Emily Bates, senior manager for in-house sales of Penguin Random House adult titles, calls herself a “jack-of-all-trades” rep. Her responsibilities include sales and service to a variety of indie bookstores across the country—the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery in rural Minnesota, the Ripped Bodice in Los Angeles—necessitating, she says, “always checking the time zone before I call.”

In an email nominating Bates for PW Rep of the Year, Barbara Peters, who owns the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Ariz., lauded her and her colleagues in PRH’s sales department for “ensuring that orders flow, that event orders and special orders keep pace, that damaged returns are facilitated—this is a specially thorny issue to handle—differently than overstock returns, that tracking numbers are sent and deliveries are followed up.”

Much of Bates’s business with booksellers is done via phone and email, and “a couple of stores do Zoom,” she notes. But she does call on two indies near the PRH warehouse and office in Westminster, Md.: Curious Iguana in Frederick, Md., and A Likely Story in Sykesville, Md. “I adore in-person calls, just to throw a wrench into things.”

She’s kidding, of course—the work is the same regardless of mode of communication: “learning and remembering the formula each store uses to perfect their collection, and understanding what I can do to fit PRH titles on their shelves and augment their sales to maximize their profits.”

It was perhaps inevitable that Bates, who calls herself “a legacy rep,” would end up working for PRH—her mother worked as a Random House customer service representative in Westminster for 20 years. After graduating from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) with a degree in art history and museum curatorship, Bates worked for a decade as a bookseller. She started at Waldenbooks in Westminster; transferred to a Borders Books & Music outlet in Austin, Tex., to work as a display manager; then returned home to Westminster two years later as an assistant manager at Borders Express.

In 2009, Bates’s mother suggested she apply for a telemarketing position at the Westminster facility. “I thought it’d be calling people during their lunch hour to talk up books by John Grisham,” she says. “But my mom said, ‘It’s an amazing job.’ And it was: I was the right person at the right time. It was a great fit.” To complete the circle, Bates’s first week on the job coincided with her mother’s last week before retirement.

Bates works with “a wonderful mix” of accounts, ranging from booksellers who’ve just opened their doors and have never previously spoken with a rep to seasoned booksellers with whom “I can talk in shorthand and they know what I mean.” She adds, “It’s very fulfilling and there’s something new every day.”

Memorable interactions with booksellers include one cited in Peters’s nomination letter: Bates and her colleague Tracey Davidson worked hard last year to assist Poisoned Pen with successfully executing an “overambitious and overextended project with Diana Gabaldon,” promoting her latest Outlander novel, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. “The challenges were daily,” Peters wrote. “They began in November 2021 and extended through March 2022 and I can’t even detail all the complications of completing it without their cooperation.”

This past year, Peters wrote, Bates, Davidson, and the other members of the PRH team have provided excellent customer service to Poisoned Pen and other indies as they “navigate the challenging terrain transitioning back to a more normal supply chain, but also stay nimble and flexible so that shifting author event dates and publication dates don’t torpedo plans.”

Bates says her expertise also made a difference when she was talking up Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner to Curious Iguana’s book buyer. “I had to sell a little harder because they were going to take a low number. There’s an H Mart in Frederick, and I told the buyer that customers are going to know what H Mart is; I knew this book was probably going to be a perennial bestseller for that store.”

The Curious Iguana has sold almost 50 copies of Zauner’s memoir. “I really enjoyed that sales pitch,” Bates says. “The book just came out in paper. I can hardly wait to go by there and see how it’s doing.”

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