Maureen Karb's Application for PW Rep of the Year

Maureen Karb's Application for PW Rep of the Year

Where do you work, how long have you been there, and what territory do you cover?

I’m currently the owner of Como Sales, a commissioned rep group. I began with Como eight years ago as the New England sales rep, selling to MA, CT, RI, NH, VT and ME.  Early in 2014 I assumed the role of “head of group” and then I purchased the company at the beginning of 2015 from Workman. 

Click to Enlarge

You are an edelweiss guru! I always appreciated how generous you were with information when I was a rep.

  • Jill Cadogan, Buyer at Book Ends Winchester and former Chesapeake & Hudson rep

How long have you been in the book business? What bookstores and publishers have you worked with previously?

20170920_004311.jpg

Click to Enlarge

My first job in the book business was as a bookseller at the Waldenbooks in the Natick Mall in 1999, while I was still in college. I worked for a few years after graduation outside of publishing but kept thinking back to my days at the bookstore. That led me to the NYU Center for Publishing, where I started taking classes towards my Master’s Degree.  It was during my first six weeks at NYU that I was inspired to become a sales rep. They had brought in Roxanne Coady to speak to us during the Summer Publishing Intensive program, and I asked her about the best course of action to own a bookstore someday. Her response was that I should become a sales rep in order to get a feel for a lot of different bookstores.  With that in mind, while still at NYU I got a job in sales at Simon & Schuster, where I bounced around over the course of four years, starting as an assistant and eventually becoming the field sales rep for New York and New Jersey. I then took a job at Workman in their special markets department for a few years, until deciding to move back home to New England. I took a position at Barefoot Books, where I worked for another few years before finally finding my home at Como.

51019851_2525528747463053_33854874411283

What do you see as the role of the sales rep? How has your approach to being a sales rep changed over the past five years?

I see our role as a conduit and an advocate. We take the huge amount of information coming from publishers and create the appropriate message to pass on to the booksellers. From the opposite side, independent booksellers are special because of their unique perspectives, so I combine their feedback into something helpful and concise for the publisher.  I’m the advocate for the  publishers, helping their books find the best readers in each store. And alternately I’m representing my stores whenever I’m in the publishers’ offices, whether that means selecting a stronger cover or championing the best promotions.  I’m also passing information between booksellers -- collecting successes and good ideas and passing them along to the next bookstore is one of my favorite aspects of the job.

I don’t know if my approach has changed much over the past five years, though if you rephrase the question to cover the last 10 years, a lot has changed due to Edelweiss. I do find that problem solving takes on a bigger and bigger role in my position as the years go on. I’m often called on to help with Edelweiss problems, customer service issues, tech questions and more. I love data and tech, and I think that these interests are key to the landcape of bookselling today.

I have to say for the first time ever, I've waited until the last minute to get my buying order ready for tomorrow.  BUT Maureen Karb, your markups make this feel like anything but work :)  I'm alone in my room laughing hysterically. 

- Nichole Cousins, Still North Books & Bar (but writing in 2019 as the buyer at White Birch Booksellers)

missive.jpg

Awards You’ve Received

I received the Henry Hirsch Award from Workman in 2015, which meant a lot as Henry was a former owner of Como. Then in 2017 I was awarded the Saul Gilman prize as NEIBA Rep of the Year.

I am also proud of two unofficial awards I’ve been given: Kenny Brechner awarded me the “Sales Rep Missive of the Year” in one of his PW shelf-talkers, and I was a member of the winning trivia team at the first annual Unlikely Story BINC Fundraiser Trivia Night before Independent Bookstore Day last year.

“Your markups are extra sassy this season!”

  • Beth Wagner, Book Buyer at Phoenix Books & President of NEIBA (written in early 2019)

58444222_2667620843253842_25099868034071

Additional Information

I’ve served on the board of the Book Publishers Representatives of New England almost continuously since I began at Como in 2012.  I’ve also been on the Advisory Council for NEIBA and I’m currently serving on the board, just beginning my two year commitment. I’ve been asked twice to lead a NEIBA-hosted educational session entitled “How to Win at Edelweiss” where a bookseller and I presented our tips and tricks on managing sales calls and organizing orders with Edelweiss. I also like to try to go the extra mile at the various NEIBA events – I always encourage Workman and my other publishers to promote their titles and authors in the best way possible, which has led me to sling drinks at the awards banquet, or lead an after-hours trivia night.

Just being nominated for this prestigious award means the world to me as I’ve recently celebrated my fifth year of owning Como Sales. I’m always a bit in awe when I think back to the history of my group, which has now been around for over fifty years.  I’m proud to be a female small business owner, and I’m especially proud to still represent Workman -- while Peter Workman passed away before I purchased the group, I’d like to think he would have been pleased with my ownership and how we’ve managed so far.

You are the best rep ever. Thank you.

  • Stan Hynds, Northshire Bookstore  (an email from 2018)