The Power of the Regionals

Josie Leavitt - February 18, 2010

Booksellers can sometimes toil in isolation. We work in our stores and live in our communities, but meaningful contact with other booksellers can be difficult to achieve except at the trade shows, unless you’re a member of your trade organization.
There are nine regional organizations in the country and each puts on a trade show. But they all do so much more. In the words of Hut Landon of NCIBA, the Northern California Independent Bookselling Association, works “to promote the vitality, diversity and prosperity of independent bookselling in the region.”All the regional associations fight the fight for the indies; they know the local issues, be it sales tax, or the influx of big-box stores. They are another voice of the indies with publishers and media. They focus on issues so the booksellers can focus on the art of selling books.
All the organizations have websites that are literally chock full of information for booksellers and publishers. Every region publishes its own regional bestseller list (they are great fun to look at and compare with your region), monthly newsletters and posts when there are get- togethers. There is a wealth of info for the new bookseller or the seasoned bookseller looking for specific info about a bookselling topic. Some websites offer author touring maps, lists of authors/illustrators in the region, and educational links.
The New England Independent Bookselling Association (my regional) is very active in many ways. NEIBA has 281 member bookstores, 77 publishing members and 36 others, usually authors or agents and a vibrant, active website. NEIBA really works with bookstores to give us the tools we need to compete in tough times. Our holiday catalog is sixteen pages of full-color book yumminess with very shrewd title choices that represent New England. Member stores get 100 catalogs free, after that you pay a very reasonable price. The best part of this is, should you choose to insert the catalog in your local paper with your imprint on it, NEIBA pays half your costs, up to $1,000. This set-up allowed me to afford inserting the catalog into three local papers, which resulted in very good sales this past Christmas season.
As someone who sells kids’ books, I love NECBA, the New England Children’s Bookselling Advisory Council, as it is extremely actively with an Internet listserve. The power of the listserve cannot be underplayed. On a busy Saturday last week, Elizabeth posted a query about a title that was vexing her and within an hour several folks had offered suggestions. This kind of instant help is wonderful when faced with a title that’s elusive. More important than title help, the listserve allows you to talk to many booksellers at once about any issue you might be having in the store.
As if title help weren’t enough, NECBA has a long tradition of compiling member reviews of Fall and Spring books into the Review Project. This is an incredibly valuable resource as NECBA members try to weigh in on all the Middle grade and Young Adult novels of each season. See the website for a complete list of review projects since 2005.This kind of camaraderie allows you to vent, get advice and in so doing, get to know your fellow booksellers in a different way. Conversations begun at the trade show can continue on-line.
Need advice about good sidelines? Talk to the members of your regional organization. I don’t know as much about other regionals, although it was great fun to share ideas with the folks at NCCBA, the Northern California equivalent of NECBA, at Winter Institute a few weeks ago. There is something so uplifting about being able to talk books with others in the trade. The shared sense of struggle and achievement helps make the day to day a little brighter. If you’re not a member of your regional organization, know that the cost of membership is nominal and the benefits you can reap are substantial.
I wonder, has your regional done anything great that has really helped you as a bookseller?

1 thought on “The Power of the Regionals

  1. Ellen Mager

    Josie, You are so lucky to have NECBA! What a caring, sharing group! NEIBA appreciates and encourages NECBA as it should be. As a Children’s Bookseller I so miss MACBA, the Children’s part of NAIBA which I was so active in and we ran TERRIFIC programs for 9 years. Then NAIBA’s board decided that there was not a separate area of Children’s Booksellers, “all booksellers are Children’s Booksellers” and closed the program. What a loss! Now very few Children’s Booksellers attend NAIBA and I miss the sharing of ideas and the incredible programming we had. My reps comment on how their New England counterparts are so active in the Children’s prgrams and how there isn’t the opportunity in our region. Thanks for sharing your work through ABC.


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