This year, the American Booksellers Association’s 14th annual Winter Institute, its premier educational conference, promises to be its biggest yet. The four-day gathering (January 22–25), which outgrew its traditional hotel venues and moved into a convention center for the first time in 2018, will primarily take place at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Nearly 1,200 booksellers, publishers, authors, and guests will attend the Albuquerque conference, up from 1,000 last year. While the number of booksellers has been inching up in recent years, from an initial cap of 500 to more than 700 this year, other attendees have clamored for a greater presence. Nearly 150 authors will attend this year, up from just over 130 in 2018. The number of publishers has also grown, from 95 in 2018 to 120 this year.
Part of this growth is due to the increased strength of the indie bookselling segment, which numbered 1,835 ABA member stores as of last May with 2,470 locations, up from 1,401 ABA members with 1,651 locations in 2009. “Nationally, 2018 has been another good year for indie bookstores,” ABA CEO Oren Teicher notes. “And we’re hoping that WI14 will be a valuable opportunity for booksellers to learn, network, and discover so that 2019 can be more profitable.”
The growth of indie stores has attracted presses both large and small to WI14 It’s also turned the institute into a must-attend experience for authors. From the beginning, small and mid-size houses used the institute to try to break out books like Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants (Algonquin) or Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn (Grove/Atlantic). While these houses continue to use the meeting to introduce booksellers to new and up-and-coming authors, what’s changed is that the Big Five houses have turned Winter Institute into a conference for long-established writers to cement relationships with booksellers, too.
A number of authors whose books will launch with 100,000 or more copies want an opportunity to experience Winter Institute. That’s the case with Harlan Coben, whose new book, Run Away (Grand Central), will launch with a 750,000-copy first printing. “He’s going to be doing a pretty extensive tour for Run Away,” says Matthew Ballast, v-p, executive director of publicity for Grand Central, “but we loved the opportunity for him to meet so many great booksellers in one place.” Big-name authors also fill this year’s keynote roster, including Margaret Atwood, who will talk about The Testaments, the sequel to her bestselling The Handmaid’s Tale. Sharing the stage with her is Erin Morgenstern, whose debut novel, The Night Circus, has been a worldwide success. She’ll be talking about her sophomore effort, The Starless Sea. Reshma Saujani, CEO and founder of Girls Who Code, will give the opening keynote based on her new book, Brave, Not Perfect, and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraquib will take the stage to discuss his latest work, Go Ahead in the Rain.
The National Book Foundation will introduce James Baldwin to a new generation of booksellers at Winter Institute, presenting a screening of I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck’s documentary on Baldwin. NBF is also hosting a presentation about Baldwin, “Author in Focus: Why James Baldwin Always Matters.” Both events are slated for Thursday, January 24.
Scholastic continues to introduce a roster of authors at its long-standing Afterparty, which will take place on Wednesday, January 23, in the evening. This year’s theme is YA Fest and features Jennifer Donnelly (Stepsister), Bill Konigsberg (The Music of What Happens), Sabina Kahn (The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali), and Lamar Giles (Spin). Booksellers will also have a chance to meet local New Mexican authors such as Douglas Preston (The Lost City of the Monkey God) and Natalie Goldberg (Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home) in a “Salute to Authors of New Mexico” event to be held on Friday, January 25.
The emphasis on New Mexico is intentional. “It’s always ABA’s goal to incorporate the unique, local attributes of the Winter Institute host city into our planning and programming,” Teicher says. He is particularly proud of this year’s book drive, Libros Para el Viaje (“Books for the Journey”). The idea for the drive, which came from Denise Chávez, owner of Casa Camino Real Book Store and Art Gallery in Las Cruces, N.Mex., is to provide books for families and individuals who have arrived at the Southern border from Central America and Mexico, usually with no personal belongings.
As in previous years, programming at the institute runs the gamut from sessions on “Finding Your Way to Financial Peace in Business” to “Introduction to Publisher Events Grids” and “Dealing with Difficult People.” The ABA Town Hall will be back, as will past iterations’ Consultation Stations featuring various vendors. Booksellers will have the opportunity to learn more about Batch, a centralized, web-based invoicing program that has already streamlined invoicing, payments, and returns in the U.K., where it was introduced nearly a decade ago.
New this year is a lot more attention to the literal music of bookselling. The two-person Bookshop Band, which began at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, England, where they write and perform songs inspired by books by Shakespeare to Philip Pullman, will give several performances. The conference will close on a local note, with a mariachi ensemble from the area and entertainment from My Favorite Murder podcasters Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Stark, authors of Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-to Guide.
WI14: Bookselling in The Land of Enchantment
New Mexican booksellers serve a diverse community.
WI14: Indigenerds Unite at Red Planet
With 23 Native American tribes in New Mexico, the only surprise is that it took so long for someone to launch a bookstore dedicated to “indigenerds”—or Native Americans obsessed with comics, games, and pop culture.
WI14: Five of ABA’s Past Presidents on Changes to Bookselling in the Past Decade
A focus on the customers, community, and bottom line is key.
Bookstores Launch New Program to Facilitate Open Political Discussions
The Open Discussion Project, a joint initiative of the National Coalition Against Censorship, the ABA, and the National Institute for Civil Discourse, is designed to get conservatives and liberals to engage in dialogue with each other through book conversations, and debuted this month.
WI14: Indies Work Better Together
Indie publishers and indie booksellers believe that face-to-face meetings lead directly to increased sales.
Authors and Books to Watch for at WI14
PW’s reviews editors select well-known and up-and-coming adult and children’s authors to meet at the institute, whose books are either just out or due by summer 2019.
WI14: Looking at Our Cultural Moment with Hanif Abdurraqib
Over the past three years, Hanif Abdurraqib has earned a reputation for his poetry and cultural criticism. Now he's poised to publish 'Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest' (Univ. of Texas, Feb.), a book-length essay about the seminal rap group.
WI14: Feeling like Cassandra: PW Talks with Margaret Atwood
Following the success of 'The Handmaid’s Tale' on Hulu and a Netflix miniseries of her novel 'Alias Grace,' Atwood spoke with PW in 2017 about the resurgence of interest in her work.
WI14: Talking Murder: PW Talks with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
True crime enthusiasts Karen Kilgariff, a stand-up comedian and television writer, and Georgia Hardstark, a writer and host for the Cooking Channel, launched their true crime podcast, will have something new to share with their fan base next year: their first book.
WI14 Turning a World into a Novel: A Q&A with Erin Morgenstern
Novelist Erin Morgenstern’s newly announced sophomore effort, 'The Starless Sea' (Doubleday, Nov.), tells a love story set in a secret underground world. Morgenstern talks about which comes first, the novel or the world, and how she translates her vision.
WI14: Igniting a Bravery Revolution with Reshma Saujani
Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani’s new book, 'Brave, Not Perfect: How to Fail More, Care Less, and Live Bolder' (Currency, Feb.), is an extension of her work with teenage girls to close the gender gap in technology.