After a stint in the music industry, it seemed inevitable that Toi Crockett would move into the book business. After all, her late grandfather owned a bookstore on Chicago’s South Side, and her childhood home was filled with books. Although she rebelled against her elders when she was young by refusing to read for enjoyment, she says that as an adult, she is “never not reading a book.”
Crockett has spent her 15-year publishing career at Simon & Schuster. She is currently field account manager, primarily for accounts in the Western states, but she continues to call on a few East Coast accounts despite a 2018 restructuring that changed her territory. At the time, wrote Jonah Zimiles, managing principal of [Words] Bookstore in Maplewood, N.J., in his nominating letter, “we were so distraught about the possibility of losing Toi, we pleaded successfully with our friends at Simon & Schuster to keep her as our rep.” He praised Crockett as “consistently outstanding,” not only articulate and knowledgeable about the lists but “always a straight shooter.” By following her advice, the store has reduced unnecessary returns and has the space and capital to take chances on new titles that are more likely to be of interest to its customers.
Similarly, in her nominating letter, Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Ariz., praised Crockett as “highly skilled, massively competent, endlessly cheerful and creative. Our whole S&S account, which is huge, depends mostly on her. She has mastered the supply side, she catches my errors, she suggests opportunities, and she seems to work 18/7 days.”
Crockett credits the late S&S head Carolyn Reidy with shaping her approach to being a rep. “I will always remember [her] saying publishing is the business of pennies,” she says. “The publisher conveys to sales their key titles, and my job is to find the right match at accounts. I do not believe in pushing titles that do not make sense for an account, regardless of how big of a priority it is for the house. It is unethical and a zero sum game. This has always been my approach from day one of selling, which I have been doing for just about 10 years. I am always looking for the right fit. I understand returns are the nature of the business. However, I still try to keep it at a minimum, while championing titles I expect to perform.”