January 20, 2011

Losing Marcella Smith

Publisher’s Weeklyannounced that among the higher level lay-offs made by Barnes & Noble yesterday was their Small PressĀ and Vendor Relations Director Marcella Smith.

For those who do not know Marcella, you have missed something. She has long been an advocate for small press in that big corporation – but she was no push-over. I’ve seen her stand in front of a room full of newbie publishers, all demanding that B&N carry their books (for no better reason than “just because they’re my books”). Marcella patiently explained the realities of the book industry… despite the catcalls. She is one tough gal.

She has always been a strong advocate for integrating great titles from small presses into Barnes & Noble’s catalog. She was a member of the PMA/IBPA’s Board of Directors and frequently spoke at their publishing universities, trying to make clear what constituted an acceptable title.

I’ve had the honor of discussing various books with her. She never gave anything but straight-up answers:

“That book will work regionally.”
“That’s a beautiful book, but it’s really only going to work for us as a sideline.”
“I’m sorry, but I just don’t see this book working for us.”
“What kind of national marketing do you have for this title?”

She never talked down to we small fry. Hers was the only big-chain office open to small and self-publishers.

I don’t know who will take her place – or if they will still have a small press office. But I know they will never fill her shoes.

I wish Marcella the best success in whatever she plans to do now.

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