Annual ABA Publisher Meetings Update

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A member asked for an update about the annual ABA publisher meetings at Town Hall last month. 

In addition to ABA’s regular conversations and meetings with publishers, once a year ABA has formal meetings with publishers to speak to the value of independent bookstores and independent booksellers to the book industry ecosystem; to communicate the ways in which publishers can support independent bookstores with the shared goal of selling more books; and creating a sustainable industry that can support a livable wage for booksellers, bookstore owners, and publishing employees.

As usual, the priority was how to increase sales and profitability for bookstores and address livable wage. With that in mind, we discussed the importance of discoverability to drive sales, industry inefficiencies that hurt bookstores and publishers and how to improve them, and examples of publishers that are driving sales with bookstores by improving their terms. We also prioritized representation in the industry, DEI issues, livable wage, and new store growth. As always, we spoke to the critical importance of pre-order campaigns for independent bookstores. ABA and publishers also discussed their shared concern and actions surrounding the current wave of book banning.

Thanks to the 200+ bookstores who participated in our publisher survey, we were also able to share feedback about each publishers’ performance on damages, returns, DEI, B2B, Co-op, and new store terms, and offered them examples of best practices to help them improve and better support all of you. (As a result, you’ll be seeing some publisher-specific surveys that we urge you to respond to.)

The publishers updated us on their landscape as well: Supply chain and printing issues are worse than ever and are not expected to improve before the end of the year. What does this mean for bookstores? Publishers are cutting costs and raising book prices, and bookstores will need to order early for the holiday season to avoid re-print delays. Remember the last two years? Prepare for worse.

These discussions were important advocacy for indie bookstores, and they also informed some new initiatives that ABA will be pursuing in the months ahead: 

  • We are looking at ways to connect publishers with bookstore social media influencers and will continue to create education to help stores improve their BookTok skills. 
  • We’re brainstorming ways to support booksellers reporting their sales through Above the Treeline, critical data that can help drive sales. 
  • We’re creating a way for new stores to opt-in for direct contact from participating publishers. 
  • We’re working on improvements to the Book Buyer’s Handbook. 
  • We’re exploring ways to increase the value of Batch (a bookstore payment system that makes payments to publishers more efficient thanks to participating publishers like Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and Harper) to publishers and bookstores with the goal of increasing participation. 

And we’ll continue to lobby for more representation on publishing sales, marketing teams, and strategic terms that help bookstores sell more books.   

There is one remaining meeting: Ingram representatives will meet with the ABA Board at the September ABA Board meeting. Booksellers can share questions, ideas, and concerns for that meeting at [email protected]

The indie channel grew this past year and its market share increased with many publishers. Those who improved their terms with indies saw the most growth. We hope that this information inspires other publishers to follow suit and that ABA and publishers can continue to work together to remove obstacles and create efficiencies that are a win-win for both bookstores and publishers.