Where last year’s programming at the NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Booksellers) Fall Discovery Conference aimed at taking on Amazon, this year’s was geared to more practical matters: social media, offsite events, and dealing with sensitive teen material.

The event, held over the October 2-4 weekend in Somerset, N.J., also highlighted the power of independent booksellers. As Ruth Liebmann, v-p, director of account marketing at PRH, and ABA president Betsy Burton, owner of the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, made the case, in a panel called "How to Make a Bestseller," many independent booksellers are selling above their weight.

“We create the vast majority of sales in the marketplace, because we are important parts of our communities all over the country,” Burton said. “With social media small stores in small communities can have real clout.” She credits indies with getting the buzz going for books like Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project.

“You help us be more profitable,” said Liebmann. “The books you love tend to become backlist workhorses.” Though Liebmann wouldn't provide specific numbers, she acknowledged that the publisher's statistics indicate a much higher percentage of first day unit sales come from the indie channel than one would assume given the group's relatively small market share.

Those increasingly strong sales, along with a growing membership, contributed to a particularly upbeat conference. Although final attendance numbers at show were not available at press time, NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler told PW that attendance was equal to last year, which would mean more than 415 people came to the show, 165 of them being booksellers.

Also, given the number of new owners and potential bookstore owners who have come into the fold, NAIBA thinks its membership could increase once again in 2015. Last year NAIBA president Mark LaFramboise, head buyer at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., reported at the annual meeting that the organization grew 19%, with 25 new bookstore members.

The potential growth is not being driven solely by new stores opening, either; it's also coming from existing stores adding locations. Three-year-old Ye Olde Warwick Bookshoppe in Warwick, N.Y., is one store that's expanded; it will hold the grand opening for its second store in nearby Greenwood Lake later this month. And owner Thomas Roberts said he is looking to open a third store in the next few years.

This year’s conference allowed plenty of time for booksellers to meet over meals with authors ranging from the Academy Award-nominated actor and playwright Jesse Eisenberg (Bream Gives Me Hiccups) to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff (Witches) to indie press author Triss Stein (Brooklyn Secrets). NAIBA Book of the Year winners Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven), Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy), and A.S. King (Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future) received their awards at a banquet hosted by author Dav Pilkey, whose Captain Underpants books have been among the most banned titles in the U.S. “There are all kinds of books, because there are all kinds of readers. Reading gives you superpowers,” Pilkey said. “And today I’m so pleased to be in a room with superheroes.”

Next year’s NAIBA show will be held in Baltimore, Md., from October 15-17.