Wi3: From the Publishers' Perspective

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Representatives from six of the American Booksellers Association's Third Annual Winter Institute Publisher Partners recently offered their thoughts on the two-and-a-half day education symposium, held in Louisville, Kentucky, last month.

Tom Hallock, Associate Publisher, Beacon Press: Amidst the workshops on inventory management, loss control, handselling, and a hilarious one on consumer behavior led by [ABA Chief Program Officer] Len Vlahos, were others on green retailing and presentations linking buy local campaigns to national movements on sustainability and climate change....

Booksellers have taken the lead in developing independent business associations in their communities, educating their customers about the economic and environmental benefits of shopping locally. ABA COO Oren Teicher, a leading advocate of this approach, spoke about a study of 2007 holiday sales which showed that stores in areas that had independent business alliances averaged sales increases of 2.1 percent, whereas those in areas that lacked them had declines of [0.5] percent. In a business famous for its 2 percent profit margins, the difference is significant....

Booksellers such as Steve Bercu, owner of BookPeople in Austin, Texas; Betsy Burton, owner of The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City (and author of The King's English: Adventures of an Independent Bookseller, Gibbs Smith); Carla Jimenez, co-owner of Inkwood Books in Tampa, Florida; and Clark Kepler, president of Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, California, shared their knowledge about creating these alliances. Beacon author Stacy Mitchell (Big Box Swindle) joined Bill McKibben (Deep Economy, Holt) and Michael Shuman (The Small-Mart Revolution, Berrett-Koehler) in a wide ranging conversation about the transformative power of local economies, a talk that brought us all to our feet and which ABA hopes to broadcast on Book TV....

Like any good publisher I had come to the Winter Institute to promote our books and authors. I came away in awe of the vision, values, and commitment that are transforming this organization and its members. In finding their place in their local communities, they have also found their place in the world -- and we are all the richer for it.

Excerpted with permission of the author from the Beacon Broadside.

Eric Price, Associate Publisher, Grove/Atlantic: Each year the Winter Institute gets better and better. It is amazing to see both people who have just entered the business as well as friends who have had stores for 25 or more years become re-invigorated about the industry and get excited about learning new ideas and techniques from professionals as well as their colleagues on how to run their stores better and become active in their communities.

During the last few years you can feel a renewed and dynamic energy within the independent bookselling community. I feel that this is due to ABA providing the tools to assist their member stores not in survival techniques but rather in how they can be truly successful and profitable.

Carl Lennertz, Vice President of Independent Retailing, HarperCollins: Wi3 was a sight to behold. Booksellers young and old, East and West, veterans and newcomers. Teachers and learners, colleagues and competitors. Also, authors famous and yet-to-be. All immersed in the business of books and the art of bookselling. I am not sure when I've been more in awe of this common pursuit of ours, of bringing books to readers, and in awe of you, the independent booksellers, who freely give away their best ideas in the knowledge that what is good for one is good for all.

Carla Gray, Assistant Director of Marketing, Houghton Mifflin: Winter Institute III in Louisville again proved itself to be the best possible colloquium to connect with independent booksellers, and we returned to our offices reenergized and excited about the future.

To me the best thing about the Winter Institute is that booksellers are entirely focused on the books and on the people there -- there are no big, corporate meeting distractions, no flashy booths, no outside agendas, so the conversation is easy and we are able to have terrific one-on-one time with both the movers and the shakers in the industry as well as the newcomers and prospective booksellers.

We managed to create buzz for our lead debut novel on our spring list, Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles -- Jonathan, in turn, met hundreds of booksellers -- many who'd already read his book, creating new and, hopefully, lasting bonds. There was a palpable sense of community among the booksellers and publishing partners alike, and during a time of transition I can think of no better group of people I'd rather be with to reinvigorate us as to why we're all in this business.

Ken Holland, Vice President, Director of Field Sales, Macmillan: Though already reported in the news coverage, I would emphasize the manner in which the green initiative and its close cousin, the buy local strategy, absolutely galvanized this year's event.

When booksellers and publishers alike rose in applause at the conclusion of the lunch event featuring Bill McKibben, Stacy Mitchell, and Michael Shuman, you could sense we were not only showing appreciation for their words, but were acknowledging the larger movement and our own personal call to commitment.

Wendy Sheanin, Senior Marketing Manager, Simon & Schuster, Inc.: It was my first Winter Institute, and I was impressed by the level of detail put into the planning of the event -- from the quality of the sessions to the encyclopedic binder. The energy was palpable -- booksellers making connections, sharing ideas, learning from each other.

As a publisher, there's nothing better than introducing your authors to the people who will be selling their books. I was thrilled to bring Jack Todd (Sun Going Down, Touchstone, May 2008) and Marisa Silver (The God of War, Simon & Schuster, April 2008) to Louisville. But for me, the best part was meeting so many independent booksellers face to face. I can't wait for Salt Lake City!