"I want to replace the rep with the e-rep," said Jesse Kroger, Marketing Manager of the Netherlands' largest bookselling chain, Boekhandels Groep Nederland, at the Academic, Professional and Specialist Booksellers Group Conference held in Grantham last week. While he believes there is "good value to some good reps", most "just use the catalogue". He believes that the current way of subscribing books is "very outdated" and that a more digital approach is more efficient.
He's right, of course. I mean, why have Frankfurt? Why have the LBF and BEA? Let's do it all online. An agent wants to sell a book - why not just e-mail the proposal? What on earth can a face-to-face meeting add?
If you want to read more, look at Alessandro Gallezni's comments, which I loved, following the Bookseller's: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/79947-drop-the-rep-says-dutch-bookseller.html
While we're on the subject, Kroger might like to note remarks from the floor made by Andy Hayward of Constable & Robinson at the Independent Publishers Guild Conference in Brighton earlier this month. Bearing aloft a copy of Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison, one of MC Beaton's rural detective capers (think Agatha Christie in the Cotswolds) he pointed out that the house has now sold some 1.75m copies of her books. "When our reps were showing one of MC Beaton's hardbacks, which we'd only published for the library sales, a Waterstone buyer said: 'Oh, Terry Melia is importing the US edition paperbacks - why don't you buy the rights?'"
Which the house did and very profitable it has been too. Hayward's point is simple: without the rep visit, none of this would have happened.