Como Sales representative Gail Whitten has worked with booksellers and publishers large and small for nearly five decades. In that time, she says, one conversation stands out as a career changer. In 2006, Workman Publishing founder Peter Workman called to tell her that he was parting ways with Booklink, where she worked, and thanked her for her support.
“I practically cried,” Whitten says. “I told him how upset I was and how much I loved working for him.” Two days later, she accepted an offer from Workman’s sales manager to become a hybrid rep for Workman and Norton. When Workman bought Como Sales in 2008, she joined the Como sales team.
As a result, Workman is a stronger company, wrote CEO Dan Reynolds in his nominating letter. “I make a point to sit with Gail at Workman dinners because, yes, I know I will enjoy myself, but I’ll also get a real sense of the business and see if there is anything Workman can do to be a better partner to her and her accounts,” he noted.
Whitten’s acumen is hard earned, starting in the days of manual cash registers and inventory cards to guide store reorders. After working at Waldenbooks in Coral Gables, Fla., she moved to the company’s corporate office during their expansion in the 1980s. She helped craft multiple aspects of the company’s growth working as a buyer/planner in the New Stores Department, and later as a regional buyer so she could return to Florida. When Waldenbooks merged with Borders, she left to become a buyer for Liberties Fine Books & Music in Boca Raton.
In his nominating letter, Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in Coral Gables, credited Whitten with helping his store and the Miami Book Fair after she had moved on to Booklink in the late 1990s. “Her early and enthusiastic support went a long way to helping validate [the fair’s] importance in the eyes of the publishers she represents,” he wrote.
Singling out Whitten’s kindness, generosity, and a serious understanding of what her store needs, Rona Brinlee, owner of the BookMark in Neptune Beach, Fla., called Whitten an essential partner for her store in her letter. “She represents what makes the book industry special,” Brinlee wrote.
Cider Mill Press founder and publisher John Whalen, who has known Whitten since the 1980s and whose press is represented by Como Sales, added in his letter, “She understands the unique nature and significance when championing the needs of booksellers. She is our most outstanding field representative in North America.”