Choose Commission Reps

May 16 2018

Why choose commission reps to sell your line


Independent commission reps come from a variety of prior occupations but the overwhelming majority have been house sales reps or marketing executives for large publishers or have worked in retail bookstores for several years before going on the road. Many have been commission reps for an impressive span of years. Their combined experience with books and publishing and their detailed knowledge of booksellers and the book market in their territory is a valuable resource for new and established publishers alike. Booksellers (your customers and ours) appreciate the stability and continuity of working every season with a rep they know has been around and is likely to be around for years to come.


Independent reps come to the publisher fully trained and are paid only on their net sales in their territory and market. The economies in time and money, minimal supervision, exemption from paying expenses or fringe benefits, become very attractive—a necessity for small publishers and a welcome, cost-cutting alternative for larger houses as well. The head of each selling group becomes your regional sales manager and sometimes provides a staffed regional sales support office regularly telemarketing and servicing customers and prospects in the territory. The cost of fielding a house sales force to call on an increasingly complex and diffused market for books can be staggering. A minimum of $60,000 per salesperson to cover salary, expenses, and benefits is a conservative estimate and suggests an industry average cost of $300 to $350 per sales call to send a house salesperson into an account. Added to this is the administrative cost of hiring, training, managing, and replacing sales and support personnel. $800,000 in net sales volume is thus required to support any house rep. At $350 cost per call there are many viable accounts and some whole territories that are not cost-effective for house coverage.


Because they are oriented to selling as a career rather than a stepping-stone, independent reps offer unusual stability and longevity in their relationships with publishers and booksellers. Years of working in the region’s bookstores and special outlets, long rapport with owners, managers, buyers, and clerks make it possible for a commission rep to provide instant access and immediate coverage in markets which, to you, may be new and entirely unfamiliar. Commission reps are already “acquainted” and can move at once to making the sale. For large publishers, commission reps can instantly supplement the efforts of a house sales force to develop specialized or outlying markets at an affordable price. Flexibility to meet the needs of special situations is an important asset in the coverage provided by commission reps. Expertise. New publishers will find an independent sales force a reliable source of information about many details of the business of publishing. There are few facets of book marketing that commission reps have not personally experienced. Formatting sales catalogs, order forms, presentations; planning marketing campaigns, title selection, book packaging; feedback from the marketplace on sales information, credit problems, new trends: these are only a few of the areas in which commission reps can be helpful. Time can be saved, expensive mistakes avoided by consulting your sales force. Reps realize that publishers need feedback from the field and do their best to supply it within the context of their main task, which is to sell books. Publishers should be alert to abuses of the privilege of consultation. Detailed questions about the business of other publisher clients is out of bounds. Purely clerical tasks such as updating a mailing list, doing booth duty at trade exhibits (always a very busy time for reps), preparing selective lists of key accounts for invitations, or collecting small bad debts etc. are stretching the acceptable limits of the job description in a job that is already very demanding in its paperwork and working hours. But reps want to be helpful to their publishers and many provide access to publishing and bookselling networks that can be very valuable.


Independent reps know books, like books, and enjoy selling them but they also have the permanent incentive of a direct relationship between what they sell and what they earn. Because commissions are paid, ultimately, only on books that sell through to the consumer, reps are dedicated to the success of new titles and the continued success of backlist titles to minimize returns and keep building their sales volume and their income. Initiative…to be self-starters, to stimulate sales and promotion of saleable titles, to find new outlets, to introduce new products to the territory…initiative is the key to success in commission selling and the key to survival!