A Pre-Holiday Message From ABA’s CEO

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Dear Booksellers,

As the holidays approach, I wanted to share a final update for 2012 before we do our best to get out of your way and allow you to focus on this most important time of the year.

Happily, the independent bookstore channel is going into this holiday season on a strong note. The growth in unit sales of books among our member stores has continued. As of the end of October, unit sales, as reported by the approximately 500 stores participating in the weekly Indie Bestsellers List, are still showing double-digit increases over 2011. We totally understand that these sales are the results of extraordinary efforts by all of you, and, at the same time, we recognize that some parts of the country continue to face clear economic challenges. But, from a national perspective, our channel continues to demonstrate remarkable resiliency as we keep doing what we do best... connecting talented authors and interested readers.

Realizing that these upcoming weeks are so critical, we have been working to provide the necessary tools to assist you in growing your sales and increasing the bottom line.

Very important in this regard is the first multi-publisher promotion for ABA members,“Thanks for Shopping Indie,” which begins on Saturday, November 24, in conjunction with the phenomenally successful Small Business Saturday. More than 20 participating publishers have worked with us to create a selection of 66 titles — all Indie Next List picks, chosen by you — for the promotion. And, importantly, all are offering an additional discount so that, should you choose, you can offer extra value as a special thank-you to your customers.

American Express will again be heavily promoting Small Business Saturday, and we have every reason to believe that this year will be even bigger than 2011, when an estimated 103 million people participated and many member bookstores reported an extremely busy kickoff to the holiday season.

But there’s another key reason that we are strongly encouraging you to take part in the “Thanks for Shopping Indie promotion.” All of us fully understand the unique role our channel plays in helping readers and book buyers discover great new titles, and how that influence translates directly into sales across all channels. But this multi-publisher promotion provides us a unique and very important opportunity to clearly demonstrate to the industry as a whole the singular importance of indie booksellers. Success here will speak very loudly. I very much hope that you will add your experience and enthusiasm to this promotion — both for your own store’s sales and for the continued success of the entire indie channel. Even if your store did not sign up you can help by displaying some number of the selected titles and doing your best to sell them.

There are a number of downloadable logos, table display cards, web banners, and posters available in the Bookseller DIY, and, should you have additional promotional suggestions, I encourage you to contact ABA Marketing Manager and Designer Greg Galloway. And here’s a link to “Thanks for Shopping Indie” details, including the list of eligible titles.

The other key initiative this holiday season is the ABA/Kobo eBook partnership. It’s heartening to hear from stores that they have begun to sell eReaders and that their customers are opening new Kobo accounts via their websites. However, we know, too, that this is a learning experience for ABA, Kobo, and Ingram as we roll out a very ambitious new program. I strongly believe that indie booksellers couldn’t have more knowledgeable and experienced partners than Kobo and Ingram, and we are extremely grateful for all the care and hard work they have put into the program. As we have often said, our partnership with Kobo is designed to help you serve — and retain — those customers who may want to read digitally, and not to interfere with the heart and soul of what you do every day.

Superstorm Sandy presented some extra challenges to the Kobo roll-out for a few days, but, thanks to the hard work of Neil Strandberg, Matt Supko, and the IndieCommerce team, booksellers’ needs and concerns were addressed, as we did our best to respond and provide appropriate educational and promotional materials. We completely understand that the Kobo program is a work in progress, and we want very much to hear from you. This is a perfect example of a program that will grow stronger because of your input and feedback. I hope no one will hesitate to contact us about all things Kobo at kobo@bookweb.org, or via your ABA membership relationship manager (Nathan Halter in the GLIBA, MBA, MPIBA, PNBA, or SIBA regions; Kaitlin Pitcher in the NAIBA, NEIBA, NCIBA, or SCIBA regions.)

While acknowledging the importance of the ABA/Kobo partnership, we fully understand that the overwhelming majority of your sales this December will be in print books, and what an outstanding season for readers it is turning out to be. The October and November Indie Next Lists were replete with wonderful titles, and the December list is trumpeting even more. Our colleagues in the publishing community have provided us with a wide range of titles that are incredibly well suited for hand-selling, newsletter and catalog promotion, shout-outs on Facebook and Twitter, displays on the staff picks table, and much more.

Sadly, following the destruction and upheaval of Sandy, some of our colleagues are facing many extra challenges this season, and we continue to send out our best wishes to all the booksellers who have had to deal with all the awful weather. As they have worked so hard to quickly reopen their stores, they are an inspiration — and seeing how their neighbors and customers have pitched in to help them is clear testimony to just how important locally owned independent businesses are to a community. As the rebuilding continues, please know that there are a number of resources available, including the folks at LIBRIS and Binc. Here’s a link to a full list with contact information.

As reported elsewhere in BTW, Wi8 is filled to capacity, and we have started a wait list. We are enormously gratified by your vote of confidence by signing up, and, while you are busy selling books this holiday season, we will be hard at work creating what we hope will be the best Institute ever! But — please — in deference to your colleagues on the wait list, if your plans change and for whatever reason you cannot join us in Kansas City in February, please, let us know ASAP.

In a final ABA update, in mid-December we will be moving our offices a relatively short distance, from Tarrytown to White Plains, New York. We were able to sign a lease for new office space a few miles from our current office, and, in doing so, were able to realize a substantial savings in occupancy costs. Recognizing how busy things can be in December, I hope that you will be on the lookout in the coming weeks for an e-mail update with our new contact information.

One last thing... I know how busy you are, but if you haven’t yet signed up to be a host bookstore for World Book Night that would be a great early 2013 resolution!

Again, as always, it was great to have a chance to meet and catch up with so many of you at the fall trade shows, and to hear all the exciting things you are doing in your stores. All best wishes to you for a busy and profitable holiday season from the ABA Board and everyone at the association.

Sincerely,

Oren Teicher
CEO, American Booksellers Association

P.S. As many of you know, for a number of years now, during the holidays I have had the very good fortune of being able to volunteer my services at member bookstores. The goal is to help in whatever ways might be needed — everything from shelving, to sweeping, to hand-selling (a special treat for me) — and it would be hard to overstate just how valuable it is for ABA in terms of first-hand information and feedback. It’s that time of year, and if anyone might want the services of an enthusiastic part-timer for a few days, please, do e-mail me!