At the New Voices New Rooms conference, booksellers rediscover solidarity and trust

Throughout their five-day Fall Independent Bookstore Conference, members of the New Atlantic and Southern Independent Bookstore Associations (NAIBA and SIBA) spoke frequently about community. But from author presentations on forthcoming books to brass business education sessions, the second combined gathering of New Voices New Rooms of the two associations was also a show of solidarity.

Attendance at the conference was 709, up 13% from last year, with attendees logging in from 18 states. A total of 86% of SIBA members were in attendance, which the organization’s executive director, Linda-Marie Barrett, attributed to the associations’ commitment to making the conference free for booksellers and a year of planning. close with NAIBA Executive Director Eileen Dengler. Put simply, Barrett said: “We are thrilled.”

The result of a week of interactions with booksellers was on display at the NAIBA Annual Meeting on Thursday, when booksellers took a sober, clear-headed but confident look at their collective ability to navigate a season of booksellers. vacations ahead where supply chain issues threaten to create substantial disruption.

NAIBA board chair and co-owner of Greenlight Bookstores, Rebecca Fitting, told fellow bookstores that they would only be successful by starting to plan for disruptions immediately. “If you and your stores haven’t already moved into vacation planning mode, I urge you to actively start thinking about it right after the conference,” she said. But with the right preparation, she said, “I think your stores may be about to have a great holiday season. I think we are creative. Supply chain issues and ongoing changes in people’s shopping habits can continue to benefit their stores. “

Hachette vp Karen Torres offered an industry-wide perspective on the issues facing the industry, emphasizing the advice that Fitting has also given to booksellers, including ordering early from a large range of titles, including best-selling backlist books, and immediate communication to credit representatives to discuss advanced order deadlines. “It’s not a single publisher’s problem. It’s widespread, ”Torres said. “That’s why you want to know your credit representative, and that’s why you want to think about having these dialogues.”

To meet the growing needs of booksellers at times like this, NAIBA is recruiting a new Relationship Manager, who reflects the growing number of member stores as well as the challenges of commerce. After having fluctuated around 140 member bookstores for several years, the association now has 178 bookstores. “It’s been incredibly busy,” Dengler said, noting that she was making presentations between new bookstores and publishers every week. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a year like this,” she said.

SIBA booksellers look to the future

SIBA’s annual meeting and town hall celebrated the resilience of the organization for the second consecutive year of hosting a virtual conference as well as its flexibility. Barrett noted that representatives from 131 SIBA bookstores, or 86% of current SIBA members, engaged Thursday afternoon with New Voices, New Rooms, a 31% increase from the virtual gathering of the year. last.

“One of the things I’m most grateful for,” said John Cavalier, owner of Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, Louisiana and Chairman of the Board of Directors of SIBA, who chaired the meeting, “I loved that everything was pre-recorded. This year. I put all my links in my Chrome browser so I could click on them whenever I wanted.

SIBA’s current membership is 152, “about the same as two years ago,” Cavalier said. He noted that last year, due to the pandemic, SIBA automatically added any names in the organization’s database to the lists, increasing the numbers for 2020. Cavalier reported that SIBA “is in a very good financial position and is expected to meet all budgetary targets in 2021. As of December 31, 2020, SIBA had total assets of $ 200,000, with $ 348,000 in support and income and $ 312,000 in expenses. Cavalier was particularly pleased to announce that SIBA’s PPP loans have been canceled.

In terms of programming, SIBA has also replaced Lady Banks newsletter with the Criticism of southern booksellers and her seasonal Okra Picks recommendations with Read This Next! seasonal recommendations.

“We feel that [it] is much more contemporary and inclusive and reflects more that the tastes of our booksellers are global and not necessarily limited to the South, ”Barrett explained of the Criticism of southern booksellers. “The Okra Picks were books written by [Southern authors] or on the South; Read this next! are the books that interest our booksellers the most, no matter where they are or who wrote them. This is what southern booksellers love, but their tastes extend far beyond our borders.

ABA Antitrust and Push Sales Data Plans

Leadership from the American Booksellers Association was present at both annual meetings, with ABA CEO Allison K Hill reiterating to members concerns about supply chain issues. Hill also shared longer-term strategic thoughts on where the organization is going, after nearly two years of dealing with the looming challenges members face during the pandemic.

The organization plans to advance its ongoing antitrust organizing efforts with Congress in the first quarter of 2022, while also developing ways to collect more comprehensive bookstore data that Hill says is crucial to giving publishers a comprehensive view. of the market share of independent bookstores. “A lot of publishers don’t really understand the impact of the entire independent channel. They see a piece of it. They see their share of it, and even then they might only see their direct sales to your stores, ”Hill said. “They may or may not see the sales through wholesalers, and they may or may not add – those of you who manage sales on Bookshop – that I see as part of this overall picture of the independent chain.”

The beginnings of the Vindies

In addition to tackling pressing issues and complex business challenges, booksellers also took the time to take breaks, author presentations, and more. Donna Washington (Boo Stew) performed a dramatic read from his children’s book, and in another interlude, Jonathan Auxler (Fabled Stables series) performed YoYo tricks. The associations also organized their first VIndies awards ceremony, rewarding the best videos produced by bookstores this year.

Eagle Eye Book Shop (North Decatur, GA) won Best Animated Video for “What Happens in the Bookstore After Hours”; One More Page Books (Arlington, VA) won the NAIBA Covid-Related Best Video Award for “Sea Shanty”; Givens Books (Lynchburg, VA) won the award for best SIBA Covid-related video for “The Mask”; East City Bookshop (Washington, DC) won the award for Best Comedy Video (NAIBA) for “Randomly Generated Book Recommendations”; Scuppernong Books (Greensboro, NC) won the Best Comedy Video (SIBA) award for “Poetry Night”; Charm City Books (Baltimore, MD) won the Best Dramatic Film (NAIBA) award for “This Shop is My Life Force.” “; Midtown Reader (Tallahassee, FL) won the Best Dramatic Film (SIBA) award for “There’s No Place Like Home.”; and Historic New Orleans Collection won the award for best feature film for “We Are the Holy Ones”. (Disclosure: one of the co-authors of this article was a contest judge)

For Barrett and Dengler, a future seems possible where in-person fall conferences could return, but the two have said they plan to continue collaborating on events, including what Barrett has called a “best of” virtual conference. “. “SIBA loves our partnership with NAIBA,” Barrett said, adding that she and Dengler “are always inventing new ways of working together.”

Whatever they coordinate, Dengler said the same planning would apply to everything. “We have a huge survey ready to go to find the best time and type of event for booksellers and publishers,” she said. “We will create an event to meet their needs.”

For Carrie Deming, owner of The Dog Eared Book, the collaboration has already paid off in collaborative virtual lunch sessions and buzz panels for first looks at spring titles for the Palmyra, NY bookseller. “Regarding a virtual conference,” she said, “this one is as close to being in person as it gets.”

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