A Letter From ABA Board President Robert Sindelar

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Dear Fellow Booksellers,

It was a true joy to see so many of you two weeks ago in Memphis at Winter Institute 13. The number one Ends Policy of the American Booksellers Association is to assure that “members will have the necessary business skills to professionally operate profitable independent bookstores,” which is to be done through “multilevel informational and educational programs” and “multiple networking opportunities that foster a constructive exchange of ideas.” If we were to start from scratch and try to create programming that would fulfill these ends policies, I don’t think we could even hope to dream of something as meaningful and well-executed as Winter Institute.

All week long in Memphis, I received compliment after compliment about the event that I did not deserve. The ABA staff has done an incredible job of growing this institute each year and continuing to make it the most important event on the annual indie bookstore calendar. Many thanks to all on the ABA staff.

Here are some highlights I had from Wi13 and some reminders about upcoming ABA events:

  • What is Batch? At our Town Hall meeting, we heard from one of our bookselling colleagues in the U.K. about how great (both time- and money-saving) the Batch invoicing system used there is. Many in the room hadn’t yet heard about Batch (it’s a centralized invoicing system in which all publishers’ invoices are in one place and one format). But those who went to meet with the Batch crew at the Consultation Station came away with an even greater appreciation for what this system could mean to saving us all time and money in the long run. Indeed, it was the topic I heard booksellers talking about more than any other by the end of the institute. ABA is continuing to work with our publisher partners to make this a viable enterprise in the U.S. Updates will be coming in BTW later in 2018.
  • Best Books I Brought Back From Wi13: Like many of you, I am still sorting through the riches of ARCs that I picked up in the galley room and at the author reception. But here are the highlights so far:
    • Best Books I Read Before Wi13: There, There by Tommy Orange (Knopf) blew me away. It is easily going to be one of the most talked about novels of the year. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (Grove) delivers what is so very rare in contemporary fiction: a truly original voice. It’s amazing that the year is so young and two of what will surely be the best novels of the year are already in our hands. I was thrilled to be able to meet both of these incredible talents at Wi13.
    • Book I Got Most Excited About Seeing in the Galley Room: Florida by Lauren Groff (Riverhead). I’m one story from the end of this outstanding collection. Lauren Groff fans will not be disappointed.
    • Finding Time for Business Books: I walked away from both Daniel Pink’s keynote and Morten Hansen’s Advanced Education Session with lots of notes, lots of questions, and a strong sense that I had more to learn from of both these thinkers. I usually save business books to listen to on audio, and I’m currently going back and forth between Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Riverhead) and Hansen’s Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More (Simon and Schuster) on my Libro.fm app. I highly recommend both. (P.S.: Libro.fm’s February ALCs for booksellers are out now, and they include Francisco Cantu’s immensely important work The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border, read by the author).
  • Make Winter Institute Great Again — and Again and Again: Making sure Winter Institute continues to serve all of our membership is a collective job. All attendees received a survey last week, and the Wi13 app is still taking comments. The feedback you provide via the survey and the app are absolutely critical to ABA’s ability to keep the institute as relevant as it can be to all of our members. Please take the time to complete the Wi13 survey and rate the sessions you attended on the app.
  • More ABA Education Coming Your Way: For those of you who couldn’t join us in Memphis, please make sure to check when the ABA Spring Forums are coming to your region. Outside of specific education that ABA will be bringing to all the regional Spring Forums, these gatherings are one of ABA’s best ways to hear from you. How is business? What are the key things that ABA could be working on to help your business? How are current ABA programs working for you? So please check the schedule and try to join us at the forum in your region.

As always, if you have any questions or comments for ABA, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Robert Sindelar
President, American Booksellers Association
Third Place Books
Lake Forest Park and Seattle, Washington