Since my last letter, in March, my colleagues and I have spent a good deal of time on the road meeting with hundreds of you and your fellow booksellers at ABA Spring Forums all across the country. I am pleased to report that the meetings went well, and ABA is extremely grateful both for your participation and for all your comments, feedback, and suggestions. These spring meetings continue to be indispensable opportunities for us to hear firsthand what’s on your collective minds, so we at ABA can be more effective advocates on your behalf. And, of course, I am looking forward to continuing many of those discussions next week at BookExpo America in Chicago. (More about that a little further down in this letter…)
In addition to the open forums held over these past few months — which are always extremely interesting and helpful — we presented an educational session on the New Localism. This session amplified the discussion that began at the Winter Institute in Denver, where we announced the new Civic Economics study on the effects of the growth of Amazon and presented sessions focusing on key policy issues facing indie businesses and Main Streets. The Spring Forum session looked at the new study in relation to the growth of the Localism movement; examined its results as it applies to individual states and regions; and offered both adaptable tools and specific next steps for booksellers’ advocacy efforts with elected officials.
Everything we discussed can be found here in ABA’s New Localism Toolkit. And while it was great that the materials received a lot of positive feedback, it was even better that booksellers at the forums offered very useful suggestions for additional materials. The toolkit is a work in progress, and we will continue to add new content in the coming weeks and months.
As I said to you at the forums, I believe this new chapter in the Localism movement — making clear to our fellow indie businesses, customers, and elected officials the true national cost of Amazon’s touted low prices and convenience — is critically important.
Our request of all of you has been to help us help you by writing your elected officials — and I can’t urge you strongly enough to do just that. As was the case with the beginning of the Localism movement, establishing and expanding an understanding of the realities of the growth of Amazon will take time and effort. But if we reach out and work at communicating the real facts and long-range implications of the growing dominance of one major retailer, I am convinced that the New Localism will prove to be every bit as powerful and effective as its predecessor.
As mentioned above, our next opportunity to see you in person is next week at BookExpo America. Our colleagues at Reed have responded to requests to move the show this year from New York City to be more responsive to booksellers from different regions of the country. Chicago is a great city, and McCormick Place is an outstanding event facility. Even at this late date, I hope you will strongly consider coming to BEA, especially if you haven’t in recent years. There’s still time — but not much — to register for your free badge and for programming!
We will continue the New Localism discussion at BookExpo America, and we are very excited that Stacy Mitchell will be our featured plenary speaker on Wednesday, May 11. Stacy is an influential leader and a nationally recognized expert on small business and healthy local economies, and she is eloquent and persuasive in communicating the indie story nationwide. (You can get an introduction to Stacy as a speaker here and here.)
ABA is very pleased to be working closely with Stacy and her colleagues on these issues, and I know her talk will be informative and inspiring. I strongly encourage you to be there. Following Stacy’s plenary you will have the opportunity to meet with fellow booksellers from your region to discuss important issues raised by the plenary, and to network and share ideas about how best to spread the New Localism message in your communities.
There’s a whole lot more going on at BEA this year — from a chance to meet one-on-one with publicists, to the much-loved speed dating lunch and afternoon tea with children’s authors, to focused educational sessions and the always-popular author buzz events.
My colleagues and I will be at the ABA Member Lounge (Room T-100 on the trade show floor) — along with coffee, snacks, and a chance for you to sit down and recharge your batteries, figuratively and literally! And, if you are coming to Chicago, please be sure to come to the lounge so we have a chance to say hi and catch up.
The final thing I want to share with you is some important news about what I think is one of the singular achievements of indie bookselling — the Indie Next List.
It was almost 20 years ago as part of the launch of Book Sense that the Indie Next List — then known as the Book Sense 76 list — debuted. The list makes eminently clear on a national stage what we have long known in individual stores: Staff picks sell, and no one is better at identifying and promoting great new writing than indie booksellers.
The Indie Next List has become a trusted monthly national staff picks selection, and through the years your passionate participation in championing titles and nominating them to the list has brought readers to debut authors, launched bestsellers, and helped millions of book buyers find their next great read.
The Indie Next List, which so effectively showcases the unique role of bookstores in the discovery of new titles, has both refocused publisher attention on our channel and has been a key component in the resurgence of independent bookstores these past few years.
Approaching a significant Indie Next List anniversary was a great opportunity to look at the program with fresh eyes, and the result is the Years of Discovery Campaign. Here are some highlights of the campaign:
New additions to the INL flier, including the opportunity to feature your store information prominently on the front of the flier; three more “Now in Paperback” titles, for a total of nine each month; and our first-ever consumer sweepstakes, in which customers can win the 20 titles on that month’s Next List.
The chance for booksellers to earn Winter Institute rewards. Bookstores that create INL displays from May through the end of September for each of those months’ lists and post a photo of each display to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram will automatically be entitled to bring an additional bookseller to Winter Institute 2017, in Minneapolis. But wait, there’s more: From those stores, 10 will be chosen to win a complimentary registration fee to Wi12.
We are also testing an electronic version of the Indie Next List for stores to send to their customers — more about that over the next few months. Taken together, we hope all the elements of this Indie Next List campaign hold the potential for an important triple-win — for your customers, for you and your store colleagues, and, importantly, for our entire industry, as it becomes even clearer just how critical indie bookstores are to the discovery of great new writing.
As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns about anything ABA is doing — or suggestions about what we should be doing — please, do let me know.
I hope to see you in Chicago next week.
Oren J. Teicher
CEO, American Booksellers Association