Jason Rice began his wholesale sales career nearly 16 years ago at Bookazine, where he took phone orders from independent stores in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions and also called on them to sell titles. “The interesting part of the job,” Rice says, “was talking about books. I’ve been a rabid reader of literary fiction for most of my adult life and have kept a close eye on book reviews and trends. I would call the independent stores in my territory to talk about a hot title and end up taking a bigger order or would help the customer with a hard-to-find special order. This was the foundation of my career and I can’t think of a better way to learn the book business than working for a wholesaler.”
Rice attended the Rhode Island School of Design and planned to go into acting. After landing a job as a community relations manager for Barnes & Noble in 1996, he began looking at a career in publishing. He later took a position as a phone rep with Bantam Doubleday Dell before joining Bookazine.
Rice left to become a field sales rep at Baker & Taylor, where his proximity to B&T’s main New Jersey warehouse meant he could often act as a fixer for booksellers. When problems arose, he drove to the warehouse to check on their orders in person. After B&T closed its retail operations, he moved to Ingram Content Group as a sales rep serving the Northeast in 2019.
For Ron Smithson, director of field sales at Ingram, the chance to hire Rice was a boon. “There are not a lot of people with more knowledge of both books and the book industry than Jason,” Smithson wrote in his nominating letter.
When the pandemic hit, all of Rice’s expertise was put to the test. “One of the challenges of being a sales rep during a global pandemic is you need to do it from your desk,” he says. But using digital tools that did not exist when he began his career as a phone rep allowed him to be there for his customers during a time of unprecedented need.
Rice’s dedication is something that both his accounts and his peers have observed. “Last year was such a crazy year, with lots of publishers and accounts needing Ingram service and support, and Jason Rice was at the front lines helping bookstores,” wrote Tim Hepp, a sales rep at Simon & Schuster, in his nominating letter.