A Big Chain’s Small-Press Point Person

May 2004
by Steve O’Keefe talks with Marcella Smith

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After winning his first Grammy Award, singer/songwriter Michael Bolton said he felt like an overnight sensation 10 years in the making. We tend to see superstars as they are today, and not the years of hard work it took to them to get where they are. Look, for example, at Marcella Smith, director of small press and vendor relations at Barnes & Noble, who is perceived as one of the most powerful people in the industry–a king- or queen-maker. Talking with me, she showed how she came to occupy this power-broker position, how her authority at B&N is neither arbitrary nor absolute, and how easy it really is for independent publishers to get her attention and support.

Half a Life in Bookselling

Smith grew up in rural Mason, Michigan, just a half-hour south of the state capital in Lansing, and graduated from the academically rigorous University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with a degree in English and a teaching certificate. She says she has always known what she wants, and then it was to live in New York City.

“I saw myself living in a big city, like New York, but I still had corn behind my ears, so I was willing to accept almost anything outside Michigan and work my way up. I went to the library and used Literary Market Place to find the addresses of publishers, then wrote to many of them in search of work,” she reports. The job she landed was executive assistant at Acropolis B…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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