Want to be a bookseller? I asked an international sales representative from Harper Collins what it’s like. He’d just gotten back from a month long trip, back in time to watch the Minnesota Twins lose. I caught him during the 6th innings.

12th Street: So how does one become a sales representative for Harper Collins?

Austin Tripp: Well, you start, typically, as an assistant to a rep. There are other scenarios, but this is most usual. I started my adult working life working for a printer making books, and did sales for them, and then moved to New York to be an assistant. I wanted to travel somehow, and this seemed right. It is very corporate though; I wasn’t ready for that.

12th Street: You don’t feel like a salesman yet.

AT: Oh, I do, I am. Just the other day I sold a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves. Singapore and Thailand are my favorite. The business is great in both, but I like the culture. Both are very different—Singapore is so clean, and while they have atrocious human rights violations, they make decisions over there with the people’s best interest in mind. Thailand is just nuts.

12th Street: So you like the antibacterial hand wash in Singapore offered by the beaten one-eyed slave.

AT: Love it! Seriously: no litter, no spitting, and no durians on public transport.

12th Street: Durians?

AT: It’s a fruit that smells like ass.

12th Street: Aha. So, how much of Harper’s sales goes to Asia, and how does that compare with international sales as a whole?

AT: Asia compared to the rest of the Open Market (outside of US, UK, Canada, and members of the traditional British Colonies) is pretty large. Actually, it’s the largest. It could be an important percentage for a writer, but not their primary concern, unless their book has specific appeal to a country—say you are Malay or something.

12th Street: So, how does Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows do against something like Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska’s Political Establishment on Its Ear? (more…)

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