The Journey of the Book: With Rick Simonson and George Carroll

GEORGE CARROLL is an independent publishers’ representative based in Seattle, Washington. He blogs at the and is a soccer editor. RICK SIMONSON curates at the Elliot Bay Book Company, Seattle, Washington. He establishes connections between readers and authors.

Both visiting lecturers shared their experiences, anecdotes and perspectives on sales and marketing, as an aspect of publishing addressed during the course at the Seagull School of Publishing.

The session started with George Carroll explaining the identity and role of an independent publisher’s representative. He explained the basic work structure which needs to be followed by an independent publisher. The guests then explained a network through which the book travels from the publisher’s office to the reader’s hand.

I’d like to observe the lecture in a three-stage perspective.

  • The definition and the role of the Publisher.
  • The Publisher’s Representative.
  • The Bookseller.

THE PUBLISHER – An individual or a company who has the responsibility to ‘make information public’ and indulges in the process of publishing. Rick Simonson explained an independent publisher is “editorially independent and quicker.”

THE PUBLISHER’S REPRESENTATIVE—His work is to represent the publisher before booksellers. So his work comprises in taking the catalogues of the publishers (for instance George, an independent publisher’s representative would take the catalogue of Seagull Books, and a few other presses distributed by the University of Chicago Press (UCP) that he represents, to the bookseller, making a case for the books, and receiving orders for the copies.  If he takes a UCP catalogue to Rick Simonson who is a bookbuyer at Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, he might sometimes have to explain why he thinks Rick should buy a certain book for his store.) Since USA comprises of a huge area and it is virtually impossible for one person to cater to all the bookstores in USA, the question of geographical territory comes in. It is not the territory itself but the people inhabiting these areas that become a determining factor for the genre and number of books stocked. But that is something book buyer has to keep in mind. During the lecture Rick spoke about his initial worries concerning the kind of books he might have to keep for a neighbourhood with mostly young inhabitants.

THE BOOKSELLER—His work is to select books for the bookstore, place orders with the publisher’s representative and do everything possible to sell the book in large numbers. The selection procedure may be influenced by several factors such as the name of the author, publisher, the target audience, the physical attributes of the book (in terms of shelf space), the reception of the book by other bookstores (for instance, City Lights in San Francisco), etc. His sales strategies include events, staff recommendations, book readings etc.

Rick maintained that bookstores should to respect the reader’s psychology. They need to be sensitive towards the kind of people who would walk in and what kind of books would appeal to them. He explained that a good bookstore has to pay attention to the following factors—community bonding, good staff servicing, providing mental space to the buyer (no pressure on the buyer) and organize book-related programmes and events.

Tathagata Chowdhury


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