Along with, I'm sure, the majority of my colleagues, I am gratified that PWdecided to do a piece on our niche in the world of publishing ("Can Commission Reps Survive?"; Mar. 19). I think that our role in the selling of books has often been overlooked in the past, and the publication of this article marks a refreshing change.
As one of those interviewed for the piece, I would like to commend Judith Rosen for her ability to pack a great deal of information and a variety of viewpoints into a fairly limited space. However, while I do not claim to be misquoted in any way, I would like to rectify the impression it gives of how our particular sales group operates, the sort of representation we are privileged to provide and what represents my personal outlook on the business.
The piece gives the impression that our only business is secondary coverage in small stores for the publishers listed, whereas in fact we represent a number of other houses in the entire Midwestern territory, including the larger independents. The problem we and others confront, as I thought I had made clear in the interview, is that those larger independents tend to treat many smaller publishers as Vendor of Record accounts, resulting in smaller commissions. Perhaps I failed to emphasize that the larger publishers we represent are generally bought by those accounts on a direct basis, and, in the case of our largest publisher, Workman Publishing, we are recompensed more than adequately on both direct and indirect sales.
We have represented Workman for as long as Heinecken & Associates has been in existence, and it is the lynchpin of our operation more than the secondary coverage cited. My statement about the "very tough climate" right now was really prompted by the fact that our sales in the past year or two for Workman and others have declined, specifically in the Midwest. It perplexes me, since there have been no major losses in the account base and terms of sale for independent stores have never been better—particularly in the case of Workman, which combines unparalleled salability of its books with highly generous terms to retailers.
However, I did mention during the interview that my (not quite) 40 years as a commission rep have taught me that our business is cyclical, and what goes down generally goes up again. Recognizing that limitations of space might be responsible, I fear I come off as a doomsayer as well as a "small-account" specialist, neither of which I am. I firmly believe that as long as there is a future for book publishing and bookselling—and there is—there is a future for us as well.
Ted Heinecken, President
Heinecken & Associates
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