2017

By Andrew Uchin

Which books are the right ones for my store and speak to my institution’s audience and mission. How do I develop a unique retail culture that makes my store different from other local or online booksellers? What are the sales trends at other similar businesses in my region? What type of books are selling and at what price points?

The answers to these questions and many other critical issues related to book selling can be summed up in the phrase: Contact your sales representative.

Sales reps can be of immense help when you are looking for related titles and materials for an exhibition or your institution’s collection. They can make you aware of new titles, out of print titles, freight deals, returns, payment schedules, author signings, and many other tools to facilitate adding to your book selections. Having a “stable” of knowledgeable book reps can make your job easier and improve your bottom line.

Depending on the type and size of your institution you could be assigned to a trade, in-house, or gift rep. The best reps are knowledgeable, hard-working, and eager to assist you in your quest for the right titles. They can research back list titles for an upcoming exhibition or program. They can work with the publisher’s credit and customer service departments to help resolve errors and issues. Additionally, you can learn from your rep about the size of each title’s print run, which can determine how many copies to order and enable you to plan ahead as well as address current stocking needs.

A recent trend concerns the availability of printed paper catalogues. The major art book publishers are still producing print catalogues but many publishers have discontinued this practice. If a print catalogue is not available, a rep may send you a link to a site called Edelweiss Above the Tree Line, which allows you to digitally review new book titles as well as backlist. When available, a rep may show you printed copies of the finished book or blads (unbound pages of the book), or they may have digital layouts for you to review. For many non-fiction and fiction titles you can request ARCS (advance reader copies). You can also request a finished copy of the book for review (this is not always an option if the book has a high price point and the print run if of a limited quantity).

To find your sales representative, contact the publisher, or contact your regional Bookseller association (my organization is the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, which publishes a listing of Book Trade reps) or the American Booksellers Association (Phone: 800-637-0037 Email: info@bookweb.org). With your rep’s help, you can develop an impressive selection of books that will entice your shoppers as well as highlight the mission of your institution.

Andrew Uchin is the Museum Store Manager at the Nuchin_headshotorton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. He has been an active member of MSA for 17 years.

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