Even after a contract is offered, editors talk about your book to the sales reps they meet in the hall or at lunch or at meetings. By now, the reps have heard about a hundred other books in process at the publishing house. The key is for the editor and marketing manager to keep reminding them of your book.
A long time ago, I worked for seven years as both an inside rep and a field rep for the McGraw-Hill College Division, selling textbooks to professors and acquiring their manuscripts. Selling books is a grueling marathon, especially since sales territories are usually large. Lots of travel is involved. Reps talk on the phone a lot. They stay on top of orders because if they don’t, a buyer might forget to order your book.
Before the sales reps hit the ground running, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and a few other publications need the ARC (advance reader copy) six months in advance so that your book has a chance to be reviewed. These reviews start buzz and alert book buyers about future titles. Buzz is good.
This isn’t true in every house, but Abingdon sales reps want ARCs with final covers for every fiction book and they want them by sales conference. Our sales conference for the Spring 2011 list was held earlier this month. At the sales meeting, the reps heard details not only about fiction, but non-fiction, academic books, gift books, devotionals, Bibles, and other products.
As soon as the conference is over, the reps start calling on their accounts. Deals are made. Pre-sales numbers are tracked. The first print run will be determined by how much the book buyers like your book. We want them to like your book a lot.
How does a sales rep keep all that information in his or her head? They don’t. That’s why they have catalogs and folders. But what really sells a book is enthusiasm and a story. Your story about why you wrote the book. It should be short and carry an emotional punch.
When reps sit down with book buyers, they have a limited time to cover dozens of books in numerous categories. What will make the sales reps remember you? What story can they tell about your book?
Here are a few suggestions: Send an email through your editor, thanking the reps for their efforts on behalf of your book. Include a couple of anecdotes about how this story impacted your life or the lives of others who have read it. Tell them God stories about how He inspired you to keep writing. Keep it short and heartfelt.
Sales reps rarely get a note of thanks from authors. Make it a practice. The editor or marketing manager will forward the email to the sales director or his assistant who will then forward it to all the reps.
For the sales conference, can you afford to send some type of treat from your region of the country? Or baked goods from a recipe in the book? Or? Think creatively. Talk to your marketing manager about what you might be able to do for the reps.
After the sales conference, follow up with another email, assuring them of your prayer support. List whatever the Lord puts on your heart: safe travels, good health, safety for their families when they are on the road, favor with buyers. No one needs our prayers more than sales reps. They have the pressure of meeting financial goals and numbers for each book, including yours, in addition to the physical stress of travel. It’s a tough job but rewarding.
Experienced authors: Please share any experiences you’ve had with sales reps. One of the greatest honors is to be invited to speak to them at the sales conference. Let’s pray that the reps from every Christian publishing house will be inspired and encouraged this season as they help to put your books into the hands of readers.
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Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!