Wi13: Words of Wisdom Everywhere

You could fill a Bartlett's-size volume with the words of wisdom shared during Wi13, but we'll have to settle for a sampling here:

Robert Sindelar

In his opening remarks before Tuesday's breakfast keynote, ABA president Robert Sindelar of Third Place Books in Seattle, Wash., said, "I've been to 11 of these institutes, and I think of the best decisions I've made for my company, I can easily say that a large number of them have come directly either from educational sessions I've been to, keynote speakers I've listened to, or even just a conversation in the bar afterwards.... Outsiders who come to this event from other industries are always amazed at the deep level of sharing that goes on among indie booksellers. We're natural sharers. We're constantly saying, 'I think you should read this; I think this will change your life.' That comes from reading, and from reading comes empathy. We want to share and we want to be inclusive. That's what this group does. And that sharing is what makes this such an incredible event."

During the panel Working with Self-Published Authors, Paul Hanson of Village Books, Bellingham, Wash., conceded that indie booksellers can present a challenge for independently-published writers because "we are hard cats to work with.... So at Village Books we decided to connect with writers at every stage of their journey. Our mission is to build community one book at a time, and that used to mean reading. Now it's extended to the writing and publishing of books. By creating a space for writers within our store... we are creating an alternative to the online beast. We compete in publishing just like we compete in bookselling by giving them one-on-one personal service on a local level and treating them like people rather than cogs in a machine. Our clients end up being some of the most loyal and vociferous advocates for the store and thus, hopefully, the independent bookstore channel."

Kelly Justice

Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Va., offered an intriguing additional strategy to the "build up from the local community" approach for indies at the session Small Stores, Big Clout: "I'm going to talk about the top down approach, where you make yourself visible to publishers, to other booksellers, to the national media.... I just don't like the word small. If you think of yourself as small, you're going to stay small. So, what we're going to talk about it is big. We're going to talk about the visualization of being larger than life. Fifteen percent of Fountain's business is online. That is absolutely unheard of in the independent bookstore channel. And it's because we've aggressively branded Fountain Bookstore as a global brand.... Think of yourselves as global for a minute as opposed to just community. You can do both and still serve all your customers well."

Booksellers shared tips with writers during the Author Education and Lunch Wednesday. "Just the fact that that you're in this room means a lot to us because it means you are already way ahead of the game," said Susan Hans O'Connor of Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, Pa., adding: "It's about building relationships with our community members and people outside of our community and that includes authors, from near and far.... See us as collaborators, as partners in your journey, communicate with us, appreciate us while you're there and after you leave.... We will be your friends. We will be your advocates. And you need advocates out there."

At the previously mentioned breakfast keynote, Sindelar introduced V. Lynn Evans, the first African American, first woman and first Memphian to chair the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority. After welcoming Wi13 attendees "to the 901," she said: "I feel as if I'm in a room of kindred spirits. I'm a small business owner.... I understand what it takes to do what you do, so I commend you for your commitment to localism, innovation, and participation in the ABA.... Thank you for establishing a sense of place in our communities. Here in Memphis our independent bookstore that used to be Davis-Kidd, then was Booksellers at Laurelwood, became what it now is, novel., when community members rallied to save it and its staff. As small business owners, your sales may not always reflect it, but please know that your presence in a local community helps provide a focal point for it and makes a positive difference in our lives." --Robert Gray

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