ABA President Steve Bercu's Bimonthly Update

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Dear Fellow Booksellers:

The fall regional shows reflected the good news that many of us are now seeing. In general, it is safe to say that indies are surging, capturing market share, and seeing higher sales.

I had the pleasure of attending the New England Independent Booksellers Association show and seeing it firsthand. The show was great, and the energy was palpable. It got off to a slightly rocky start for me and Scott Turow, the keynote speaker, as we limped in from Chicago about six hours late (a 5:00 a.m. arrival at the hotel). He was able to fill everyone in on our travails at the plenary later in the morning. And, of course, it is now a good story for us both. The conversations I had with booksellers at the show were informative, helpful (to me), and just another reminder of how good we have become as businessmen and women (as well as good booksellers).

Your ABA Board recently held its fall meeting at the association’s headquarters in White Plains, New York. If you get a chance, be sure to go by and meet the fabulous staff that serves us all extremely well (and see the new offices). We had wide-ranging discussions about the many problems facing us all now, as well as about what lies ahead that should be cause for concern. (A report on the Board meeting is available here.)  

We are getting into our season now and have plenty in store. Small Business Saturday (SBS) has developed into a celebration of all things indie. Adding Indies First and the Thanks for Shopping Indie promotion gives us something extra to connect the day to what we do (and so does Indies Introduce). Take advantage of all these fine programs to keep the focus on our stores and on indies in general. Every time we help a member of our community decide to support indies, we help ourselves AND our communities.

With Indies First coming up on SBS, this is a great opportunity to pitch your stories (any stories) to local media contacts. This week, ABA is making available to members press release templates and sample tweets and Facebook posts that we can adapt to publicize Indies First to consumers. There are also plenty of promotional resources for SBS on the American Express Facebook page and in the SBS toolkit, now in BookWeb’s Designs & Downloads. This is a perfect chance to garner free publicity. (For example, I am being interviewed by a local TV station next week to talk about these very issues.) Meanwhile, check out some of the general publicity resources (under “Merchandising, Sales & Marketing”) in the ABA Curriculum Guide, including a Sample Press Kit and handouts from the education sessions “Managing PR With Limited Resources” and “Marketing With PR and Social Media in Mind.”

Please also share your creative marketing, promotional, and publicity efforts for anything — not just Indies First — with ABA. Send your stories to Dan Cullen. He and his colleagues are tasked with developing ABA’s educational programming, and they are always on the lookout for great ideas to share at upcoming gatherings of ABA members.

It may go without saying, but my favorite industry news of the week is the Amazon publicity stunt announced on the 6th. I admire their nerve in offering another demonstration of their interest in using indie relationships to capture market share. Of course, the failure of the “offer” to include 26 sales tax jurisdictions might just be a coincidence, and setting a two-year term for commissions before taking our customers was a considerate touch. I think I will just stay with Kobo.

So it is time to think about selling all the huge piles of books we have brought in (plus the stuff we just noticed was left over from last spring). Have a wonderful season!

I hope to see you at the Winter Institute, when this is all behind us.

Steve Bercu
President, American Booksellers Association
Austin, Texas