A Letter From ABA Board President Jamie Fiocco

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Jamie FioccoDear ABA members,

For me, these first months of the year are a time of reflection and planning. The store and staff have recovered from the (hopefully) hectic holiday season and race to the end of the year. If I’ve attended Winter Institute, now that I’m back in the store there’s a list of ideas I’ve compiled that I want to implement before I get bogged down again by the daily deluge of tasks involved in running a small business (as well as caring for family and attempting to have a life outside work). But I digress…

As I’ve become more involved in ABA leadership, I’ve noticed that there can be a disconnect between all the things ABA (staff and board) are doing on behalf of membership and what the members understand is being done. More than anything, this is because we’re all moving a hundred miles per hour every day, so it’s often hard to stop and focus on communication. ABA Town Halls play a major role in communication, and at Winter Institute, Children’s Institute, and BookExpo, many of us see each other face-to-face and do, indeed, have time to share what we’ve been up to.

The questions and comments that come up during Town Halls are often requests for updates on projects that have been brought up before, and, of course, new topics come up that we’ll consider in the future. For me, the question is: How do we continue this dialogue when we’re back home, and how do we include folks who aren’t at the conferences?  

With that in mind, there are some ABA-related items that bear repeating:

First off, everyone should know who their Member Relationship Manager (MRM) is, whether that’s Daniel, Ryan, Lauren, or Kate. Your MRM can be your first point of contact at ABA, the person to help answer questions regarding association services and to provide assistance with industry-related issues. Beyond that, you can reach out to relevant ABA staff and, of course, you can contact me and my fellow Board members.  

Second, do you and all your staff members subscribe to Bookselling This Week? BTW comes out on Wednesday afternoons and, yes, you should at least scan it every week to see if there are any action items for you. Marketing Meetup webinar? Register for Children’s Institute? Last day to order Independent Bookstore Day merch? BTW contains the updates and actionable information you and your colleagues need.

Beyond that, BTW provides timely updates about initiatives ABA is working on. Among other things, BTW runs a report following the ABA Board meetings, and if there’s something you think needs to be worked on, I encourage you to email us.

The last thing I’ll mention is social media. There are some great private Facebook groups for independent booksellers, which are valuable resources for problem-solving, discussion, and even emotional support. For a number of reasons, ABA staff do not post in any of these groups, so if you see a discussion that’s in need of some factual information, consider going to ABA staff or a Board member for clarification and, in turn, sharing updates with the group. Alternatively, if you think there’s a great idea that’s under discussion, share it with staff, the Board, or simply email it to info@bookweb.org.

With all that said, I’d like to close with a recap on some of the Town Hall issues we discussed in Baltimore, and where we are on them:

Healthcare, which is clearly an urgent need: The Board was given a presentation in early January by a group that is being vetted by industry partners in the search for healthcare solutions. As has become increasingly clear, the massive challenges small businesses face in providing healthcare are part of a much larger national issue, but this group may offer significant benefits in simplifying access to a broader — and more appropriate — array of healthcare options. This group has the first workable option we’ve seen, and we’re realizing we may well need to have a workable option before we get to the perfect (or really good) healthcare option for members. The next update on this front should be in April or May, certainly by BookExpo.

Taking prices off books: Please, please understand that comments about this at the Wi15 Town Hall meeting were given as an example of how, with incoming CEO Allison Hill taking the helm on March 2, everything is on the table when it comes to addressing the broken bookselling financial model. ABA is not suggesting to publishers that prices come off books! This is one of many ideas we’re throwing in the hopper to be discussed, researched, and presented back to members, with the goal of increasing bookstore profitability. I’m sorry I was not clear about this in Baltimore. But, again, communication is key — so thanks to those of you who asked for clarification.

Now that everyone knows to read Bookselling This Week, and where to ask questions about ABA services and initiatives, let’s get those conversations going!


Jamie Fiocco
ABA President
Flyleaf Books
Chapel Hill, NC