While much of the book industry’s attention has been focused on the price wars, particularly e-book pricing and the standoff between Amazon and Macmillan, another segment of the market has begun to express its concern over sales of print books. Today the board of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association sent a letter to sales directors and heads of houses at the big six house to voice their “alarm” about cuts to field sales. “This draconian move against our bookselling segment will be responsible for the disappearance of book culture,” they maintained. “Field sales reps are a crucial part of our business.”
Echoing the letter, Joe Drabyak, president of NAIBA and a bookseller at Chester County Book Company in West Center, Pa., told PW, “The field reps really are the worker bees, and they’re cross-pollinating the industry. There’s a difference being on the phone with somebody and meeting with them face-to-face. That interaction means everything and it really results in sales.”
In the letter, which was drafted the week the consolidation of Simon & Schuster field sales group took place, the board suggests other cost-cutting alternatives. Among them are: eliminate multiple ARC mailings, do away with promotional gimmicks, cut celebrity advances, and publish fewer titles.
As NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler noted, “All we want to do is sell their books. We’re their friend, and they’re cutting us out.” Although it’s too soon to know what impact the board’s protest will have, their complaint is one that many all independent booksellers have felt.