What are the drawbacks of using independent reps?
We like to think there are not many. But publishers need to recognize that commission reps are independent and not subject in the usual way to the control and management of the employing publisher. “Chemistry” and cooperation become very important in the rep-publisher relationship.
It is also important that the publisher select reps who have a genuine interest in his line. And it is vital that the publisher support field sales efforts with products of good quality, prompt and accurate fulfillment, proper sales tools and reasonable sales policies that are in keeping with prevailing practices in the trade. Strict adherence to a written agreement with the rep, including regular, properly documented payment of commissions earned is, of course, the essence of a successful business relationship. Neglecting these basic requirements is often the source of grievances. It is always best to keep them firmly in mind.
Commission reps are “merchants of time” and how they use available selling time in a given appointment is at the heart of their services to publishers. In this day and age, all reps carry many lines and, often, some competing lines in their bag (this is especially true when the rep or group is particularly well-informed in a subject area—computer books, travel books, business titles, etc.) This can be a strength and an advantage to the publisher rather than a drawback. But if too many lines or competition are concerns then it would be wise to consult with a few major buyers in the territory before selecting a selling group for the area to see if the reps give even handed attention to their publisher clients. It is usually the case that what sells, sells! Reps push the titles of every client in accounts where those titles are truly appropriate and saleable.
Coordinating the schedules of the publisher and reps in the field at specific times, places, and events (such as an author appearance in a given city or bookstore or a sales call on an important account with a visiting sales manager) can be difficult. It is helpful to plan far ahead when a rep’s presence is required at a specific time and place and adjustment of a busy and complex schedule is necessary. Reps will do their best to meet special needs but it is not always possible to do so. A certain amount of give and take in these circumstances is called for.