David Mallmann, who describes his territory as the “Greater Midwest,” is an indefatigable road warrior. The W.W. Norton rep, one of seven field reps for that publisher, services more than 125 bookstores in 15 states: from Kentucky to North Dakota, Oklahoma to Ohio, and everywhere in between. While most of his accounts are indies, he also calls on several museum stores, as well as Follett Higher Education in Chicagoland.
Mallmann, who’s lived in Wisconsin his entire life, and all but his college years in the Milwaukee area, admits to having been “overwhelmed” when he started repping for Norton nine years ago. He came to enjoy life on the road, with one exception: “I did get tired of eating out at restaurants, and I started booking extended-stay hotels so I’d have a kitchen,” he says. “I like to cook”—so much so that he brings his own pots and pans and spices along. He says he’s missed travel since Covid forced him to conduct business from his home office, and hopes to return to the road this spring.
Like many other reps, Mallmann started out as a bookseller. While attending the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh in the early 1990s, he says, “it seemed like working at a bookstore was a great idea, since I was into books and reading.” After working at a Little Professor outlet his senior year, Mallmann moved to Milwaukee to pursue his MA in creative writing at the University of Wisconsin campus there. He found a job at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, the Milwaukee institution that was named PW’s Bookstore of the Year in 2004. After working in Schwartz outlets for 13 years, until the chain closed in 2009, Mallmann transitioned to the Next Chapter Bookstore in Mequon, housed in a former Schwartz location, where he was the store buyer. (There, in the sort of small-world coincidence that permeates the book industry, one of his reps was Randy Hickernell, another finalist for PW 2022 Rep of the Year.)
When the Next Chapter closed abruptly in 2013, veteran field rep Johanna Hynes, now manager of field sales for Ingram Publisher Services, tipped off Mallmann that Norton was looking for a Midwest trade sales rep and suggested he apply. “I’ve been here ever since,” he says, “and I can’t imagine a better company to work for. Bookselling has always been my life, and this job has been a dream come true. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m paid to do it.”
Mallmann’s 18-year career as a bookseller, he says, makes him a better rep: he understands the business of bookselling on a visceral level, “which makes a big difference. I’m not trying to oversell things. I’m trying to sell what will work best for their store.” In fact, his bookselling background shapes his entire repping philosophy. He may draw his paycheck from Norton, but he considers repping “a two-way street,” he says. “I believe that I work for the independent bookstores of the Midwest and the buyers that I call on just as much as I work for Norton.”