Last week’s Winter Institute in Washington, D.C., was a stellar event that lived up to the expectations created by ABA’s five previous annual education events. More than 500 new and experienced booksellers came away from the three-day program armed with plenty of practical ideas to improve their businesses; energized by the many networking opportunities with colleagues from across the country; and looking forward to handselling titles shared by publishers and authors at the event.
A major key to the success of the Winter Institute was the support of the overall event sponsor, Ingram Content Group, and of Wi6’s publisher partners and friends.
Taking advantage of Wi6’s location in our nation’s capital, the programming began on Wednesday, January 19, with a Legislative Day that was capped by booksellers heading to Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials. Before leaving for the Hill, however, hundreds of booksellers attended the morning panel “Indie Retail and Activism” and the keynote interview of SBA Administrator Karen Mills by PBS NewHour’s Jim Lehrer. Over lunch, booksellers were offered tips and tactics for getting the most out of their visits to the Hill. (Read this week’s story on the Mills/Lehrer keynote; watch for a report on “Indie Retail and Activism” and the “Tips and Tactics” panel in an upcoming edition.)
Legislative Day was a highlight for Kris Kleindienst, co-owner of Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri. “I really felt engaged and connected to the larger fabric of American commerce and culture by taking our concerns to a national forum,” said Kleindienst.
Wi6’s next two days of educational programming covered an array of topics, including new business models, e-books, events, the children’s book market, buying and spending for success, new partnerships between booksellers and authors, and more.
“This year I felt like I learned a little bit about everything that was on my mind – e-books, buying, new management strategies, partnerships,” said Casey Coonerty Protti, owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, California. “The Winter Institute is always relevant, always informative, and always makes me think differently about how I run my business.”
“The strongest highlight of Wi6 for me was the feeling of synergy at the conference,” said Jennifer A. Tyler of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut. “I came back feeling that what we created – knowledge, excitement, relationship-building – was bigger than all of us. One of the best things I picked up from not just one, but many educational sessions, was the importance of community – between booksellers, businesses in our neighborhoods, and beyond – in thriving, innovating, and growing.”
Left Bank’s Kleindienst said that she and her partner, Jarek Steele, left with “so much to process.” In particular, the buy and spend your way to success panels gave them “some valuable concrete financial and organizational ideas” that they are eager to implement in their store. One concrete tip, the pair took away from a session: “Using shelf-talkers with [QR] codes in the store,” so that customers can scan the square codes with their smartphones and go directly to a title on Left Bank’s IndieCommerce website and, if they want, immediately buy the e-book “from us while standing in the store,” Kleindienst said.
As for a downside to the Winter Institute, she said, “I could have used a lot more of it, particularly the chance to talk with other bookstores.”
Debbie Beamer, owner of Mechanicsburg Mystery Book Shop in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, said all of the sessions that she attended were “informative and well worth the time and money…. I learned much-needed information on selling e-books and getting organized and being more efficient.”
Bill Cusumano, the buyer for Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who has hosted some noon author events in the past, told BTW that they never included lunch. He left Wi6 with the thought of working in the future with two restaurants within in walking distance of his store that are known for catering. “It seems like a worthwhile idea to explore,” he said. “Also, we have to increase our use of e-mail for event announcements and make event tickets available through our website.”
Cusumano added, “Obviously, there was more I can use, as Wi6 was as beneficial as others in the past. It is the best educational forum for booksellers, and we all have gratitude to the ABA for conducting it each year.”
“I have gathered so many fantastic ideas from the seminars I went to and from the other booksellers that I met and talked to while I was there,” said Jennifer Green of Green Bean Books in Portland, Oregon, who was the recipient of a scholarship sponsored by Disney Worldwide Publishing. Reflecting the thoughts of many of the 32 Winter Institute scholarship winners, Green said, “I am extremely grateful for my scholarship, and I just wanted you to know what a positive impact it has had on me!”
The next Winter Institute will be held in New Orleans from Wednesday through Friday, January 18 - 20, 2012. Look for registration to open in the fall.
Here are links to BTW coverage of the first day’s highlights; a report from the New York Times; and NPR on Thursday’s store tour to a local bicycle shop. This week, in addition to the Legislative Day keynote, BTW looks at the Thursday morning keynote, featuring Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, and Friday’s sessions on selling e-books.