Top 10 Things to Know About...



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To help indie booksellers as they enter the critical fourth quarter, in September 2020 the American Booksellers Association launched a webinar series on the “Top 10 Things to Know About…” The series will cover topics like cash flow, operational workflow, customer and sales data, ABA’s fall marketing campaign, virtual events, and more.

Watch Bookselling This Week for registration links for each event as well as recaps of each session. In addition, all webinars will be recorded and added to the Education Resources page, and the top 10 items on each topic will be listed below.


Top 10 Things to Know About: Remote Workers

  1. Establish clear expectations and policies regarding remote work.
  2. If hiring employees, consider using nontraditional recruiting methods.
  3. Be sure remote employees have the necessary technology to complete all responsibilities.
  4. When training remote employees, keep all sessions short and allow adequate time for a Q&A.
  5. Keep training sessions as interactive as possible, as that can help employees learn and retain new information.
  6. Consider holding daily, weekly, and monthly dedicated check-ins by phone, email, or video conferencing.
  7. When working remotely, it’s important to manage time effectively
  8. Remember to create strong work/life boundaries.
  9. Don’t forget to make time to socialize with coworkers.
  10. Supervisors and employers should work to provide both emotional support and encouragement.


Top 10 Things to Know About: Morale Boosters and Self-Care

  1. During the holiday season, morale boosters help make staff feel supported and like a team, and it also makes the season fun. Morale boosters are also a great way to thank employees for their work.
  2. Consider giving out an annual most valuable player award voted on by the whole staff. Have staff write their nominations and reasons for choosing the person, and after the winner is announced, share the names of all the nominees as well.
  3. If social distancing, find virtual ways to keep staff connected, such as hosting online employee appreciation days.
  4. Create a bulletin board (virtual or in-store) where staff members can share what they’re thankful for this year.
  5. If possible, consider giving an added holiday discount to staff this year.
  6. Consider hosting a socially distant or virtual holiday party with activities for staff.
  7. Host a friendly competition for staff to participate in, such as a contest to see who can hand-sell the most books. Give the winner a prize, such as a gift card.
  8. Look for community volunteer opportunities for staff who are able to participate.
  9. Offer staff the opportunity to take breaks and recharge during the holiday season.
  10. Food always helps! If you’re able to, consider buying a meal for staff or provide snacks when working in-store.


Top 10 Things to Know About: Physical Empowerment and Self-Defense

  1. Self-defense is anything and everything you must do to keep yourself safe. The focus is on survival and getting out of a dangerous situation, not winning.
  2. Evaluate your situation using the following levels of danger/threat: green = safe; yellow = unwanted attention or physical contact; orange = aggression; red = life-threatening circumstances.
  3. Define those levels of danger for yourself and match the level of aggression with the technique you choose to use.
  4. Begin self-defense by focusing on your stance. Keep more than one arm length of distance between you and your aggressor. Keep one shoulder ahead of the other at a 45-degree angle, with one foot slightly back. Keep your hands up with your palms open.
  5. Remember to protect your head in all dangerous situations. Use a roof block or an elbow block if your aggressor strikes.
  6. Focus on primary targets when defending yourself: aim for the eyes, nose, throat, and knees.
  7. Use the following basic strikes for self-defense: palm heel strike, back elbow strike, front kick, and foot stomp.
  8. In an active shooter situation, decide whether you will run, hide, or fight. Fight as a last resort. When it is safe to do so, call 911.
  9. Take advantage of the situation you’re in to improvise weapons or shields out of everyday objects.
  10. After dangerous situations, be sure to wind down and take care of yourself.


Top 10 Things to Know About: Non-Violent Communication and De-escalation

  1. Keep nonverbal communication in mind; it isn’t always about what is being said, but how it’s being said.
  2. De-escalating a situation isn’t about being right or proving the other person wrong, it’s about lowering the overall tension and anxiety in the situation.
  3. Nonviolent communication (NVC) can be used to de-escalate situations where there is some tension, but neither party is fully elevated.
  4. NVC has four components: observe the situation without evaluating or judging; identify your own feelings; identify your needs or desires; and request something specific and concrete from the other person.
  5. Escalation has several different stages, and aggression can be unpredictable. A person might move through the stages of aggression quickly.
  6. Use the acronym “G.A.M.B.L.I.N.” to remember some de-escalation strategies. It stands for: get to “we”; offer alternatives; match and lead to step it down; broken record; lose to win; “I” statements; name the behavior.
  7. When attempting to de-escalate a situation, trust your instincts. Follow the five don’ts of de-escalation: don’t threaten, argue, challenge, order, or shame the other person, as these can all escalate the situation. 
  8. Additionally, consider practicing “upstander” strategies, such as directly intervening in an escalating situation, checking in with the person harmed after the incident, and documenting the incident if necessary (and with the consent of those who were harmed).
  9. If engaging in upstander strategies, remember to focus on supporting the person being harmed and not saving them. Ask what they need from you.
  10. Remember to practice self-care to calm down before and after engaging with de-escalation strategies.


Top 10 Things to Know About: Creating Safe and Profitable Virtual Events

  1. Research different platforms to choose the one that best suits your event. Decide based on cost, features, security, and the nature of the event.
  2. Always review security options before you make the final decision on the platform you plan to use. Have a plan in place in the event of a security breach.
  3. Keep profitability in mind when hosting events by considering a variety of different RSVP options.
  4. Budget your time to market each event effectively.
  5. Send at least two reminders to attendees with login information. Be sure to have a canned email response ready for attendees asking for login information at the last minute.
  6. Have a pre-planning video call with speakers to establish goals, encourage a rapport, and set expectations.
  7. Ask someone to watch the tech rehearsal as an attendee to see what the experience is like. Record the rehearsal for later review.
  8. Define your event — not every event has to be live, and they don’t have to be large or complicated.
  9. Leverage local connections just as you would for an in-person event. This broadens the depth of your reach and brings in a new audience.
  10. Use social media to your advantage. Consumer engagement has shifted during COVID; there’s been a 44 percent increase across platforms since March, so be sure to market events there.


Top 10 Things to Know About: ABA's Fall Marketing Campaigns

  1. Use marketing campaigns to break through the noise of the moment.
  2. Start a conversation around ABA’s “October is the new December” marketing materials.
  3. If possible, share those marketing materials with local businesses in your area to spread the word.
  4. Be sure to communicate the importance of shopping local and early with customers. View an example here from Oblong Books and Music.
  5. Take advantage of industry book lists, such as the Indie Next List, Kids’ Indie Next List, the Indie Gift Guide, Reading Group Guides, and the ABC catalog for young readers. Send them by mail and digitally to customers to promote titles during Q4.
  6. The media is currently hungry for non-COVID and non-election related stories. Reach out to the media to get news coverage about happenings at your store.
  7. Consider sharing your store’s story and struggles through an op-ed.
  8. Use press releases to not only alert the media to events and happenings at your store, but to also establish yourself as a resource for future articles.
  9. Use assets related to the upcoming #BoxedOut campaign to promote shopping with indie bookstores.
  10. Assets can be shared in-store or online across social media platforms. Stores in major cities across the country have already launched installations.


Top 10 Things to Know About: Leveraging Customer and Sales Data

  1. Pay attention to data. Knowing who your customer is and what they want will allow you to be more effective in marketing to them, which leads to increased sales.
  2. Use multiple channels to track your data, such as Google Analytics, social media analytics, and Edelweiss360.
  3. Connect your Google Analytics account to your website, check to see if Edelweiss360 connects to your POS, and add a newsletter signup link to your website and social media.
  4. Track pre-orders and engagement with social media posts to see what customers are interested in.
  5. Target your marketing to ensure it reaches the right customers. Create tags on Edelweiss360, make lists of school contacts, and don’t forget, Hummingbird, and Kobo customers.
  6. Consider collecting unique information about your customers, such as their birthday and favorite authors, to form a more personal relationship.
  7. Use sales of specific authors and genres to drive events.
  8. Use your customer database to reach customers outside of the internet, such as by doing a mass postcard or holiday catalog mailing.
  9. Use traffic analytics to identify unique and new sources.
  10. Build a community by asking customers to leave testimonials.


Top 10 Things to Know About: Curbside Pickup and Delivery Service

  1. Make a dedicated space for your store’s pickup area.
  2. Be prepared for the amount of space you need for coordinating orders to vary as orders ebb and flow.
  3. As the weather gets colder, make your pickup location a place customers can pull up to in their cars.
  4. Set up a phone number that customers using curbside pickup can text when they arrive.
  5. Provide clear instructions about where and how to pick up orders as well as safety precautions to take.
  6. If offering delivery, consolidate deliveries to designated days of the week.
  7. Take advantage of the opportunities curbside pickup and delivery services offer — write personalized notes for people picking up or capture a social media moment during a delivery.
  8. Keep a solid paper trail to track all the steps taken during curbside pickup and delivery. Having a record helps you know exactly what went into a box or when it was delivered.
  9. Track your deliveries with a Google spreadsheet and mapping software.
  10. Consider waiting to bag items until right before a customer arrives to be sure the bag holds up (or ask if they even want a bag).


Top 10 Things to Know About: Improving Operational Workflow

  1. Gauge staff comfort levels around working in-person and listen to staff feedback. Consider staggering schedules to limit exposure.
  2. Follow local, state, and CDC guidelines and regulations, and keep up to date with your town’s COVID policies. Post clear signage around the store outlining these policies.
  3. Reimagine staff roles to reduce redundancies.
  4. Prioritize open and honest communication with your staff, and keep them informed of all changes made to the store’s operations.
  5. Rearrange furniture to maximize efficiency and create more space so customers and staff can keep socially distanced.
  6. If offering curbside pickup, think through the entirety of the process. For example, have a plan for customers who don’t pick up their orders.
  7. Consider reusing packing materials and boxes instead of buying more.
  8. Streamline your process for online ordering.
  9. If anyone on staff tests positive for COVID, get everyone possibly exposed tested. If you must scale back operations, update your website, answering machine, and social media accordingly.
  10. Consider your cash flow. Watch ABA CFO PK Sindwani’s webinar on cash flow and ABA’s Coffee Break on buying monthly


Top 10 Things to Know About: Cash Flow

  1. Revisit sales and inventory budgets with current trends in mind.
  2. Be cautious with cash and try to keep a cushion each week.
  3. Manage inventory levels and buy using a hybrid model; buy seasonally for popular titles and monthly for everything else.
  4. Use returns to manage cash flow; this means returning categories, such as travel, that won’t sell much this season as well as returning old inventory.
  5. Keep open lines of communication with your credit rep, and reconcile books with publisher statements to be sure you’ve received shipments.
  6. Establish a line of credit with your bank.
  7. Make sure you receive funds from credit card vendors daily.
  8. Adjust staffing levels to the current situation, and change staff hours based on traffic patterns.
  9. Don’t leave any publisher co-op on the table.
  10. In case of emergency, negotiate payment plans and deferrals if possible.


Top 10 Things to Know About: Ordering Calendars and Nonreturnables

  1. Use non-book, stationery, and toy purchases to improve your margins.
  2. Order with average turn numbers in mind. Booksellers might consider cutting orders down based on when orders are placed and what works best in their communities.
  3. If cutting orders, narrow options down by focusing on just a few vendors, and choose those vendors with discounts in mind.
  4. Consider buying with the intention of selling through much earlier in the season than usual to avoid having leftovers later that may not sell.
  5. Plan purchases to arrive throughout the season so there’s always something fresh for your regular visitors. Set calendars out upon arrival to give dated materials every possible chance to sell through.
  6. Be rigorous about markdowns at the end of the first turn cycle if an item is not paying for its shelf space.
  7. Use the coming weeks to test out new lines with smaller orders. If customers respond well, bring in a bigger order in the 4th quarter.
  8. Call before placing orders to see if vendors are offering split cases or lower minimums.
  9. Aggressively promote nonreturnable seasonal items.
  10. Take advantage of free freight, but don’t over-order just to qualify for a freight deal.


Top 10 Things to Know About: Buying Monthly

  1. Indie bookstores are shifting to monthly buying because of the disruption in business resulting from COVID-19
  2. Buying monthly can let you bring in smaller numbers of each book
  3. Buying monthly can let you look at smaller pub date windows, rather than an entire season’s catalog
  4. In other industries, buyers aim to hold onto their money until the very last second, which is in line with monthly buying
  5. Booksellers can keep a list of the store’s top 150 items and reorder them monthly, so they’re always in stock (this can be done simply by keeping a running spreadsheet that staff can add to)
  6. Stores can get a better margin on orders and have more inventory control when buying monthly
  7. Buyers can get a better sense of buzz surrounding a book closer to pub date and plan buying around that
  8. Some publishers have buying and promotion cutoffs that stores could miss if buying monthly
  9. Buying monthly means stores may not be able to get as much feedback from sales reps because the typical meeting window will have passed
  10. Stores ordering less than three to four weeks out from an on-sale date might not get the title by pub day because of delays with reprinting and shipping



About ABA

The American Booksellers Association, a national not-for-profit trade organization, works with booksellers and industry partners to ensure the success and profitability of independently owned book retailers, and to assist in expanding the community of the book.

Independent bookstores act as community anchors; they serve a unique role in promoting the open exchange of ideas, enriching the cultural life of communities, and creating economically vibrant neighborhoods.


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