UMBA Spring Meeting, ABA Forum, and Financial Seminar Get Good Reviews from Booksellers

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The Upper Midwest Booksellers Association's (UMBA) Spring Meeting and Seminar was held from April 13 to 14 at the Edgewater Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. The well-attended event included an ABA Booksellers Forum, a booksellers’ roundtable on co-op advertising, and an author/publisher cocktail party on Saturday; it finished on Sunday with a financial seminar led by ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz from 9:00 a.m to noon.

Along with Domnitz, others who attended either some, or all, of UMBA’s Spring Meeting included Ann Christophersen, ABA vice president, from Women & Children First in Chicago; and ABA Advisory Council members Ellen Davis of Dragonwings Bookstore in Waupaca, Wisconsin, and Sandra Torkildson of A Room of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin.

Saturday’s events began with a roundtable discussion from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., led by Tracy Gilsvik, newsletter editor for Northern Lights Books and Gifts, and Janet Grojean of The Book Worm in Omaha, Nebraska. Anita Zager, Northern Lights owner, moderated the open discussion on co-op advertising. The roundtable emphasized that "co-op is your money, you can’t afford not to retrieve it," Zager said, "and [offered] great ideas on how to go about doing that."

Both Gilsvik and Grojean spoke in detail about their experiences with co-op advertising and passed along some co-op ideas to the attendees, said Sue Griepentrog, buyer and manager of Little Read Book in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Moreover, they, along with attendees with co-op experience, helped clear up any confusion that booksellers with less co-op experience might have had. "Co-op policies change from publisher to publisher," Griepentrog explained. "It was really helpful to have booksellers give examples on how they cope with the different situations."

Following the roundtable, over 30 booksellers attended an ABA Booksellers Forum led by Domnitz and Christophersen from 3.30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The forum began with an update on Book Sense. Domnitz discussed the new, user-friendly method for reporting to the bestseller list. He also encouraged those booksellers that were not yet signed up for "to take advantage of" the free five-month trial, said Griepentrog.

According to UMBA Executive Director Susan Walker, Zager, and Davis, almost every bookstore present at the forum was a Book Sense store. And while many had not yet tried Book Sense’s new reporting system, "the ones that did were raving about it," reported Zager.

"I felt like there was a lot of positive feedback on what Book Sense is doing for booksellers," said A Room of One’s Own Bookstore’s Torkildson. "The questions regarding reporting were resolved. Booksellers [that hadn’t been reporting], when they found out how easy it was, said they’d start doing it the moment they got back to their stores."

Said Davis, "The popularity of Book Sense was obvious."

The better part of the forum was spent detailing the proposed ABA Strategic Plan. As in other forums, booksellers in the region had received in advance a survey questionnaire listing the new plan’s six proposed goals, and they had been asked to rank them in order of importance. The same survey was also handed out at the forum itself. Attendees discussed the proposed goals in some detail and offered their thoughts and feedback on priorities.

Another topic of discussion was BTW. Domnitz described the new plan for the online newsletter, and "showed us an example on how easy it would be to download [BTW] on an 8-1/2 by 11-1/2 page," said Davis. "We all looked at it and said this would work for us."

Following the forum, UMBA held a cocktail party for authors from the region. Twenty authors were present, including John Stewig, a children’s author best known for Mother Holly (North South Books); Barry Levenson, author of Habeas Codfish: Reflections on Food and the Law (University of Wisconsin Press); and Jerry Apps, a writer of rural history who is currently working on a history of the Ringling Brothers for Amherst Press.

The party gave regional authors an opportunity to meet independent booksellers in the region. Many of the authors’ publishers provided books for the booksellers, which the authors signed. "It was fun for both the authors and the booksellers to have the opportunity to meet each other," said Walker. "For many authors, it was the first opportunity to talk to booksellers from the region."

The Spring Meeting was capped off with Domnitz’s special financial session for booksellers, "Basic Bookstore Finances," held Sunday morning from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Domnitz discussed operating within a system of financial controls to help predict performance and measure outcomes against those predictions, and about cash flow control. Attendees received a computer disk with worksheets, meant to help them integrate the session’s ideas into their everyday business.

Domnitz’s financial seminar won rave reviews from those who attended. "The Sunday financial seminar was excellent and, I think, will be very useful -- I just have to find enough time to start doing it," wrote John Stowe of Prairie Bookshop in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, in an e-mail sent to UMBA. "For the first time, I think I might have a chance to gain some control over cash flow. I'm grateful that UMBA was willing to sponsor it."

Said Heidi Nielsen, a bookseller at A Room of One’s Own Bookstore, "[Domnitz’s] methods for how to put together financial statements were very practical, and he made it easy to do. I thought his presentation was good, because he used a lot of anecdotes to make the economics seem more ‘everyday.’" --David Grogan