The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association fall conference may have been short – it opened with a preview supper in a room overlooking the Baltimore waterfront on Saturday. October 15 and ended on Monday afternoon, October 17, following a Moveable Feast – but it was packed with education.
Below are a few of ideas gleaned from the keynote on Advocacy Today with Dan Cullen, senior strategy officer of the American Booksellers Association, and sessions on adding sidelines (Expand Your Offerings), using social media strategically (Stimulate the Marketplace), and finding the right spot to display each book (Location, Location, Location).
• Don’t stock what other people are carrying in your neighborhood and don’t buy haphazardly (pick a theme) were among the Ten Commandments of Sidelines Buying. (Susan Kehoe, general manager of Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Del.)
• You can fight City Hall, or at least work with your elected officials. “You are the authority [on small business],” said Kristen Lavelett, executive director of Local First Utah. Reach out to officials and be prepared with a one, three, and five-minute pitch.
• Know what your ask is before you approach local officials. ABA will be happy to help you refine your messaging. (Rebecca Fitting, co-owner of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
• Start setting up meetings with local officials now. Tell them that you’re heading into your busy season but ask to meet early next year so you can get on their calendars. (Fitting)
• Be global with your social media. Authors and publishers will appreciate the exposure and you’ll be more likely to get more authors. (Andrea Thatcher, social media manager at Wellington Square Bookshop in Exton, Pa.)
• Use the same voice on social media that you do when talking with customers in your store. And don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say to a customer. (Monica Odom, watchung booksellers in Montclair, N.J.)
• “The biggest bang for our buck is Facebook and Instagram,” said Benn Ray. co-owner of Atomic Books in Baltimore. “For us, it’s a way to share our excitement and expertise.”
• Post new displays, authors who will be in the store, and books that are especially beautiful and/or you’re particularly excited about.
• The now closed Chester County Book Co. in West Chester, Pa., used to tweet to customers that if you want a book, tweet us, and had 10 customers who regularly placed their orders by tweet. (Thatcher)
• At watchung booksellers, owner Margot Sage-EL moves things around every two weeks to keep things fresh. Because Books & Books Westhampton Beach, N.Y. relies on a much more seasonal business in a weekend-driven community, co-owner Denise Berthiaume changes out all displays, including gondolas and windows, every week.
• Keep the store clean. Set up daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks. (Fitting)
• “We are neurotic about keeping [the children’s room] clean so more books don’t get thrown on the floor. One third of our unit sales are in that room,” said Berthiaume.
• To make sure that the first impression that a customer gets is strong, be sure to come into the store by the front entrance, the way your customers do, at least once a week. (Sage-EL)
• Work with neighboring business by offering discounts to staff. The Where’s Waldo Local promotion is also a good way to create a reason to meet. (Fitting)
• Consider a low shelf at the cash wrap for board books, which will then be at kids’ height. (Fitting)
• Encourage more men to stay and shop by moving displays of books that will appeal to them like biography, history, and finance to the front of the store, with sightlines to art books. (Berthiaume)