Last week’s New England Independent Booksellers Association’s All About the Books/ABA Spring Forum at the First Parish Church in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass., opened with readings and talks by new and seasoned writers who live in New England. The line-up included anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, who spoke about her memoir, A Million Years With You, and Martha White, reading from her grandfather’s writings, E.B. White on Dogs. All About the Books also offered writers a venue to discuss their appreciation for independent booksellers. “I would tweet for you,” volunteered YA author Sara Farizan (If You Could Be Mine), adding, “Where would I go on Friday nights without you?” Joe Hill said that he never wanted to grow up to be a “content provider,” which is why the print edition of his new novel, Nos4A2, was designed to be an object. Illustrated by Gabriel Rodríguez Pérez, co-creator of the comic Locke & Key with Hill, it includes a Naughty-and-Nice page. Hill inscribed books in the Nice section; his signature fell under Naughty.
But the gathering wasn’t only about bringing together local authors and booksellers. It also served as a stop in the American Booksellers Association’s annual spring listening tour around the country. A presentation that has been a staple at every forum covered ideas on best practices like reviewing credit card bills. According to ABA CEO Oren Teicher that will soon be easier, because ABA is in the midst of hiring a third-party consultant. Unlike forums on the West Coast that focused on Amazon’s recent purchase of Goodreads, New Englanders were much more concerned about ABA’s upcoming “Celebrate (With) Indies” promotion.
Given the success of last fall’s “Thanks for Shopping Indie,” program, which launched on American Express Small Business Saturday and gave many booksellers a holiday boost, ABA is adding more. Coming up are multi-publisher promotions designed around spring/summer holidays and events—Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduation—as well one that celebrates this season’s debut authors with a second planned for the fall. The promotions were made possible, Teicher explained, by a change that occurred 18 months ago in the antitrust rules of the Federal Trade Commission. Trade associations that accoount for less than 20% of an industry can represent their membership in a discussion of terms. That’s what enabled the ABA to get an additional discount on promotion titles that members can either keep for themselves or pass on to customers.
ABA is planning to continue to add more multi-platform promotions to show that its members “can move the needle on books,” said Teicher. Carole Horne, general manager of Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, asked that the books for the promotions be announced earlier. Her store is already completing its buying for the fall, and it’s hard to go back and change buys. A show of hands indicated that every bookstore represented in the room is also well into fall ordering.
As for Goodreads, the consensus was that the change in ownership makes the IndieNext blurbs even more important.