After leaving our trade sales force in the fall of 2007, Gaspereau Press started flogging our books to retail accounts on our own, by mail, email and telephone. We’ve always distributed our own titles, so the leap to managing retail sales wasn’t actually that dramatic. We’re delighted, though a little surprised, to report that in our first full year without an outside sales force our sales actually increased, while cost of sales decreased. We haven’t even tried anything new or innovative yet.
It’s unwise to draw conclusions based on a mere two seasons worth of sales data (what two seasons are alike in this crazy industry?), but our experience begs the question: If a small press located in the middle of nowhere can sell more books on its own than it could with a ‘professional’ sales force visiting accounts twice a year and all that jazz, is the traditional sales reps model still an effective one for selling literary books in Canada? Maybe not.
Not that we’ve abandoned the idea of the book traveller. No sir! We've enlisted the aid of a cracker-jack salesman named Randolph St Cubbins to travel our books throughout the globe. Don’t let the fact that he’s a two-dimensional nineteenth-century illustration fool you. He’s tireless in his efforts, always on the road, and rarely in the office save to file the occasional expense report or iron his trousers. Half the time we’re not even sure where he is.
This week we received this photograph of Randolph taken at the Hong Kong Book Fair (we thought he was in Kitchener visiting a maiden aunt). Seems he had a marvellous time in Hong Kong – endless lunches and all that good stuff, what? – though to date, orders from the Orient have failed to materialize.
Curious about St Cubbins? Here's his bio from our web site:
Born in Southeast Northwestfordshire, Randolph emigrated with his family to Canada at the tender age of eight. He attended Upper Canada College, but was expelled after being made the patsy in an exam-selling scandal by a certain future newspaper baron. While this extinguished his taste for the criminal life, happy are we that it did nothing to dampen within him the bright spark of salesmanship that shines to this day. Following matriculation from the (only somewhat less hallowéd) Mississauga Montessori, Randolph furthered his education at King's College, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a rather unusual double major in Illuminated Manuscripts and Discrete Ornithology. After many years at the Nova Scotia gentlemen's clothier, Cumberland Cummerbunds, Randolph longed for a return to his first love, literature. He brings to the position experience in sales, top-notch credentials in subtlety and style, a gentle wit and a matchmaker's gift for putting the right books into the right hands.