by Amy Collins

Today an author whom I do not know called and asked me for the names of my buyers so she could follow up on the presentations with new information. She is concerned that her publisher rep is not pitching her book “properly”. There is a lot of new information and media updates and the rep has already made the rounds to pitch her book. If she can’t trust the rep to send the new info, what is an author to do?

How does an author know that new-late-breaking news about their book is getting to the buyer?

Answer: You don’t know for sure until the orders start coming in.

I know how frustrating it is, but it is a normal part of the process for small presses without direct access to the buyers because they use distributors.

You can trust your reps to distribute any and all information that will help them sell your book. They want your book to be successful. They are motivated to do a good job selling your book as they move through their territory, meeting buyers and selling the books. The problem comes when an author has 4 updates a week that, while important to them, are not at a “drop everything” level for the buyer. A good rep knows when it is important enough to take a buyer’s time with an update. An author does not usually have the experience or relationship to make the correct determination.

So can an author contact the reps and the stores directly?

No. Nope. Nuh-uh… *

I run only a small distribution company and if I gave out the names of my sales reps, or the buyers to my clients, they would get more calls and emails a day than they could answer. The buyers would be so angry with me that I would not enjoy the same trust and access that I get now. The reps would quit. (seriously)

My reps cannot be getting personal pitches from each author, they have hundreds of books to sell each season. We already guarantee that we sell each book individually, one on one, one by one… no group catalog pitches. This is a huge time commitment and if they had to handle minor updates or talk to each author, they would not have any time to actually sell. That is why we have sales meetings, so that they can be taught about each book before they go out and sell it.

I promise, if an update is important enough to increase a book buyer’s order I am ALL OVER IT! But you can trust my judgment. I know when it is a good time to bother a buyer… and when it isn’t.

The book buyers, for the most part, only see who they want. They can agree to see a rep or not… they cannot be dealing with thousands of authors who all believe that their book is special. All books are special to the author… what the buyers need is an interpreter. They want someone who understands exactly how they work and what they need and provides them with some choice to fill those needs. That is where we come in.

We are often the only way a buyer will ever see a book… my unwillingness to contact a buyer every time an author wishes is the exact reason the buyer will take a look at the author’s book when I present it. We walk a fine balancing act and it is sometimes hard to keep both sides happy.

I know it is hard, but if you work on creating the demand and keep feeding your publisher the press and marketing you are doing, the demand will drive the success of your books. The reps will pass on the key information in the most agreeable manner possible.

(* the exception being a local author contacting her local store if she has developed a good relationship with the staff there)

Amy Collins MacGregor started her career in the book industry as the book buyer for Village Green Books in Upstate, New York. In 1996, she “hopped the desk” and thoroughly enjoyed working as a National Account Rep for Prima Publishing. In 2001, Amy was named Director of Sales at Adams Media in Boston and quickly rose to the Special Sales Director for parent company, F+W Media. Over the years, Amy has sold to Borders, Barnes and Noble, Target, Costco, Wal-mart, and all the major chains as well as help launch several private label publishing programs for chains such as PetSmart and CVS. In February 2006, Amy started The Cadence Group and now runs the fastest-growing book distribution company in North America, New Shelves Distribution, where she offers her sales experience to small publishers and self-published authors.

Image courtesy of Gokhan Okur.