What Sales Reps Do

23 Jun


What It Means To Work in Other Aspects of Publishing that Isn’t Editorial

by Vanessa Di Gregorio


Note: an updated version of this post is now up on our new blog, Pub(lishing) Crawl! Click here.


Disclaimer: I may or may not be tooting my own horn here (just a little). I’m also not going to talk about writing – I’m going to be talking about my career and the publishing biz for those of you who are interested.


Ah, publishing. The glamorous life of schmoozing with authors, publishing great books, spending extensive amounts of time reading, and a whole lot of talking (or so people like to think). When people think of the publishing industry, people think of  writers and editors. When writers think of the publishing industry, they think of agents and editors and bookstores and that damn slush pile. But people don’t really think about all the other aspects of publishing – all the marketing and the publicity and the sales people that lead to the things an author truly wants; for their books to be on the shelves in stores and do well.

When I first started out in this industry, my dream job was first editorial – but I didn’t even know what type. Then I realized that I loved substantive editing – looking at the big picture of a manuscript such as plot, characters, etc. And then I interned at a literary agency and thought, “this is what I’d love to do”. But ultimately, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought that I would probably not make any money for a year as a literary agent (props to all of you lit agents out there!) – especially since the hubster self employed. I wanted one of us to have a stable salary. And so I looked for other things I wanted to do; other areas of publishing where I could fit in.

During high school and part of university, I had worked at a book wholesaler, selling to schools and libraries. I took English Literature in University, went to school for Publishing, and figured my experience would get me places fast. But it wasn’t easy – publishing is VERY competitive (especially here in Canada). The only way to get an editorial gig in-house is to go freelance for years and then hope some editor somewhere kicks the bucket (sad, but true). And I wasn’t willing to be that patient (especially since the majority of publishing peeps are healthy, unlike me). So I looked into publicity. And marketing. And sales.

I was already familiar with sales from that wholesale job, and familiar with online marketing thanks to this blog; but when I began working at this sales agency I realized that I didn’t know a lot. Marketing, publicity, and sales are all major aspects of publishing, and all as important as editorial. I didn’t realize that publishers had sales reps who went to accounts (bookstores, wholesalers, gift stores, etc) and sold them their list. I don’t know what I thought – maybe that if a book was published, people just magically carried it. I didn’t realize you had to SELL to the sellers.

I’m lucky to be working for an agency repping some of the best publishers out there. Over 30 of them. And my job is to pick out what works for stores, which books deserve to be highlighted.

Selling is fantastic. Selling means talking to people about great books. It means getting excited about a new list every season, and making an impact on the people who, in turn, impact your average reader just by shelving a book in their store. It means grabbing a coffee, chatting, going through catalogues and samples, and learning what some book and gift stores have preferences for. It means going to book fairs and gift shows and finding new homes for books. I put the books out there – I can give the little guys a chance. And I think that’s pretty amazing. Will everyone listen to me, or have the same taste as me? Probably not. But I can try my damn hardest to get a book on the shelves if I really believe in it.

And you know what’s even more awesome? That I can actually do that now. Because I’ve been promoted to Sales Representative for Central Ontario and Inside Sales (told you I was going to toot my own horn, haha!). I’m going to be able to drive around with catalogues and samples in hand and I’m going to get to geek out over gorgeous covers, brilliant authors, and fantastic books with other people who love them as much as I do.

So those editors who sit in a chair for hours and hours, working on an author’s manuscript? I might not be that person, but I am one of those people convincing stores to stock and sell your books. And to all you published and soon-to-be published authors out there – on behalf of sales reps everywhere, I’d like to say, “You’re welcome”.



Vanessa is a newly promoted (!) Sales Representative for Central Ontario and Inside Sales at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She also has a book publishing certificate under her belt. Currently, Vanessa is working on RIFT, a YA fantasy novel, and a Children’s non-fiction series. She also geeks out over stuff at Something Geeky.


22 Responses to “What Sales Reps Do”

  1. Ladonna Watkins June 23, 2011 at 12:12 PM #

    Thanks for sharing. Great information.

  2. Susan June 23, 2011 at 1:21 PM #

    Hahaha. What an awesome post. I know so little about that side of publishing–you make it sound SO GLAMOROUS. Not to mention, I feel like I should start schmoozing you so you’ll schmooze MY book. 😉

    Well, I sure learned a lot–very cool, V!

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio June 23, 2011 at 3:24 PM #

      Totally not glamorous at ALL! You should SEE us when we lug around samples with our dolly full of boxes and containers! I’ve fully had stuff break on me while walking from accounts and having books fall everywhere.

  3. Kat Zhang June 23, 2011 at 1:34 PM #

    Let’s give a big CHEER! to sales reps 😀 Congrats again on your promotion, V!! You’re gonna be awesome 🙂 🙂

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio June 23, 2011 at 3:26 PM #

      Thanks Kat!

      I think us sales rep are under-appreciated — not just because I now AM one, but because I’ve seen how hard-working they are, and how much clout they hold. And even when I WAS working at the wholesaler, I had no clue how important they were – heck, I didn’t realize they really even EXISTED!

  4. Savannah J. Foley June 23, 2011 at 2:05 PM #

    Congrats on your promotion, V! If I were in your shoes I would feel the same way: ecstatic to have found a fun way to make a difference!

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio June 23, 2011 at 3:28 PM #

      Thanks Sav! It’s pretty exciting being in this position. Once the book leaves the editor’s table, it lands on OUR laps, and we run out and get people excited – which, if you ask me, is super awesome 🙂

  5. stacysjensen June 23, 2011 at 2:08 PM #

    Congrats on the promotion. I think it’s important for writers to know it takes a village to get a book published, etc. Sounds like fun to be part of it all.

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio June 23, 2011 at 3:30 PM #

      Thank you Stacy! An editor can only do so much, you know? After it leaves their hands, it’s up to marketing and publicity and sales to really get it moving.

      And it IS fun to be a part of it all!

  6. paperbacksnpostcards June 23, 2011 at 3:34 PM #

    Great post, Vanessa! And congrats again on making Sales Rep!! 🙂 Kari

  7. brandimziegler June 23, 2011 at 5:32 PM #

    Grats on your promotion! And thanks for the insight.

  8. Stephanie Relf June 25, 2011 at 5:10 AM #

    My parents keep asking me what I’m going to with my degree – annoying considering I’m not even at Uni yet! One of the industries I’ve considered is publishing, so thank you for the insight, it sounds like a seriously cool job! 🙂 Much love xx

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio June 25, 2011 at 10:15 PM #

      Thanks Stephanie! 😀 My parents kept nagging at me to become a teacher, but I think it was inevitable that I would end up in the book industry 😉

      If you ever have any questions about publishing, feel free to ask me anytime! ❤

  9. Dorothy St James June 25, 2011 at 8:45 AM #

    This sounds like a dream job! Congratulations!!!! All those new born books looking for readers. What you do is very important in so many levels. (And exciting.) Thank you. 🙂

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio June 25, 2011 at 10:20 PM #

      Aww, thank you Dorothy! I suppose I did make it sound dreamy – but believe me, sales reps do A LOT of lugging! But it is a wonderful job! I can’t imagine NOT working in this industry in some way, shape or form! 😀

  10. Aya Tsintziras June 25, 2011 at 6:21 PM #

    Hey Vanessa! Congrats again, so exciting! I really loved your post. (And hopefully in the future you won’t drop any more boxes of books on your toe! haha. The dangers of the publishing industry…)

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio June 25, 2011 at 10:21 PM #

      Thanks Aya!

      Lol, and YES, fingers crossed that I don’t! Losing toenails is not fun!

  11. Safferina June 27, 2011 at 10:49 PM #


    But really, thanks for the post, it gives great insight.

    I always wondered if you didn’t get involved as a literary agent, or an editor, what else could a person possibly do.

    So thanks 🙂

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio March 7, 2012 at 3:41 PM #

      It’s crazy how there are so many other jobs in publishing, but it’s really editor & lit agents that people are aware of. There are SO many different jobs and skill sets needed for publishing positions – design, marketing, publicity, production, etc.

      Glad you found the post helpful! 🙂

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: