A Letter From ABA President Ann Christophersen

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In this letter to booksellers, ABA President Ann Christophersen talks about the association's plans to mark the fifth birthday of Book Sense, including a special project to select the best Book Sense 76 titles published during the past five years, a new look for the 76 lists, and changes in White Box mailing procedures.

January 5, 2004

Dear Fellow Booksellers,

Happy New Year!

It hardly seems possible that, as we are recharging our batteries after a busy holiday season, it is already time to think about new initiatives. Fortunately, there is a very gratifying bookselling occasion ahead for us to do just that. This year is the Fifth Birthday of Book Sense!

I vividly recall the debut of Book Sense at BookExpo America in Los Angeles in 1999. There was a good deal of excitement: After all, many independent booksellers had been talking for years about the value of working together to raise the profile of our businesses -- and here was an actual and ambitious plan to accomplish that. Moreover, we were launching with 500 stores, an unprecedented show of enthusiasm and support for a new program. Even with such promising numbers, though, there were still many who were dubious about our chances to successfully mount an integrated national marketing program for independent bookstores.

However, five years later, our record speaks for itself: Over 1,200 participating bookstores, a vibrant Book Sense 76 program, the most up-to-the-minute national bestseller list (with over 450 reporting stores) and seven regional bestseller lists to boot, a new national gift card program, and an e-commerce solution in BookSense.com. It's quite an accomplishment, and we all should take pride in the results of our hard work.

But the story is far from over. In fact, we think it is only beginning!

The ABA Board and staff have been working to ensure that this new year is one of continued progress for Book Sense. I wanted to send you a special e-mail update about some of the key developments.

Kick Off to the Book Sense at Five Program

Please save Thursday, June 3, from about 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., for a very special celebration at BookExpo America. That evening there will be a great BEA Opening Night Reception and Birthday Bash for Book Sense. Full details will be announced in the coming months. This will be an event you won’t want to miss!

A Special Project to Select the Best of Book Sense

You'll soon be receiving special ballots to help select the best Book Sense 76 titles published during the first five years of Book Sense. Ballots will be available in the January White Box as well as online after Thursday, January 8. The top 15 adult and top 10 children's titles of the first five years of the program will be selected by you -- and the voting is open to ALL employees of ABA member bookstores. Please share the ballot with ALL of your colleagues --- this is a chance to hear from booksellers at the front desk to those at the backroom receiving table about all the titles that have proven exceptional since the first Book Sense 76 list was published in September 1999. Please encourage all of your employees to reply with their favorites.

As an added incentive, all booksellers who participate in this selection process will be entered into a Bookseller Contest with wonderful prizes for five lucky booksellers.

This project is sure to produce an outstanding list, and Book Sense is hard at work on a marketing plan that will help you effectively promote and sell these great backlist titles in your store. (And watch, too, for more information with your ballot about specifics on the contest for booksellers. The grand prize will be free admission and housing at BookExpo America for the next FIVE years!)

A New Look for the Book Sense 76

In response to input from both booksellers and publishers, beginning in May, the adult Book Sense 76 will become a monthly listing of 15 titles. We believe this change will make the list more timely and more focused, both for you and for our Publisher Partners, and that it will offer you a 76 list that is even more consumer friendly and helpful as a sales aid. There will be no changes in the Children's 76 list, appearing three times yearly, and Book Sense will still produce specialty Top Ten lists for such industry initiatives as Poetry, Audio, and Banned Books promotions, and such seasonal lists, in partnership with the Association of American Publishers, as the Valentine's Day,

Easter/Passover, and Halloween Top Ten lists throughout the year. We are also proud to announce our continued partnership with The History Channel, and look forward to producing a specialty Book Sense 76 list in cooperation with them in the spring and fall of 2004.

Changes in the White Box Mailing Procedures

Book Sense is currently developing new mailing options for the White Box that will bring you key materials in a more timely manner. Look for more specific details in early 2004 mailings.

2004 is going to be a very special year for Book Sense and independent booksellers. You'll be hearing much more in the coming weeks and months via updates in the White Box, e-mails from folks at Book Sense, and in Bookselling This Week. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us.

For general questions or specific inquiries about Book Sense at Five, contact either Linda Sinisi (lindas@booksense.com) or Mark Nichols (mark@booksense.com); for Bestseller List questions, please contact Meg Smith (meg@booksense.com); for media or general industry issues, please direct your e-mail to Kristen Gilligan (kristen@bookweb.org). To nominate a book for a future Book Sense 76 list or for more information about the 76 lists, please e-mail Dan Cullen (dan@booksense.com).

As an independent bookseller, I am grateful to all of you who have, through your participation, made Book Sense a powerful program. It has made my store, Women & Children First in Chicago, better, and I know it has done the same for many of yours. Congratulations for all you have done over the past five years as a part of Book Sense. Let’s make this birthday year memorable and continue to make this joint project of ours ever more effective.

Ann Christophersen
(Women & Children First, Chicago, IL)
President, American Booksellers Association