It’s no secret that publishers have cut back on sales reps in recent years. Some big six houses cover the entire country with less than 10 reps, and even telemarketing can only stretch so far. The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, which has a board member with no reps for one major house, is looking to remedy lost sales for both booksellers and publishers by setting up a publisher advocate program next season for stores without reps. Earlier this week, it sent out an e-mail to members asking publishers reps to volunteer to share their marked up Edelweiss catalogues with repless booksellers.

NAIBA board member Bob Werner, a sales rep with Macmillan and this year’s winner of the Saul Gilman Award from the New England Independent Booksellers Association for outstanding service from a rep, has been working with NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler to develop the program. As to how many bookstores are actually affected, he says that the problem of “slushed” bookstores, who have neither an in-person or tele-sales rep is greater than most people think.

For Werner, covering accounts by adding their contact name to the Edelweiss catalogue list should not be onerous. He won’t be placing orders, and each publisher will handle that in their own way. But he is willing to answer questions about a book. “This is not about reps getting ‘credit’ or anything like that,” he notes. “It’s about supporting and giving those indies an opportunity to view Edelweiss marked-up catalogues and to be sure they have the books from each publisher that will make them successful. I think it would be a great inclusive gesture to have reps send our seasonal catalogue to those with no one.”

Werner stresses that the implementation of the program is still a work in progress. Sales representatives interested interested in participating should contact Dengler to volunteer.