A Letter From ABA President Steve Bercu

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Dear Fellow Booksellers,

I just got back a few weeks ago from the Beijing International Book Fair. It was a chance to get to meet some of the publishers who will be coming to New York in May when China is the honored country at BookExpo America. I know you are hoping for some fascinating meetings with Chinese booksellers, and our friends at BEA are working to try to make that happen.

Bookselling, as far as I could see, works a little differently in China. When bookseller- to-bookseller meetings were suggested to the publishers, they were met with a look of complete astonishment. “Why do that?”

Bookseller education was mentioned. Another look of astonishment. “Booksellers go to the university. Why would they need education?”

Maybe a little comparison of how we merchandise, market, and sell the books. More astonishment. “We send them the books. They sell the books. What else is there?”

I was a little flummoxed by all that for a while, but now I am starting to come around to a simpler life where all we do is sell the books. You have to agree that it has a certain ring of ease to it. The Chinese publishers I met were more than gracious and seemed very interested in learning more about the American market and how to sell us books.

Now back to our world, where fall is upon us, and I hope that all of you are getting ramped up for the holidays. Of course Christmas cards went out on display last month, but what says Happy September more than that. We have a lot of stuff ahead of us over the next few months so get started early.

One thing to remember is Indies First. The call is out and authors will respond. Be sure to talk to your local authors and/or check out the index that ABA is compiling on BookWeb to tell you who is interested in “working” in your store. Indies First offers a great chance to get your customers in touch with authors they love, and they’ll get to love you more in the process. In case you have forgotten how it works, check out bookweb.org/indiesfirst.

The current focus for Indies First is Small Business Saturday and the holidays. There is a lot of attention on all things indie at that time, so start now to take advantage of the publicity that will be coming from all over the place. Also, take advantage of the good work ABA has done meeting individually with publishers to make things easier for you (while increasing your margins). Many publishers are making offers for the end of October (from the 20th to the 31st). You don’t have to sign up or do anything other than use the assigned promo code when you order your books. Most of these offers include dating, so it is the perfect opportunity to order up for the holidays. If you just order everything you might need, you will simplify your life during the rush and also increase your margin. It is really too good an opportunity to pass up.

So enjoy the fall and get ready for the holidays.

Steve Bercu
President, American Booksellers Association
Austin, Texas