Approximately 80 booksellers and publishers’ reps participating in FallCon gathered on Zoom Saturday morning for a virtual membership meeting of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association. The meeting was led by MPIBA board president Christopher Green, manager of The Bookworm of Edwards, in Edwards, Colo.

After Kate Weiss, program manager of the Booksellers Industry Charitable Foundation [Binc] made a plea that booksellers in need of financial assistance reach out to Binc, Daniel O‘Brien of the American Booksellers Association updated booksellers on the ABA’s most recent marketing campaigns. The ABA is continuing its “October is the New December” marketing campaign after this month by renaming it “November is the New December,” and making assets available to booksellers at the end of this month. O’Brien also provided some specifics on a new marketing campaign that the ABA mentioned briefly during previous regional bookseller membership meetings this fall and that launches this week around Prime Days. More information on that event will be available soon.

In MPIBA board business, Green announced that the body will expand from seven members to nine, in order to “increase representation” in the far-flung MPIBA region, which spreads south from the Canadian border through the Rocky Mountains region and the Southwest to the Mexican border. The board will meet in a few weeks to finalize plans for the two new members and to amend the organization’s by-laws.

MPIBA treasurer Amanda Sutton, events & marketing manager at The Bookworks in Albuquerque, assured the membership that the organization is “in good financial health” despite an ongoing “extreme and weird situation.” The organization has almost $515,000 in equity and came in just under budget in its last fiscal year, which ended on June 30. "The financial health of the organization can be attributed to summer reading [Reading the West marketing program] and email blasts to booksellers,” she said, both bringing in income that offset the lack of a fall show this year after the cancellation of the regional spring forum, SpringCon.

While MPIBA, like the other regional booksellers associations, waived dues for current members, Green pointed out that this did not have much of an impact, as membership dues are not a major revenue stream. And MPIBA executive director Heather Duncan does not anticipate having to dip into its emergency funds this year.

Membership Up, Successful Virtual Conference

According to Duncan, while the organization lost some stores this past year, only one MPIBA store closing was due to the pandemic. MPIBA currently counts 183 bookstores in its 12-state region as members, up from 160 member stores last year. This Includes 29 stores that have joined since January. “So great to see so many new stores on this call,” she said, noting that four of the 29 stores opened during the pandemic.

Referring to FallCon, which began Thursday morning and continued through Saturday afternoon, with a slate of 89 authors grouped in 10 events, Duncan said, “I’m excited how it’s going. I’m relieved.” While more than 350 booksellers registered, 270 booksellers actually attended FallCon.

Besides the author events that attracted booksellers from all over the country, FallCon featured five bookseller-only social events, a day of rep pick Zoom sessions, and a few educational panels. The Tri-West virtual exhibit hall with 95 exhibitors, set up in partnership with the California Independent Booksellers and Pacific Northwest Booksellers associations, received 563 unique visits during FallCon.

While Duncan promised that MPIBA’s Summer Camp gathering of booksellers, authors, and publishers’ reps will always be virtual and that SpringCon will be a two-day virtual event in 2021, the organization’s hope is that FallCon will be held in-person “when we can.” MPIBA is, though, looking into live-streaming or recording opportunities to supplement an in-person annual fall conference, “because we can never go back to not having virtual programming,” Duncan said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information.