When the New England Booksellers Association convened this weekend at
the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, much of the action
took place in a single conference room where the organization made key
decisions about its future.
What's in a name? It depends on who you ask. At NEBA's annual meeting, the major issue
was changing the organization's name from the New England
Booksellers Association to the New England Independent Booksellers
Association. After a heated debate, members voted in an overwhelming
majority to become the NEIBA (still pronounced "nee-ba"), which many
believe reflects the association's commitment to fostering business
alliances in local communities. One member summed it up by saying, "I
like the name change because that's who we are." Some opposed to
changing the name felt it wasn't necessary to alter a long-standing
brand since the word "independent" is written in the new mission
statement, while others expressed the opinion that they might be seen
as simply following in the footsteps of fellow regional organizations
that already have Independent as part of their names. And, as one
bookseller remarked, "If it's not broken, don't fix it."
Another modification was made to the association's mission statement.
"To promote the sale of books" is now "To further the success of
professional independent booksellers in New England and to foster a
vital and supportive bookselling community."
Current NEBA membership is at 546 for the year 2005-2006, down slightly
from 554 in 2004-2005. Some 18 new bookstores joined NEBA this year.
A search committee has been formed to find a replacement for Rusty
Drugan, who is retiring from his position as the association's
executive director because of health considerations. The committee will
outline requirements for the job before accepting applications.
Drugan's departure was on the minds of booksellers at the show, who
wished him well, including Liz Burton, the owner of Harbor Books in Old
Saybrook, Conn. "No matter how large or small you are, he always makes
time for you," she said. "He's been an integral part of New England
bookselling," remarked Chris Morrow of Northshire Bookstore, Manchester
Center, Vt. "We will miss him greatly."
Prior to the annual meeting a session was held to discuss NEBA's
Strategic Plan, which is intended "to provide direction for the
organization over the next five years." It calls for an in-store peer
review program, NEBA staff visits to stores, creating a monthly
electronic newsletter, expanding booksellers' networking opportunities,
re-launching the association's Web site, establishing relationships
with independent businesses in each New England state and other
initiatives. Changes to the trade show and the holiday catalogue have
already been put into effect this year.
On the trade show floor, publishers vied for booksellers' attention
with contests, costumes, and confections--not to mention books and
galleys galore. Some highlights:
The best book jacket belongs to Globe Pequot Press' From Baghdad, with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava
by Lt. Colonel Jay Kopelman. The cover, which features an image
of the slumbering pup, should aid in selling out the 100,000-copy
initial shipment. The book has received an "amazing reaction," said
Chris Grimm, director of field sales. From Baghdad, with Love, which goes on sale October 3, is the biggest one-day laydown in the company's history.
Visitors who stopped by Hachette Book Group's table were treated to
peanut butter cookies, courtesy of sales rep Conan Gorenstein. The
amateur baker made the cookies (which we can attest were indeed
delicious) using a recipe from Amy Sedaris' humorous entertaining
guide, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence (Warner, October).
Although it might have seemed that a passerby lost a shoe, the work
boot placed on the Harvard Business School Press table was holding
entries for a contest to win an L.L. Bean shopping spree in conjunction
with the publication of L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon by Leon Gorman (September).
Providence area resident Norman Desmarais appeared in 18th-century military dress (no musket) to promote his book Battlegrounds of Freedom: A Historical Guide to the Battlefields of the War of American Independence (Busca). This year marks the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Yorktown.
More books creating buzz:
- The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life by Piero Ferrucci (Tarcher, August)
- One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown, October)
- Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier (Random House, October)
- Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (HarperCollins, February)
- Rescue Men by Charles Kenney (PublicAffairs, February)
- The Liar's Diary by Patry Francis (Dutton, February)
- The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian (Shaye Areheart Books, February)
William Taylor began Friday's session "Independent Booksellers as
Mavericks" by complimenting Jen Welsh of Harbor Books in Old Saybrook,
Conn., on her handbag and shoes. Welsh's bright green accessories (or
"maverick green" according to Taylor) were a perfect match for the
cover of Taylor's book, Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win,
co-authored with Polly LaBarre. After listening to the authors talk
about the future of business and entrepreneurship, more than 75
participants were, as Taylor said, "set loose" in workshops to "unleash
the imagination." Among the ideas shared on boosting business: working
with local schools, holding events with teachers, hosting foreign
language and tutoring classes and offering innovative sideline
products (furniture and maple syrup each received a nod). Ultimately,
as Taylor told the audience, bookselling "is a passion business. And if
it's a passion business, there's no telling what you can unleash on the
"People are coming to realize that if they don't support their
communities they'll lose them," Betsy Burton said to fellow booksellers
at Friday's session "Shop Local: Forming Business Alliances in Your
Community." Burton, owner of the King's English in Salt Lake City,
Utah, and a key player in launching Local First Utah, was joined by
Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Laury
Hammel of the Alliance for Local Living Economies. According to
Mitchell, there has been an increase in the number of independent
business alliances over the last several years and, added Hammel, many
of those have been headed by booksellers. Mitchell also noted that
collectively the businesses that make up an independent alliance in
Austin, Texas, constitute the city's fifth largest employer, which
gives them clout with local officials.
Several New England booksellers then shared their experiences on
forming business alliances, among them Chris Morrow of Northshire
Bookstore (who is spearheading a state-wide
effort in Vermont), and Allan Schmid of Books Etc., whose campaign in Portland,
Me., included T-shirts with the tag line "Buy Local. Keep Portland
Independent." Said Schmid, "I was going to wear mine, but it was in the
Information about starting an independent business alliance can be found at www.BigBoxToolKit.com.
Moderator Elizabeth Bluemle of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne,
Vt., left early from Saturday's panel "Capitalizing on Your Children's
Department" but had a good reason: a signing for her children's book My Father the Dog (Candlewick Press).
Organized by the New England Children's Booksellers Advisory Council,
the panel discussion centered on managing the three "Cs": customers
(talking to parents, teachers and children, who should be treated as
primary consumers); content (knowing which titles to order and
recommend); and climate (making your space inviting and user-friendly).
As Alison Morris of Wellesley Booksmith in Wellesley, Mass., pointed
out, it's necessary to think of children and young adults as valued
customers and not just extensions of their parents. Studies show that
children under 12 influence $500 billion of purchases per year.
"I live in New York, but I think of myself as a Yankee," Susan Cheever
told early risers at Sunday's author breakfast. Cheever gave an
entertaining account of how she came to write American Bloomsbury:
Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel
Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work
(S&S, December), which she revealed had an accidental beginning.
She became interested in the happenings--literary and romantic--in
mid-19th century Concord after being asked to pen the introduction to a
new edition of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Cheever discovered
that not only was this small Massachusetts town the center of American
thought and literature but it had its fair share of drama and
love triangles that she likened to Desperate Housewives. "I usually
don't love my own work, but I love this book," said Cheever of American
Bloomsbury. "I wish I was still writing it."
Also speaking at the breakfast were Barry Lopez, editor of the anthology Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape (Trinity University Press, September), and Christopher Moore, whose upcoming novel is You Suck: A Love Story
(HarperCollins, January). Moore, who did double duty while in
Providence with a signing on Saturday afternoon at the Brown Bookstore,
thanked booksellers for "supporting my career and my bad habit."