In their first joint venture, the New England Booksellers Association (NEBA) and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA), which both have members in central and northern New York State, are co-sponsoring a "shoptalk," or meeting, in Syracuse in mid-May.

Granted, a discussion of field representation versus telephone sales, next-day delivery, Book Sense reporting and regional books over a continental breakfast and buffet lunch might not seem like an unusual event to booksellers in densely populated areas, who can gather together easily.

But for Colgate Bookstore general books manager Rob Stahl, who has been pushing for two years to organize booksellers in the area, the shoptalk is the first step in what could become a new regional, or sub-regional, organization. "The shoptalk agenda contains issues that affect all independents," Stahl told PW. "But it's a chance to talk about them in our own backyard. If I were a NEBA member, I'd have to drive to Boston to meet with other booksellers; if I were a NAIBA member, I'd have to drive to Philadelphia."

To date, 13 booksellers have signed up to attend, although Stahl is hoping to draw as many as 30 to brainstorm on how to encourage publicity departments to send more authors to the region, as well as how to make the most of co-op.

Lisa Mody, owner of First Editions in Norwich, N.Y., was one of the first to agree to participate. "My problem," she said, "is who runs the store so I can do this kind of thing." For her, a local gathering of this kind is particularly helpful. "Especially lately," she added, "when business has been a little rough."

Although NEBA has been bringing shoptalks closer to outlying booksellers for the past few years, NAIBA has never done one before. "It was fortuitous that Rob should call when we were trying to put together something of our own," said NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler.

If this shoptalk is successful, Dengler plans to organize more in various parts of the region, which runs from New York south through Virginia.