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2020 Spring Okra Picks

Posted By Nicki Leone, Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, April 1, 2020

With so many people now staying at home, good books are more essential than ever. Southern independent booksellers have selected thirteen titles for their 2020 Spring Okra Picks, their seasonal list of great forthcoming Southern books. The Spring Okra Picks publish in April, May, and June and feature southern voices, southern stories, and southern writers. Each and every one of them also has a cadre of southern bookseller champions, eager to share their enthusiasm with other readers.  Visit https://authorsroundthesouth.com/okra to read more, and see a sneak peak of the first chapters of some of the forthcoming books.

Southern independent bookstores: we grow good books!

The 2020 Spring Okra Picks

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires Simon the FiddlerThe Prettiest StarThe Coyotes of Carthage

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Quirk Books, April, 2020

"I flew through this book! It was a great depiction of Southern housewives in the 90's. The mixture of quirkiness, horror, and Hendrix's unique take on vampires made it hard to put down."
~ Amanda Bradley, Blytheville Book Company, Blytheville, AR

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles
William Morrow, April, 2020

"Like her splendid earlier novel, News of the World, Paulette Jiles' Simon the Fiddler is set in a post-Civil War Texas. I was instantly charmed by this beguiling tale, equal parts adventure yarn, love story, and candid chronicle of life after great conflict."
~ Clara Boza, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC

The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels
Hub City Press, April, 2020

"Told with empathy and heart, as well as a pitch-perfect sense of time and place, The Prettiest Star is a deeply affecting story about what it means to understand each other and where we come from, even when our lives have taken us light years away."
~ Ashley Warlick, M. Judson Booksellers and Storytellers, Greenville, SC

The Coyotes of Carthage by Steven Wright
Ecco, April, 2020

"Dark humor and dark money make for a compelling combination and Dre Ross may be the most sympathetic villain around. A cautionary tale for our times full of heart and dire warnings of how politics can go wrong."
~ Jan Blodgett, Main Street Books, Davidson, NC

Blue Marlin Feels Like FallingBefore She Was HelenLobizona

Blue Marlin by Lee Smith
Blair, April, 2020

"Lee Smith is a remarkable voice and someone you hope to spend an afternoon with. Her sense of humor and attention to detail make this quick read a delight. How would you feel when your parents try to take you away on a 'we have to patch up the family' trip? You can sense the tension and laugh out loud at the lens of Jenny's point of view."
~ Suzanne Lucey, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Gallery Books, April, 2020

"Diana is one of my top five favorite book characters of all time: she's witty, she's got a spine of steel, and she's from a social class that tends to be glossed over in women's fiction. I loved how heartwarming this book was. I say this about all of Kristy's books, but it genuinely made me laugh out loud and tear up, too!"
~ Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL

Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney
Poisoned Pen Press, May, 2020

"If you read Caroline B. Cooney back in the day like I did, you will love this new one. No one is who they seem to be. Cooney keeps you on the edge of your seat as the narrative flashes between the main character and her past, describing how she evades an old stalker to reclaim her life. Cooney reminds the fans why she's been a huge name in thriller fiction for decades."
~ Andrea Richardson, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

Lobizona by Romina Garber
Wednesday Books, May, 2020

"This is not your typical werewolf book. Think more Harry Potter meets Argentinian folklore meets the hope/terror of people coming to the US to start a better life. The world-building in this book is amazing because it's familiar yet so new at the same time."
~ Candace Conner, The Haunted Book Shop, Mobile, AL

Boys of Alabama We Are Not From HereA Taste of SageThe Vanishing HalfThe Unwilling

Boys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson
Liveright, May, 2020

"Genevieve Hudson brings to life a brutal yet spellbinding exploration of teenage masculinity, and the horrors that it is capable of setting loose. In her haunting debut novel - part coming-of-age, part Southern gothic, part queer lit - she highlights the fear and excitement, the love and the loss, that inevitably accompanies being a new face in a new place."
~ Gage Tarlton, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Philomel Books, May, 2020

"I still don't know if I have fully recovered from reading this novel, but I know that I needed to read it. It is both devastating yet compulsively readable; difficult to get through yet necessary. One in the ranks of The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and should be put into every American's hands."
~ Olivia Schaffer, The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA

A Taste of Sage by Yaffa S. Santos
Harper Paperbacks, May, 2020

"When you mix delicious food and hate to love romance in a book, you instantly have me hooked. Julien is a celebrated chef who is known for his good looks but bad attitude. Lumi can't stand Julien, but tastes his cooking because it looks so irresistible and she's overcome with intense emotions and has her wondering if she wants more. If you are looking for something fun, tasty, and will test your senses, you will enjoy this book."
~ Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square, McDonough, GA

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books, June, 2020

"This beautifully paced and thought-provoking novel is one to enjoy slowly, savoring as you consider the big questions this book poses: who are we when we shed the markers that once defined us, how do our pasts inform our choices and desires, and what does it mean to be a family.
~ Megan Bell, Underground Books, Carrollton, GA

The Unwilling by John Hart
St. Martin's Press, June, 2020

"With his signature beautiful writing style, Hart leads readers on a mystery that ends up not being the one you might not have thought it would be, and each twist and reveal brings up new questions to keep the reader engaged in a big way."
~ Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Tags:  okra picks 

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Bookseller Chill, Week One. Turning off your lizard brain.

Posted By Nicki Leone, Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Bookseller Chill with Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a six-week series beginning March 26 at 2 PM EST and continuing each Thursday, until April 30. Each session will last approximately 30 minutes and include concepts from Bryan's book: #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn On Your Life (HarperCollins, 2019), followed by what Bryan calls simple, short "MicroChiller" meditations that will help us relax and restore during this time of great uncertainty. You can read Bryan's recent post at Forbes.com: The Psychology of Uncertainty: How to Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety.

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Libro.fm Programming to support your bookstore

Posted By Nicki Leone, Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Libro.fm Programming to Support Your Online Store. Stephanie Ballien and Mark Pearson of Libro.fm provide helpful information about driving audiobook sales and growing your online presence with the aid of authors, influencers, Bookstore Link, and more.

 

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ABA COVID-19 Resource Links for SIBA Booksellers

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 30, 2020

The ABA's resource page is the absolute best source of information for booksellers and is constantly updated. Pay special attention to CEO Allison Hill's updates, now archived here. If you aren't an ABA member, we highly encourage you join (ask about their dues relief plan during the crisis). Below are links to specific areas of interest. Do check back for further updates!

Tags:  Covid-19 

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COVID-19 Hints & Links

Posted By Wanda Jewell, Monday, March 30, 2020

Here's a gathering of ideas and links from across the internet that I believe could prove useful for booksellers:

Use an expense line item called COVID-19 in your operation and dump all extraordinary expenses in there--not just supplies, but also time (safety meetings). You may need it for relief programs from the government and it will help you and your financial support staff understand these unexpected costs down the road.

Continue to message your customers with COVID-19 sensitive promotions on all your newsletters and platforms. Keep them informed and act as a consoling and thoughtful community leader who understand the importance of safety, but wants to supply books during the quarantine, directing them to online sales platforms.

If you'd like to pursue essential business designation for your store within your community and state, we ask you to read this advice from the ABA and pursue grassroots efforts with your fellow booksellers to lobby for this designation if you choose. More info below:

Who do I reach out to regarding permission to carry on business?

  • Consistently stores reaching out on the state level have been turned down
  • Focus your efforts locally
  • We have seen access granted to bookstores by local government including city council, mayors, city attorneys, and local assemblymen
  • Contacting local government also encourages them to promote and support business in this time

What to do when making your request:

  • Avoid requesting to be considered essential on social media.
  • Emphasize public safety. Businesses remain closed to the public, only handling online orders with minimal staff maintaining safe distances

Keep in mind:

There is some question as to whether staying open in these ways might hurt your chances for loans or grants later. We have no information on this but it is possible showing a complete loss of income may give you a better chance at loans and grants. Something to consider though most likely your store, like others, will have evident losses to document regardless.

More great links:

More info from the ABA:

Here's What you can do NOW

Email your senator: Here's a template letter your store can send to the Senate urging immediate action and outlining the best policy. Find your senator's contact information here.

Fill out this form: Join other retailers to tell your senators a "No" vote that needlessly delays passage of small business relief legislation is not okay.

Spread the word: Share the above-mentioned letters to the Senate with your customers and network. Ask for their help lobbying on behalf of your bookstore, small businesses, and the best interest of the local and national economy. Some sample social media captions:

Start preparing documents you may need to apply for loans and grants:
  • Three years of business tax returns and personal tax returns for all principles.
  • Your 2019 tax returns or, if that's not possible, your 2019 year-end financials.
  • Year-to-date profit and loss and balance sheets
  • A personal financial statement for any owner who owns more than 20 percent of the company.
  • A debt schedule for your business.
  • Your monthly operating expenses from March through September of last year.
Note: Some loans and grants may make you ineligible for others. For example, a disaster loan may make you ineligible for the proposed forgivable loans that are in the proposed senate relief legislation. Ask questions and check ABA's Coronavirus Resources for Booksellers page for updates as we attempt to find out more.

 

Tags:  Covid-19 

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Read This! Resources for your store from Authors 'Round the South

Posted By SIBA Staff, Friday, March 27, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020

What a strange time for booksellers: as customers have never been more eager to read, it's increasingly challenging to get books into their socially-distanced hands. Authors 'Round the South (ARTS) wants to help. ARTS has a wealth of engaging, reader-focused, bookseller-friendly content and we are working hard on ways to make it more accessible, useful, and shareable for your store. And oh yeah, it's all free.ARTS_sun_logo-1.png

We're most excited about our treasure-trove of SIBA member bookseller reviews and recommendations. Have you wondered exactly what happens to the reviews and recommendations your store submits via Edelweiss? In addition to being regularly featured in the SIBA newsletter and blog,  SIBA's reader-focused site Authors 'Round the South (ARTS) also runs store reviews on or near the publication date of the book.

But wait...there's more!

The newest reviews appear on the ARTS home page and on the main Read This! page, but even better, every single review is tagged and sorted into the ARTS bookseller review database, making each review accessible not just at publication but for the future. At present, there are hundreds and hundreds of books (actually 985, and counting--by the time you read this we will be closing in on 1000!) in the review database. Each review links directly to the reviewer's store's online retail (if available) and regardless of whether a store has ecommerce, the review links to the reviewer store's website.

SIBA wants to make ARTS even more of a resource for our members and their customers. Your store is welcome and encouraged to make use of any and all existing and future ARTS content (you don't need to ask permission) in any way you think might be helpful. To that end: 

  • We have expanded the number of reviews featured on the home page, and are updating it much more frequently. Our goal is to feature as many as we possibly can. Individual reviews can be linked to and shared.
  • The Read This! database is now featured directly on the home page as well as on the main Read This page. Every category can be linked to and/or shared directly via social media or email.
  • We make an effort to feature as many SIBA stores as possible, and as mentioned above, ARTS does not limit the featured reviews to stores with ecommerce.
  • All SIBA stores that participated in the 2019 Holiday Catalog program--including stores without ecommerce--have a customized, white-label page that's still accessible: https://authorsroundthesouth.com/read-this/holiday-catalog.

In addition to bookseller recommendations on ARTS, SIBA also features the weekly Southern indie bestseller list (usually updated on Wednesday afternoons subject to when the ABA releases the information), and creates a list of titles special to Southern indies, with the current list also displayed on the home page. Each week, ARTS features a different member store with ecommerce on its "Special to Southern" list. We also create a "white-label" list with no SIBA or ARTS branding list available on sibaweb.com, and provide the code (automatically updated weekly at this same link) for stores to use on their own sites and link titles to their own ecommerce platform.

In the works:

  • The existing Read This! page on ARTS will be converted to a weekly update of recent reviews, plus a featured database category that can be easily shared via social media.
  • We're converting the PDF Southern bestseller lists flyers into a "white label" HTML format, similar to the "special to Southern" bestseller list for stores to share to their email lists and link to on their sites, and making that code available for stores to add their own ecommerce links if desired.

We're brainstorming ways to make all ARTS content even more useful, adaptable, and accessible to SIBA member stores. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know!

SP Rankin / sp@sibaweb.com
Authors 'Round the South

Tags:  ARTS  booksellers  Covid-19 

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Bookselling during COVID-19, an update from Givens Books-Little Dickens

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Danny Givens of Givens Books/Little Dickens in Lynchburg, VA

Like most retail during this difficult period, we've been pushed to our limits trying to find creative and undiscovered methods of reaching our customers and doing business. Unprecedented and unimaginably challenging times have brought new levels of anxiety. One small byproduct of this for us has been innovation.

Our goal is to support our customers at home while maintaining their sense of connection with being in our store...the ambiance, warmth, staff friendliness, and overall positive experience. We are seeing the "live local" mentality continue to gain momentum. People are concerned for their communities, scared for the loss of jobs, and more determined to keep their communities alive and thriving as much as they can.

We remind people of this point in nearly every post, every receipt, every bill they get, ads we produce, and television spots we run. We even have a hold message on our phone system that grabs attention with interesting science and history trivia, then relays facts about shopping locally.

We are amplifying the "support your community" message with banners along with curbside pick-up services and regular posts on Facebook and Instagram. Personal thank you notes are dropped into each curbside bag we hand to our customers.  We will be doing virtual story time, along with book chats covering various genres, and videos with staff's favorite reads. Our book discussions and book clubs, led by Angie, are suspended for now, but we will resume when all this settles. Angie has been a strong force behind these book discussions and hopefully will continue them virtually.

Our social media people have been doggedly creative. Zander has done film and make-up professionally and he loves working with humor, visual techniques, and editing practices to give our posts an extra touch. Because much of our product is non-book, it gives us a little more license to work with levity. We got in some ride-on toys and we promptly made a post with me racing on this unicorn against another employee with derby music in the background. It was a big hit and brought laughter and smiles. We'll be doing more with juggling, kendamas, outdoor toys, posting our staff playing the new games.

We're now doing posts on our school supplies, to let parents know we are here to help lessen boredom and increase structure at home with workbooks. We also believe parents can enhance family connection and fun with games and puzzles. Our puzzle sales are triple what they've been in the past. We're contacting principals and schools to see what their needs are for families wanting structure and learning for their children. We've sent out images to them of workbooks and curriculum aids, and available discounts.

Our approach through all of this is to connect with the community and customer frequently and with a lightness which people need after a lot of dismal news. We are getting more likes and shares than we ever have with many of these posts. But, we're also promoting the message of staying safe, practicing physical distancing, all while pushing hard our curbside pick up service and web ordering.

We're looking forward to maximizing great tools that publishers are offering. This ordeal will also help us explore broader community posts where even more businesses unify together in spreading this crucial message of how small local businesses are what truly bring strength, diversity, personality, and vitality to our communities.

Surviving this will be a challenge and ultimately, we are hoping to come out with new business models , a larger customer base for our website, regular curbside pick up, newer fresher ways of doing social media, a community that more than before feels the importance of supporting their local businesses, realigned values, more cherished family time and hopefully...new leadership.

Tags:  Covid-19  Givens Books-Little Dickens 

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Don't Brush Your Teeth on Camera: Lady Smith's First Zoom Event

Posted By Nicki Leone, Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Lady SmithJust two weeks ago, the idea of a “virtual author event” was still a novel concept, an out-of-the-box idea. How quickly things have changed. I was in a Zoom meeting with SIBA on March 10 when Wanda Jewell suggested that bookstores might consider using the platform to host an online event. My store, The Snail on the Wall, had just gotten word that our next event on the calendar was canceled: a ticketed Conversation with Christina Lauren, aka authors Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, who were scheduled to be on book tour for their newest romantic comedy, The Honey-Don’t List. On a whim, after hearing Wanda’s idea, I shot an e-mail to the publicist to ask if the authors would consider trying a virtual event. A day later, she replied with a resounding “yes!” And I panicked. My only experience with Zoom was attending a few ABA marketing meet-ups and SIBA meetings. In one recent meeting, I accidentally brushed my teeth in front of everyone after attempting to turn off my camera, but evidently hitting the wrong button. I was a Zoom novice about to become a host.

In a few days, I did a flurry of information gathering, trying to figure out the logistics of the meeting before promoting it. I upgraded to a $14.99/month Zoom Pro account so that I could have some added features (longer than 40 minutes for the meeting, multiple cohosts, etc.). I sat in on a club meeting hosted by Anne Bogel, who’s been hosting virtual gatherings on Zoom for years. I talked with a local friend who has moderated some of those meetings, who agreed to moderate the chat for our event. And I talked with Nicki Leone, who walked me through the finer points of Zoom and told me how to run a test meeting with the authors.

Still, I didn’t advertise the event. I couldn’t stop thinking about the unknowns and fears:  Should I charge for tickets? Would I sell books if I didn’t? Would I be able to work the technology? Would Zoom and the Internet continue to sustain the weight of so many new users? Would guests show up? Would it seem weird to talk about rom-coms in the midst of a pandemic?

event promo

Finally, on the Thursday before the Sunday event, I put it into the world: A Conversation with Christina Lauren: The Virtual Version. I decided on a free ticketed event, using Eventbrite. That way, I could send a blanket e-mail to guests with the Zoom meeting code, and then follow up after the event with a link to purchase books. Making it free felt like the right choice for an experimental meeting with an inexperienced host.

The day before, I ran a test meeting with the two authors, who live in Utah and California, respectively. It gave us a chance to meet for the first time, talk through a format, and check sound. They agreed to log on 10 minutes before the event so I could admit them first and have the three of us ready for our audience at the 5:30 pm start time. I could turn their audio on early, and then admit everyone else from the waiting room all at once.

By Sunday, 55 guests had registered. That sounded like a lot of people to manage in a virtual meeting, but I felt ok about the plan. But 15 minutes before the event, the plan fell apart when I logged on and a few guests were already there. I could see those first three participants, but no one else—including my authors. I couldn’t find among the gathering crowd. I immediately called Nicki, who had agreed to show up and make sure all was well. Together, across the miles, we clicked, searched support, and scrambled to figure out what to do, as more guests filled the waiting room. I ended up letting guests in a little early and just being honest; I asked them to sit tight while I found my lost authors (one of whom was having trouble getting connected).

screenshot

Once the conversation started a few minutes later, it rolled smoothly. After the authors opened by talking about themselves and the new book, I had some questions ready, which I needed because guests didn’t engage right away. But the more we talked, the audience got interested and started typing questions. The most interesting topic of our discussion was the idea of working remotely, which has been the norm for these co-authors who have written 25 novels in 7 years while living in different states. And then we talked mostly about romantic comedy and fan fiction, which everyone embraced as a welcome escape from the realities of right now.

I came away with a lot of positive feedback from my audience (some of whom are new to my store), a respectable number of book sales, and some important lessons learned for the future, which continues to look very much virtual. I’m happy to share, and I’m grateful to SIBA for the inspiration and idea—not to mention the help in executing it.

  • It helped to have a moderator/co-host, not only to help monitor the tech but also to keep track of questions on the chat so I could focus on listening to the authors and engaging in a real conversation with them, without too much distraction.

  • My moderator was able to answer participants’ questions in the chat, too, about buying books and more. A couple of times throughout the event, she reminded readers of the books by posting hyper-links to my store’s website, where all the books were available for purchase on one event page.

  • I had some slides ready to share featuring available titles (though I forgot to show them in the heat of the moment).

  • I was grateful for two authors instead of one, because it filled the time and the silence more easily and naturally.

  • I don’t think you can have too many questions prepared ahead of time. Zoom feels a lot less spontaneous and organic than a live event, where everyone is together and feeding off of one another. Prepare and be ready to fill the awkward silences.

 

Tags:  online events 

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Zoom Best Practices: Event Security

Posted By Nicki Leone, Wednesday, March 25, 2020

As in person events become more and more unfeasible, bookstores are looking for effective online alternatives. One of the most popular of those is Zoom, the video conference platform SIBA uses for its own webinars and online office hours.

Of course some people just can’t have nice things. No sooner had Zoom become the go-to alternative for events, than “zoombombing” became a thing: Internet trolls, taking advantage of open and public meeting links to log on and hijack meetings by sharing highly inappropriate material from a series of sock-puppet accounts. Meeting hosts found they had lost control of their own meetings and were unable to control the behavior of trolling attendees. Some meetings even had to be canceled.

Luckily, Zoom has some built-in safeguards that are easy to enable and will prevent troublemakers from gate-crashing your online event.

For public (open) meetings:

  1. Never use your Personal Meeting ID to host public events. Once that information it out there, anyone can use it to log into your personal meeting space.  Always general a new meeting ID for every planned event.
  2. Enable your waiting room, so you can control when people come in to your meeting.
  3. Mute all attendees on entry. Even if your attendees are well behaved, random background noise from open microphones will disrupt your event.
  4. Disable video for attendees. A troll can’t do much if no one can see them.
  5. Only allow the host to share their screen. It’s your event, don’t let attendees hijack the stage.

For private or restricted meetings

Stores that are planning on using Zoom to replace cancelled author events should go a step further and control attendance by managing who is allowed to sign on. Here are some options:

  1. Use a guest list and have users sign in to join the meeting. If you sell tickets through an application like Eventbrite, you can create a guest list from your ticket purchases and prevent unknown users from accessing the meeting.
  2. Lock the meeting once it has begun, to avoid unwanted disruptions.
  3. Assign a meeting password. You can share your meeting ID publicly, but provide the password only to authorized attendees through Direct Messaging.
  4. Turn off extra features that might cause a distraction: file transfers, annotations, even private chat.
  5. Assign a cohost who is responsible for managing chat and attendees so you can concentrate on the presenter.

For detailed instructions on each of these steps, visit the zoom blog:
https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2020/03/20/keep-the-party-crashers-from-crashing-your-zoom-event/

Tags:  online events 

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ABA Town Hall Meeting Recap: Bookselling under COVID-19

Posted By Nicki Leone, Wednesday, March 25, 2020

On Thursday, March 19th, SIBA hosted an hour-long online town hall meeting with the American Booksellers Association via Zoom.  The main topic was, naturally, the impact of COVID-19 on bookstores and what the ABA was doing to respond to the crisis.

Since that meeting, only a week ago, the landscape has already changed drastically as the United States has documented an exponential rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. Measures that were discussed as “coming” – forced closures, shelter in place orders – have now arrived. SIBA stores are struggling to adapt to a new environment where their greatest strength, their physical presence in their community, has been restricted by quarantine measures.

“It is a question of when, not if, these measures will be implemented in our communities,” commented SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell at the beginning of the town hall meeting. The “when” arrived for many stores within days.

Allison Hill

On hand from the ABA to answer questions were Allison Hill, CEO, Joy Dallanegra-Sanger, COO, Ryan Quinn, Member Liaison for SIBA Territory, and Dan Cullen, Senior Strategy Officer.

Bookstores should also note these essential tools:

“Our number one priority is how to support bookstores so that they are all still here when the crisis is over.” – Allison Hill

The ABA’s primary focus is has been on advocating for measures that will relieve bookstores of the immediate cash flow issues they face from forced closures. One of the first steps was to donate $100,000 to Binc, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.  Binc’s priority is to provide emergency aid to booksellers who face unexpected expenses.  

At the same time, since stores find themselves having to switch to online sales to maintain any kind of cash flow, the ABA is waiving membership dues through June and has expedited payments on Indiecommerce and Indielite sales and implemented a donation module that stores can activate on their IC sites.

Another step was to create a continuously updated page of resources for booksellers. The ABA has called on SIBA and the other regional associations to help them research local, regional, and national resources for stores with a focus on “what’s real, what’s now, and what’s the most actionable for booksellers.”

In advocating for bookstores, the ABA is lobbying with the national and local governments for grants rather than loans, moratoriums on evictions, and extensions of tax deadlines. Their priority is that any money made available by economic stimulus measures is easily accessible to bookstores and small businesses.

They are also interceding with publishers on behalf of stores for delay of payment options. Hill noted that publishers are willing to offer grace periods to stores on a case by case basis, and strongly encouraged booksellers to talk to their reps.  When questioned how the crisis was affecting publishing houses, Hill noted that the greatest concern is how long the crisis will last, whether or not publication schedules need to be delayed, how to promote books in the current situation, and what the industry will look like in the summer and fall as trade conferences are postponed or canceled, and book events and tours are no longer feasible.  

Hill noted that keeping supply chains open has been a priority in all coronavirus responses. Ingram has been declared an “essential” service, as have USPS, UPS, and FedEx for shipping to residential (though not commercial) addresses.

And because the situation for stores can change very rapidly, the ABA is very concerned with helping stores anticipate “the next stage” of change in their community, whatever it is. There is usually only a 24-48 hour window to comply with shelter-in-place order.  For that reason, they have added resources and technology to their Indiecommerce team. They have also created a team to research options for hosting virtual author tours, working with publishers for more open licensing agreements that would allow bookstores to host virtual readings, storytimes, and book clubs.

They are also collecting data – store hour changes and closings, and other operations changes, as well as tips and “best practices” for stores that find themselves unable to get to their building. (“Bring your gift cards home with you!” said Pete from Green Apple Books).

Despite the gravity of the situation, Hill closed on a positive note, reporting that the ABA’s own financial managers feel that although the next two quarters will be volatile, consumerism will come back strongly once the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

Questions and Answers from the ABA Meeting:

How do we support our employees if we are shut down: Is it better to furlough or layoff employees?

The ABA is researching options for stores and will post information on their COVID-19 page. Furloughed workers can claim unemployment, but it varies by state how much. They should not perform any work. Layoffs are also state-regulated, with some states offering work-share programs.  COVID-19 and Labor Law

What is the difference between Bookshop and IndieLite. Do we need both?

Stores should explore all options. Everything helps. IndieLite sales earn more per transaction than Bookshop sales, but signing up to be a Bookshop affiliate puts you in the general pool. Bookshop is also returning the full 30% of sales to their store affiliates for the next eight weeks, in effect returning their entire profit to the stores. Stores should also look at partnering with Libro.fm. They have already raised $20K for stores.
Bookshop | IndieLite | Libro.fm

Will publishers stop taking returns?

Publishers are committed to staying operational as long as possible, but they may be required to close their warehouses.

What will happen to ABACUS?

ABACUS has been canceled for the year, on the basis that any data collected now will not be relevant in the new financial landscape.

 

Tags:  Covid-19 

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Suggested Best Practices on Keeping Employees Safe during COVID-19

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, March 24, 2020

(Adapted by Robert Martin, Executive Director of the Independent Booksellers Consortium, with permission from Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, CA)

Part of the anxiety booksellers must face during this outbreak is whether having employees come into the store to process web orders and do curbside pick up is risking exposure for them. To that end, we created a set of rules for the employees. Maybe this will help others.

  • Managers will never schedule more than 10 people in the store at the same time.
  • Please wash your hands with soap and water when you first arrive before doing anything else.
  • The store should try to keep a 6 ft. distance between employees and set up work stations to be at least 6 feet apart.
  • Do not use public transportation to get to work--let your manager know if that is your only method so they can try to find an alternative for you.
  • Employees coming into work need to be self isolating at home otherwise so as to not spread germs here. If you are not self isolating during your non-work hours, please let your manager know so they can find appropriate tasks for you to safely complete.
  • The household situation of employees is also important to communicate--if you live with anyone who takes public transit, interacts with others for work, or is otherwise at risk.
  • The bathrooms should cleaned and de-sanitized every morning by a professional crew, and staff are only using your bathrooms (not the building's bathrooms).
  • Every work station and phone should be sanitized before you start working in the morning and then sanitized again every two hours.
  • Once a manager assigns you to a particular station, only use that station, except when you need to use a shared register (which should be the minimum amount possible).
  • Sanitize a pen and then carry that one pen with you for the rest of the day instead of sharing pens.
  • Any shared documents (phone log, etc.) should no longer be required.
  • Most importantly: do not come into work sick, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water consistently, do not touch your face, and cough/sneeze into your sleeve.

Tags:  Covid-19 

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Read This! Highest Rated Reviews from SIBA Booksellers

Posted By Nicki Leone, Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Reviewed by Booksellers

Some of the reviews submitted this week on Edelweiss+ from your fellow SIBA booksellers. SIBA members earn B3! points for every review if they join the SIBA community on Edelweiss. Email nicki@sibaweb.com to be added.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin, 3/24/2020
Reviewed by Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL
On Edelweiss

Like Neil Gaiman writing fan fiction of 100 Years of Solitude but about New York City. Powerful and exquisite. I loved it.

And Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian, 3/24/2020
Reviewed by Erin Cox, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN
On Edelweiss

This novel sucks you in like a story that relative of yours would tell. An uncle, maybe, who doesn’t bother telling it exactly like it happened. Still, you can’t stop listening. And eventually, you realize the stories are about something else entirely. This book is like that, if your uncle is Iranian, tells stories like Joseph Heller, and has some harrowing things to say about the power of the state on the soul.

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, 4/7/2020
Reviewed by Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
On Edelweiss

Chronicling the lives of the Galvin family, Kolker tells the stories of their 12 children born from 1945 to 1965, six of whom suffered from debilitating, and in some cases fatal, schizophrenia. By revealing the almost unbelievable misery of this one family, he is also illustrating the many faces of psychiatry and mental health treatment over history from relatively benign, if ineffective, treatments to what we would now consider torture. He also exposes the psychiatric drug industry for the greedy, uncaring, opportunistic practices that have been the standard for decades. This look at schizophrenia and its effect on individuals, families, and societies is inspiring as it is disturbing and I hope its publication helps to accelerate change in the mental health industry and the hearts and minds of the public at large.

More bookseller reviews

Tags:  Edelweiss 

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Call for SIBA Board nominations

Posted By Nicki Leone, Thursday, March 19, 2020

Call for SIBA Board Candidates

Deadline for nominations is end of day,  April 30.

It’s that time again to pick the bookseller leaders that will move SIBA forward. SIBA’s Board Members are a hard‐working bunch. Serving on the SIBA Board is both rewarding and enlightening. Consider someone today for a board position. Self‐nominations are encouraged. Anyone can nominate. Candidates must be from a SIBA core member in good standing. SIBA functions under The  Carver Method. Take a look at Policy #12 – Board Job DescriptionPolicy #16 ‐ Board Member’ Code of Conduct  and Policy 13 - Agenda Planning for more information.
 
Board members do not get paid for service but all expenses incurred are covered by the organization. The position requires attendance at 3 board meetings annually (See Policy 13A: Board meeting agendas) plus a Carver training session and adequate preparation for all meetings is also required. The board seeks persons from the core membership taking into account the following: relevant Policy Governance skills (including the ability to work within group decisions, to use conceptual categories of Ends and Means, to judge performance only against previously stated expectations), relevant industry skills and knowledge, geography, and store size.
 
SIBA’s current Board members will assess interest among potential candidates. A slate will be determined from the potential candidates by the Board of Directors and presented for vote by the membership before the Fall Discovery Show.
 

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Change to SIBA's Zoom Office Hours

Posted By Wanda Jewell, Thursday, March 19, 2020

SIBA’s Virtual Office Hours on Zoom are changing beginning Monday, March 23.  Instead of 2-5 PM EST on Wednesdays, we're offering daily opportunities for booksellers to connect and feel part of community.  We invite you to join SIBA for lunch every weekday from 1-2 PM EST.  We'll continue to host our webinars on Wednesdays (and on other days!) and are planning much more virtual communication with you during this time.

In support of your mental well-being, we are offering a six-week series, Bookseller Chill, beginning March 26 at 2 PM EST and continuing each Thursday, same time, same zoom link, till April 30. Led by psychotherapist Bryan Robinson, each session will last approximately 30 minutes and include concepts from his book: #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn On Your Life (HarperCollins, 2019), followed by what Bryan calls simple, short "MicroChiller" meditations that will help us relax and restore during this time of great uncertainty. You can read Bryan's recent post at Forbes.com: The Psychology of Uncertainty: How to Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety.

The link to attend every Thursday at 2pm is: https://zoom.us/j/524919871

Tags:  B3! Webinars  coronavirus  Zoom Meeting 

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Bookseller Chill: A Six-Week Series on Coping with Anxiety during COVID-19

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Thursday, March 19, 2020

Bookseller Chill with Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a six-week series beginning March 26 at 2 PM EST and continuing each Thursday, same time, same zoom link, till April 30. Each session will last approximately 30 minutes and include concepts from Bryan's book: #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn On Your Life (HarperCollins, 2019), followed by what Bryan calls simple, short "MicroChiller" meditations that will help us relax and restore during this time of great uncertainty. You can read Bryan's recent post at Forbes.com: The Psychology of Uncertainty: How to Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety.

Today's events are creating anxiety that challenges our resilience and ability to act, make good decisions, even sleep. This series provides tools to cope, and a window of time to share with your colleagues as you experience guided meditations and counsel. Come to as few or as many sessions as you like, and please bring your staff. RSVP lindamarie@sibaweb.com to attend. These sessions will be recorded for later viewing.

Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist who has built his career on the themes of resilience, work/life balance, and well-being. He's a contributor to Forbes Magazine, Psychology Today, and writes a weekly column for Thrive Global, Arianna Huffington's new company. He's very excited about this series and hopes as many of you can participate as possible.

Tags:  B3!  Bryan Robinson  Covid-19 

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B3! Webinar on April 1 at 2PM EST: Tips For Managing an Unexpected Crisis

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Cavalier House Books co-owner and SIBA Board member John Cavalier will present "Tips for Managing an Unexpected Crisis," focusing on business strategies during COVID-19. During a time of crisis, it's vital to put a plan in place, as a thoughtful response can mean the difference between persevering and closing up shop. John will talk generally and specifically about how you can work with your staff and community to craft a plan that will help you achieve your goals. He'll also provide a list of concrete steps you can take to build resiliency for your store's future and daily operations.

John and Michelle Cavalier experienced their worst year in business after a string of natural disasters culminated in the Great Louisiana Flood of 2016. During that crisis they saw widespread school closures in their area as well as a complete halt to the local economy for non-essential goods and services. They emerged even stronger as a business. Join us for this special webinar to hear how the Cavaliers are approaching the current crisis, and what steps you can take to shore up and even improve your business during this uniquely challenging time.

Bring your questions and concerns for a Q & A after the presentation.

RSVP lindamarie@sibaweb.com to attend.

Tags:  B3! Webinars  COVID-19  John Cavalier 

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Business Strategies During COVID-19: Tips For Managing an Unexpected Crisis

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, March 16, 2020

john cavalierEvery time I hear the term "flatten the curve," I sing it to myself in the voice of Waylon Jennings to the tune of the Dukes of Hazzard theme. And then I add ... Some day the mountain might get us but the virus never will. That's one of my dumb little coping mechanisms in this time of heightened anxiety.

It's bizarre. One of our staffers here at our store likened this pandemic to the slowest moving hurricane possible. I agree. The uncertainty is intense and the news of so many of my friends shuttering their doors for a yet to be determined period of time makes me feel nauseous.

For us, it's school book fairs. Louisiana has closed all schools for a month and with their closure around $60,000 in anticipated revenue has dried up literally overnight. Will we have time to reschedule? Can we pursue alternate sales strategies? How will we move all of this inventory? How much can we return? When will we have to close our store as well? When will we reopen? Will we have the cash to get through the pandemic? The slower summer?

The anxiety can be crippling.

My wife and I were discussing all of these things and we asked ourselves, "What are we going to do?" For us, the answer is the same thing we did in 2016. That year was our worst year in business owing to a string of natural disasters in our area that culminated in the Great Louisiana Flood of 2016. During that crisis we saw widespread school closures in our area as well as a complete halt to our local economy for non-essential goods and services. Those consequences were dumped on us then much like the consequence of the coronavirus is being heaped on all of us now.

It's tough to distill an experience like that into actionable steps to take in response and it's tough to try to cherry pick lessons that can be shared with others, but there are a few fundamentals that I know to be true and I'd like to remind everyone of them at this time.

  1. Focus on solutions and not problems. There are of course economic realities and uncertainties yet to be revealed, but don't lose sight of your goals, hopes, and dreams. Figure out how you want to emerge from this pandemic and then take the necessary steps to get there. For us, we're looking at being cash poor and time rich for several months so I aim to come out of the other side of this leaner, more efficient, and more organized than ever before. I'm also looking at business and personal debt restructuring as well as strategies to be more responsive to opportunities so that as they present themselves I can be ready to pounce.
  2. People are people. Everyone is experiencing this and everyone is going to have a rough go for a bit. Honesty and communication are essential. Express your concerns to your landlord, your credit reps, your sales reps, your banks as soon as possible. Don't wait to be late on a payment. You have infinitely more credibility and wiggle room if you are upfront and present a plan of action rather than sweeping problems under the rug. Go to your bank or your landlord or whomever right now and make sure they know your story and that they are on your team. Lead them to a solution, rather than presenting your problems.
  3. The future is what we make it. Certainly the randomness and unexpectedness of this pandemic would make it seem otherwise, but we have to remember that most of our anxieties and frustrations come not from the virus itself but from our collective response to it. This is the hard way wisdom is earned. We are a community. We are parts of other communities. We are our own leadership as well as our own source of authority. We have to take comfort in knowing that the experience of today can lead us to a stronger tomorrow.
  4. Community is everything. Whenever you feel like everything is at its worst, someone will surprise you. Whenever you feel like you are all alone, someone will surprise you.

Deep breaths and baby steps. Remember your goals and your assets. Share your talents. Think about others. Be honest and open. Create and share solutions. Take comfort and find strength in the various communities you are a part of. Lean on other people - metaphorically of course (#socialdistancing). Don't just react, plan.

Hoping for the best and planning for the future,

John Cavalier
Co-owner of Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, LA, and SIBA Board Member
john@cavalierhousebooks.com

Tags:  Cavalier House Books  Covid-19  Emergency Preparedness  John Cavalier 

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Binc on COVID-19

Posted By Nicki Leone, Thursday, March 12, 2020
Binc

The Binc Foundation can potentially offer booksellers support during a public health emergency. Assistance may be available for the medical expenses of booksellers. Binc may also be able to help booksellers in specific cases where store closure and/or loss of scheduled pay creates a financial hardship for the individual/family.

Binc may be able to help with medical expenses or personal household expenses under the following circumstances:

  • If a bookstore employee contracts an illness and cannot go to work. 
  • If a member of a bookseller’s household contracts an illness and the employee is forced to quarantine themselves to prevent further spread of the virus.

For the events listed below, an official state, county or city Public Health Emergency restricting public interaction must be declared and documented.

  • If a bookseller loses more than 50% of their scheduled work hours because residents are told not to go to work.
  • If a bookseller loses more than 50% of their scheduled work hours due to a mandatory quarantine.
  • If a bookstore loses a significant amount of business due to forced store closure or restrictions on residents’ movement and the store is unable to pay store rent and/or utility expenses, Binc may be able to help.

Contact Binc by email help@bincfoundation.org or phone 866-733-9064.

Tags:  binc  coronavirus  Covid-19 

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Linda-Marie Barrett selected as next SIBA Executive Director

Posted By Nicki Leone, Thursday, March 5, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Linda-Marie Barrett(Asheville, NC) The Search Committee and Board of Directors of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance is pleased to announce the selection of Linda-Marie Barrett as SIBA’s incoming Executive Director. She will step into the position on June 16, 2020, when the current Executive Director, Wanda Jewell, retires. “I’m leaving SIBA in better hands than my own, and that feels really good,” said Jewell. “I couldn’t be more delighted.”

Barrett brings a strong strategic vision to the organization at a time when the book industry is adapting to a rapidly evolving environment. She writes, “During this very dynamic time in our industry, SIBA needs, more than ever, to offer programming that addresses current member needs. This means being in constant conversation with member bookstores to hear what’s happening ‘on the ground,’ looking outside our industry for opportunities, and considering new partnerships in communities, and regionally. My passion, and SIBA’s primary goal, is to give booksellers the tools they need to be successful and achieve their dreams. I’m so honored to be taking on this role and look forward to working with the SIBA Board and all our member bookstores to see what possibilities we can create together.”

Barrett was chosen in a unanimous decision after a robust, four-month-long search. “The SIBA Executive Director Search Committee has completed an exhaustive pursuit,” said Search Committee member Shane Gottwals of Gottwals Books in Byron, Georgia. “While we talked to many qualified and motivated candidates, it was abundantly clear that Linda-Marie Barrett is just the right person to lead SIBA. She knows the industry and can relate to the needs of core members in an unparalleled way.”

Barrett brings to the position of Executive Director thirty years’ worth of experience in the industry as a bookseller in all levels from frontline bookseller to senior buyer, manager, and co-owner of Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café in Asheville, North Carolina. While at Malaprop’s she played a leading role as a bookseller advocate and activist, and her op-ed piece responding to author boycotts of bookstores in the wake of North Carolina’s H.B.2 controversy was published in the New York Times.

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books and the former President of the American Booksellers Association wrote in support of Barrett’s selection, “My admiration for Linda-Marie runs deep. She possesses a rare core of qualities that will guarantee success in this new position; she’s incredibly organized, creative, entrepreneurial, and passionate about independent bookselling, and independent bookselling in the South, to be specific.”

Barrett is a past Board member of SIBA and has worked extensively with the American Booksellers Association, serving on the Bookseller Advisory Council and as a presenter at Winter Institute. For the past three years she has been SIBA’s Assistant Executive Director, responsible for much of the day to day operations of the organization. As Assistant Executive Director, Barrett spearheaded the development of SIBA’s online educational programming which has resulted in over a dozen webinars on a wide range of topics including Inventory Activism, Time Management, Podcasting, Managing Expenses, and Launching a Book Festival.

“SIBA stands like a beacon in the world of regional trade associations because of Wanda Jewell’s 30 years of dedication,” noted Gottwals. “Our new executive director has a mighty legacy to follow, but Linda-Marie Barrett has the skills and experience required to keep us shining brightly for many years to come.”

For more information contact SIBA at siba@sibaweb.com

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The Independent Bookseller launches education database

Posted By Nicki Leone, Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Independent Bookseller has launched a database which consolidates available education session resources from all regionals, ABA events, and individual booksellers.

It is grouped by topics such as "inventory," "diversity," "finances," and "operations,"  but can also be searched by keyword using the search field. Sessions are also organized by date, so newer materials will appear at the top of each section:

https://www.theindependentbookseller.com/education.html

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