Algonquin to Recognize Exceptional Frontline Bookselling

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Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill recently announced the creation of a Frontline Fellowship, which will reward the exceptional handselling skills of one frontline bookseller with a trip to ABA's 2007 Winter Institute, to be held in Portland, Oregon, in February.

"This is a chance for booksellers to put one of their staff members on a pedestal," Algonquin's marketing director, Craig Popelars, told BTW. "Any outstanding guy, gal, full- or part-timer who is able to sell hundreds of a debut novel deserves to win this trip. We know how vital these booksellers are to a house like Algonquin and dozens of other houses. This one person is not necessarily the buyer or the owner, and these frontline people don't always have the opportunity to attend the Winter Institute."

The fellowship will recognize a bookseller who has the enthusiasm and ability to handsell many copies of a favorite book regardless of marketing budgets, print runs, or the author's sales history.

Any frontline bookseller can be nominated for the fellowship, self-nomination is permitted, and stores can nominate more than one person. The winner will receive roundtrip airfare to Portland, two nights' hotel accommodations, and a celebratory dinner.

Popelars, who attended ABA's 2006 Winter Institute, found it an extremely valuable experience. "I walked away having learned so much by meeting frontline booksellers," he explained. "[BookExpo America] is a great show, but the [Winter Institute] is a more intimate venue for publishers to connect with booksellers. Publishers don't necessarily know what's going on at the shop-floor level."

Of the kind of bookseller that the fellowship seeks to recognize, Popelars explained, "I've heard of staff people whose handselling skills attract many customers -- customers will phone ahead to find out when she or he will be in and come then. These are booksellers who act apart from all the marketing hype and catalogue copy -- people who fall in love with a book and want to put it in the hands of everyone walking in the door. What we saw with our books, Water For Elephants and The $64 Tomato, was amazing."

Nominations for the Frontline Fellowship should include the bookseller's name; store name, location, and phone number; three all-time favorite handselling titles (from any publisher); and a paragraph (200-word max.) on the bookseller's handselling exploits. The last day for nominations, which should be sent via e-mail to [email protected]) is Friday, November 17, 2006. --Nomi Schwartz