It’s possible that I’m most excited about visiting Baltimore because it’s home to the best seafood one could dream of (crab cakes! oysters! all topped with Old Bay!), Charm City Cakes, and the country’s oldest continuously running tavern, The Horse You Came in on Saloon. But we can’t forget the dozens upon dozens of indie bookstores within a stone’s throw of the city, or the fact that barring a major snowstorm I’ll be arriving on Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday (perhaps a trip to his tomb at Westminster Hall is in order?). Okay, okay, for all of you sports enthusiasts, yes, we’re going to be spending four days together adjacent to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but for all the rest of you, I can’t wait for us to check out the Charm City in between the many, many exciting events Winter Institute has to offer. We best get packing! Here’s what we have to look forward to next week:
TUESDAY, JANUARY 21
7:00 am to 7:00 pm Stop by the ABA Welcome and Registration Desk bright and early to grab your badge and welcome bag (located in the East Foyer on the second floor of the Hilton).
Check your badge holder for the Wi15 program and your three drink tickets (one each for the Welcome Reception, Thursday Evening Author Reception, and Winter Institute Grand Finale; additional drinks can be purchased with cash or credit card), then stop by the new flare station to add a pin to your badge holder to show off the number of Winter Institutes you’ve attended. For me? This is number eight!
Don’t forget to drop off any books you’ve packed for this year’s book drive, which benefits the Maryland Book Bank, and before you walk away, get on that good hotel WiFi to download the Winter Institute app and double-check your Winter Institute dashboard to see what you’ve already signed up for (better yet, do this before you leave for Baltimore!).
Now it’s time to figure out what exactly you want to get into amongst the tons of programming planned ahead of the opening reception. Here’s what’s in store:
7:30 am to 4:00 pm A busload of booksellers will take off for the Antitrust Symposium in Washington, D.C. (pre-registration required).
8:00 am to 2:00 pm and 12:00 pm to 4:30 pm Penguin Random House will welcome these scheduled bookseller tours at its Westminster, Maryland, warehouse (pre-registration required).
10:00 am to 3:25 pm International guests will hop on board a tour bus to visit indie bookstores around Baltimore; the tour for stateside booksellers happens on Friday, January 24.
Feeling like you want to hit the books already? Well, aren’t you ambitious. Here are some options:
9:00 am to 1:00 pm The IndieCommerce Institute, for users of ABA’s e-commerce platform (pre-registration required)
9:00 am to 4:00 pm The Paz & Associates Workshop: Introduction to Retail Bookselling for booksellers looking to open an indie bookstore (pre-registration required)
1:00 pm to 2:00 pm Buying for Small Stores and Tips for Better Buying, which will help you with ordering and offer tips for organizing your resulting paperwork
2:00 pm to 3:30 pm Life Cycle of the Book, during which industry professionals will discuss each aspect of the life cycle of the book and give attendees a larger perspective on their part in the process
2:00 pm to 4:00 pm Used Books Seminar, where panelists will discuss the art of selling used and rare books (pre-registration required)
More interested in face time with those you really want to chat with? You can do that, too:
9:30 am to 4:15 pm Ingram’s Indies on the Harbor, located in a cozy corner of the hotel overlooking the famed Camden Yards ballpark, offers booksellers a place to chat with publishers and editors, enjoy a cup of coffee, and browse an array of books
9:30 am to 4:15 pm Publishers by Appointment invites booksellers to sign up for 15-minute slots to meet with participating publishers of their choice (walk-ins are also welcome if a publisher is available)
2:00 pm to 5:00 pm Batch One-on-One Appointments will help booksellers learn more about Batch for Books, a new electronic invoicing system that helps initiate payments between vendors and bookstore retailers; sign up for a one-on-one here (walk-ins are also welcome)
2:00 pm to 5:00 pm IndieCommerce One-on-One Appointments are for both users and non-users of IndieCommerce and IndieLite who want to chat with a program specialist from the IndieCommerce team; sign up for a spot here (walk-ins are also welcome)
Feeling just the opposite — like you want to take a break after all that traveling? Here are some options:
9:00 am to 5:00 pm The NAIBA Hospitality Suite, open to booksellers from all regions, offers a chance to decompress, grab a beverage, and refuel before heading back out to join your colleagues
9:00 am to 5:00 pm The Quiet Room is intended to provide a quiet, calm space where attendees can spend time away from noise, light, and other stimuli
→ I just have to take a moment to mention: We *technically* haven’t even started yet! But here we go…
The evening festivities begin with the Mentor/Mentee Meet and Greet and First-Timer Orientation from 4:15 pm to 5:15 pm, where attendees who are new to the event can meet with other newbies, and where those who signed up for a mentor during registration can connect with their Wi15 coach. If you want a head start, check out the First-Timer Checklist on Bookweb.
Then we move on to the Winter Institute Welcome Reception and Anniversary Celebration (5:30 pm to 7:30 pm), co-sponsored by Shelf Awareness, where the whole dang crew will get together for a big kickoff party and enjoy drinks and snacks.
The party’s not over yet: from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm, thank HarperCollins and Bookstore Romance Day for hosting the Bookseller Mix & Mingle with Romance Authors.
And finally, from 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm, ABA will host a toast to outgoing CEO Oren Teicher.
Now, off to bed! The days don’t get any shorter from here.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22
7:45 am to 9:00 am Ryan Raffaelli is going to launch attendees into a full day of programming with the opening keynote “Reinventing the Store: Achieving Growth in the Face of New Business Risks,” which is based on years of research of indie bookstores and his own immersion in the book business.
From 9:20 am to 10:20 am, booksellers will gather with their colleagues for Bookseller to Bookseller discussion groups in various locations throughout the Hilton and Marriott; don’t worry, ABA staff will be in the halls to guide you to your rooms — just look for badges that say “Staff” in big letters at the top.
The day continues with more Batch One-on-Ones and IndieCommerce One-on-Ones, the Quiet Room and the NAIBA Hospitality Suite, and the Open Discussion Room, but it’s also the first day of the Galley Room and Shipping Desk! Be sure to stop by and stock up on advance copies of hundreds of titles. In the words of the infamous Baltimorean John Waters, “Collect books, even if you don’t plan on reading them right away. Nothing is more important than an unread library.”
10:40 am to 11:40 am The first block of education sessions run the gamut: Training General Booksellers in Kids' Book Sales, A Workplace Divided: Understanding the Climate for LGBTQ+ Workers Nationwide (pre-registration required), Creating Conversations Around American Dirt, Cost Cutting with ABACUS, Reimagining the Backlist Canon for Our Time, and a panel session on Batch for Books.
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm kicks off the institute’s first Rep Picks Speed Dating Lunch, and we always request that booksellers make sure to stay for the full event — publisher sponsors underwrite the lunch (and, indeed, the entire event) to keep costs low for booksellers, and they really want to tell you about their books. Hardcopy lists of the titles being presented will be available on the tables and in the Wi15 app.
2:15 pm to 3:15 pm Following your lunch, sit back and hear from the beloved Rebecca Solnit, who will present the keynote “A (Feminist) Field Guide to Nonexistence.”
After a quick coffee break sponsored by Moleskine (thank you for the pick-me-up!), head off to the second round of education sessions from 3:35 pm to 4:35 pm, including Work-Life Balance for Managers and Owners (pre-registration required), Edelweiss360: Sending Personalized Emails that Match Customers to Books, Managing Relationships With Your Sales Rep, Successfully Managing a Cafe in Your Bookstore, “Green” Retailing, and IndieCommerce for Small Stores.
The last two items on the agenda today, from 4:50 pm to 6:20 pm, are the POS Users Groups, where booksellers can share questions, feedback, and ideas about their POS system with representatives from that system, and the Publisher and Bookseller Focus Groups, which offer an important opportunity for publishers and distributors to discuss with booksellers issues of mutual concern and importance. Booksellers are assigned to one of two shifts (4:50 pm to 5:35 pm and 5:35 pm to 6:20 pm) based on bookstore role to facilitate more valuable discussion; check your badge for your shift. To prepare for these critical conversations, booksellers can review this list of topics that publishers are interested in discussing.
And now the fun really begins: From 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm, join the party in the South Foyer at the Ingram Drinks & Hors d’Oeuvres Open Reception. But the night doesn’t end there! If you’re still awake, head to the Marriott’s Stadium Ballroom for the after party (9:45 pm to 12:00 am), where we’ll celebrate 100 years of reading with Scholastic.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 23
7:45 am to 9:00 am WAKE UP! You don’t want to miss this breakfast keynote with Jennifer Finney Boylan. The bestselling novelist, memoirist, and short story writer will explore the radical act of telling stories and the powerful role narrative plays as a catalyst for social change.
Today, the Consultation Station opens at 9:00 am, where booksellers can meet with representatives from dozens of ABAs business solution partners, POS vendors, and other service providers.
Two education blocks offer a lot to learn today. From 9:20 am to 10:20 am, there’s Authors in Focus: Writing in Times of Crisis, Inside the Publishing Industry: Pre-Order Campaigns, Boost Sales and Increase Your Customer Base with Genre Titles, Leverage Local: Actionable Ideas from Baltimore Indie Retail, and Your Bookstore's Podcast. And from 3:45 pm to 4:45 pm we’ve got Black Female Entrepreneurship: Bookselling and Literacy as Resistance, Creating Profitable Events, How Bookshop Benefits Independent Booksellers, and Together in Courageous Conversation: Politics of Curation.
10:35 am to 11:55 am At Indies Introduce: Booksellers Present Debut Authors, learn about how panels of indie booksellers sift through dozens of manuscripts each season to pick out the best debuts to share with readers across the country. Many of the Winter/Spring 2020 authors will be on hand to read a passage from their book and sign copies after the presentation.
12:15 pm to 2:15 pm It’s round two of the Rep Picks Speed Dating Lunch, so get your pencils ready to take notes! (Pencils...does that make me old-fashioned? So be it.) You’ll be seeing a whole new set of publishers, so it remains important to attend (and to bring back your packets from yesterday!).
After the second round of education, everyone — and I mean everyone — will head to the Evening Author Reception (5:30 pm to 7:00 pm). See which authors will be there, and then extend a special thanks to the Wi15 sponsors for helping make that happen. And need I remind you what John Waters said? Get all the galleys! Talk with all the authors! Mix and mingle with your bookselling buddies! It’s going to be a great time.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 24
7:45 am to 9:15 am The day kicks off with the Publisher Rep Breakfast Presentations, another opportunity to hear from those in the know about the best and brightest picks coming up this year.
Afterward, booksellers can stop by for Publisher Office Hours (9:15 am to 10:45 am), where reps from participating publisher sponsors will be available to meet with interested booksellers for further discussion, or chat with small and mid-size publishers during Meet the Presses (9:15 am to 12:00 pm and 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm). These publishers will have displays set up in the East Foyer (outside the Galley Room) with a few galleys to give away.
Hour-long education sessions this morning (9:30 am to 10:30 am) will cover Board Games for the Win; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Roundtables; Managing Events in a Politically Challenging Climate; Time Management for the Small Store; and AI is Coming to a Bookstore Near You.
10:45 am to 11:45 am This morning’s keynote event, “Bookselling and Liberation: Black Bookstores in America, from the '60s to the Present,” will be an open conversation about the history and vital position of Black bookstores in our communities and in our industry with pioneers of Black bookselling and publishing, including W. Paul Coates of Black Classic Press, Shirikiana Aina Gerima of Sankofa Video Books and Cafe, Judy Richardson of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Nati Kamau-Nataki of Everyone’s Place. The keynote will be moderated by Professor Joshua Clark Davis, author of From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs. (Shameless plug: catch me interviewing Davis on an episode of Counterspeak!)
12:00 pm to 1:30 pm At the Lunchtime Author Reception, enjoy lunch and meet an additional lineup of authors and illustrators from Winter Institute’s sponsors, who will be on hand to chat with booksellers and autograph their new and forthcoming titles. This is also when Winter Institute attendees will take the floor for the “Heads or Tails” fundraiser for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation. Make sure you buy a pin in the days leading up to this so you can participate!
Today’s the day that Day Pass registrants will join the institute, so a bunch of extra-fun stuff is planned — for starters, a GAME ROOM!!! (1:45 pm to 5:00 pm), where booksellers can sample games with colleagues or game reps, review discounts, and place orders. If you’re looking for new non-book inventory, this is the place for you.
From 1:45 pm to 2:45 pm, two special events are planned: “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Conversation with Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds,” which is sure to broaden all of our horizons, and a live version of ABA’s popular online Marketing Meetups, this one on “Why SEO Matters to Your Marketing Plan.” Spoiler alert: It definitely does.
1:45 pm to 5:00 pm For a bit more in-depth education, ABA is offering the Bookselling Boot Camp Workshop and the Introduction to Employee Manuals Workshop, both requiring pre-registration. But here’s another tip: if you really want to go to an event that required pre-registration, swing by and wait patiently until everyone is checked in. If there are spots left, we’ll get you in, we promise!
2:00 pm to 4:45 pm Booksellers who signed up for the Baltimore-area Bookstore Tour will head out this afternoon to check out Atomic Books, Red Emma’s Bookstore, and Black Classic Press.
3:00 pm to 4:00 pm In addition to an education session on Independent Bookstore Day, ABA is debuting a couple of new learning experiences: Fireside Chat: So You Are Thinking of Running for Office…, an informal talk in which two experienced booksellers will share their knowledge on everything from fundraising to campaigning to serving, as well as the Innovation Arena, which will present three lightning talks from booksellers who have had game-changing aha! moments in the past year.
4:15 pm to 5:00 pm This 45-minute block offers you two options: ABC & ABA Presents: Brain Exchange: Creating a Welcoming and Open Space for LGBTQ+ Youth as well as an Event Debrief, where booksellers can talk about what they’re taking away from the conference and what has excited or inspired them.
If you’re heading out now, don’t forget to drop your badge holder in the specially marked containers at the Ask ABA desk or at the back of the room of your Friday afternoon session — ABA is getting greener, and we plan to use these badge holders again and again.
If you’re sticking around for the Winter Institute 2020 Grand Finale: Special Screening of Hairspray (5:10 pm to 7:00 pm), head to Holiday 1-3 on the second floor of the Hilton. I’ll be there with my “I ♥ John Waters" badge on (I kid, I kid).
One last thing: Be sure to check out Publishers Weekly’s special Winter Institute supplement, which highlights the books, authors, and events coming up at Wi15, and Publishers Lunch’s Buzz Books sampling (going live tomorrow), which includes excerpts from a number of Wi15 authors.
There’s so much to do at Winter Institute, so planning ahead is key! For now, I’m heading to my go-to sources to drum up a list of excellent Baltimore restaurants. Find me in the halls and I’ll share the scoop with you, too.
See you in Baltimore!!