Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Pitch to Booksellers: The Fall Conference

We interrupt our sporadically scheduled book reviews to bring you this highly personal pitch, from me (Jessica/Book Nerd) to the booksellers of New York City and the mid-Atlantic region.


I have to advocate for things I am passionate about -- if you're a bookseller you can probably sympathize. I wanted to make sure that you know all about the Fall Conference, this September 21 and 22, hosted by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA). Like a mini-BEA or Winter Institute, the conference brings together booksellers and publishers from the mid-Atlantic region for professional education, networking, and book buzz to prepare us for the fall season in our stores. The cost is membership in NAIBA, which is $100 per store for a year, plus meals and hotel; discounted hotel rates are available (the conference is in Atlantic city, a cheap bus ride away). You can get all of the details about the conference here.

I went to my first NAIBA conference when I had worked in a Manhattan bookstore for a couple of years, and it literally changed my life. The experience of being a part of the professional community of booksellers, and learning the best practices of the industry, as well as encountering publishers and authors face to face, gave me a new perspective on the work that I was doing. I wasn't just a retail clerk and shelver who loved to read -- I was part of a larger profession, and I had the potential to build a career and contribute to the industry conversation. I went back full of ideas for my store, and with some new thoughts about my future career.

Not every frontline bookseller who goes to the NAIBA conference will want to go on to start their own store, but every bookseller has the potential to get something valuable out of it -- for their bookstore's success, their own career, and the future of our business. The education sessions we have lined up for this year (yes, I'm on the NAIBA board) are both inspiring and practical. And the opportunity to talk to other booksellers and publishers always leads to revelations about what we're all doing well and what we could be doing better. It's a great opportunity for store owners to get rejuvenated, and possibly an even better opportunity for staff to pick up new ideas that will make them better booksellers in the long term.

I know it's a challenge to find the time, dollars, and scheduling flexibility to go to a two-day conference (we're sending three booksellers from Greenlight, and it has been logistically kind of tough.) So I want to tell you about three things that might make it a little easier, whether you're an owner or a frontline bookseller.

1) Publishers are offering a total of 4 scholarships for frontline booksellers, which will cover all of the event/meal tickets for the conference. It's a random drawing, so drop your name (or a staffer's name) in the hat -- details here.

2) NAIBA has changed its bylaws to allow professional booksellers whose stores are not members of NAIBA to join the association with a $25 membership. If you are a bookseller who would like to be part of this professional community but your store is just not into it, you can now take things into your own hands and come to the conference on your own at a reduced rate. Email NAIBA's executive secretary Eileen Dengler to learn more.

3) If you are coming to the conference and you want to split hotel costs with someone, email me and I will try to hook you up with a fellow bookseller to share a room. No promises that things will work out, but we're all in this together and we can do our best to make it work.

Okay, pitch over. Feel free to comment here or email me if you have questions, objections, thoughts, or ideas. I hope to see many of you at the Fall Conference, as well as in our stores this fall!