Booksellers from the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association gathered this weekend in Manasquan, N.J., on the Jersey Shore, for a two-day seminar on issues that indies in resort-town locations face. Rita Maggio, owner of Manasquan indie BookTowne, closed her store on Sunday afternoon to host the first day of discussions. All told, there were 18 booksellers from indies in the Mid-Atlantic region, along with NAIBA president Margot Sage-EL, owner of Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, N.J.; NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler; Kerrie Leonard, also of NAIBA; and Tim Hepp, sales manager at Simon & Schuster.
The talks were as wide-ranging as they were in-depth; topics included demographics and economic trends as they pertained to the book-buying population; managing cash flow both in and out of season; staffing; the differences between catering to year-round residents and seasonal visitors; the cost-effectiveness of frequent buyers and rewards programs; best practices for working with self-published authors; the benefits of hosting book clubs; selling e-books; how to advertise and plan events both in season and out of season; and effective ways to work with community businesses, among others.
Several of the stores in attendance bolster their staff in the summer, to accommodate the influx of visitors; for some shops, managing the summer booksellers can be difficult.
|Attendees after dinner.
"A week or two before Labor Day, people start checking out," related Jack McKeown, president of Books & Books of Westhampton Beach, Westhampton Beach, N.Y. Like many stores in beach communities, the busiest months for Books & Books are those from Memorial Day to Labor Day. "The two weeks leading into Labor Day are so critical for business. We started a summer stay bonus, for staff who work through Labor Day. Everybody's eligible, even full-time staff. It's proved very effective."
"It is probably the most important decision you make regarding your store," said Maggio, also speaking about staffing. "For me, the staff member I hire must love books, and love people, and do the job the way I want it done. There has to be one message that comes across, no matter who is behind the counter. It cannot be night and day between who's working; we must all have the same message. We're very different in many ways, but what each person can bring to the store is critically important."
|First-day discussions at BookTowne.
On Sunday night, the attendees crossed the street from BookTowne to Remington's, where they had dinner in the company of authors Marie Rutkoski (The Winner's Curse, First Second Books), Sarah Pekkanen (Catching Air, Atria) and Susan Coll, a bookseller at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., and author of The Stager (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). After dinner, visitors from out of town retired to the Normandy Inn in Spring Lake, and sessions resumed after breakfast there the next morning.
Mary Beth Pelley, who handles marketing and events for BookTowne, led off the discussion about events. A large portion of her job, she said, was to make sure that any visiting author had a fun, memorable experience at BookTowne and would then report back to publishers and other authors.
"Do whatever it takes; you need to make this trip worth it," insisted Pelley. "If you're in a small, sleepy town, you don't want to be overlooked. You have to make yourself memorable." --Alex Mutter
photos courtesy of BookTowne