A Career of Nerdy

I was a teacher’s pet. I remember my second grade year sitting in a circle taking turns reading aloud, and being nervous that I would get a word wrong. In third grade we had some fancy (for back then) projected reading helper that I thought was the coolest thing ever. In fourth grade, I remember my young teacher reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer aloud to us in class, and how we students were all transported to another time and place. By then, I was allowed to visit the library on my own and check out books as an advanced reader.

In fourth grade I also began playing an instrument, the flute, and so started the other love of my life. Like reading, music just came naturally to me. I was supremely self-motivated by it’s creativity and endless resources of learning.

Fast forward to college. I was a music education/performance major, but another vivid memory is reading Sophie’s Choice while lying on my couch in my apartment, totally transfixed. It was an indulgent pleasure that was a break from the intensive school study of music. When it came to the end of my degree studies and time for student teaching, I had found a part-time job in a bookstore to make ends meet. Why not? I had always loved books, so that was a no-brainer. Little did I know that it would be the beginning of my career.

At that store I met sales reps who traveled to sell the new books coming out from the major publishers. After I graduated and went home, I took a job at the big local department store chain, while I decided my next career move. I took my teacher’s certification test for music K-12, but I’d been in school my entire life, and I was desperate to be independent. When the department store found out I had bookstore experience they put me right in the book department on the day after Thanksgiving. There I met the store wide book buyer with a national reputation. She took me aside and told me that if I stayed in the book business for 6 months or 6 years, she would mentor me and it would be the best experience I would ever have. I stayed, and she did and it was a once in a lifetime experience. Even then though, the retail business was in transition. Big department stores were phasing out all their specialty departments and book departments were becoming obsolete. Big dollar returns were expected from square footage allotments, and books didn’t have a high enough price tag or made enough turns for exceptional profitability.

From there I went to an independent bookstore, where I learned more about bookselling and book buying. I was tapped by one of those original sales reps from my college days when there was an opening for a publisher’s rep job. I took it. I was all of 24 and I was working for a big NY publishing company. That was twenty-seven years ago.

Today I am an independent publisher’s rep, meaning that we are our own company of representatives. A group of reps, representing a group of publishers. I don’t think it could be any more appropriate that my ultimate career choice was an innate love of reading that even predated my inner musician. I am still that musician. I married a musician and my son is a musician. They are readers, too. So we all have both things in common. There was a time when I imagined that I could never marry anyone other than a musician, because how would they understand me otherwise? When I read about how we nerds recognize each other, I’m right there with you. My husband thinks the same way.

I am privileged to have a career in bookselling and publishing. I have met many wonderful people spanning all segments of the industry. I have traveled extensively doing it. I managed to eke out a family and a family life while doing it and continue to learn and grow and read and find new books and wonderful authors. Sometimes I get to practice my flute, too.

Teresa Rolfe Kravtin



Teresa has been a bookseller for 30 years, a reader for a lifetime. She is a publisher representative in the southeast, selling books to bookstores, museums, and wholesalers. She see’s herself as a teacher, sharing information about books, authors, art and ideas with anybody who will listen.