Refueling Ideas and Enthusiasm at This Year's SIBA in the Springtime! by Michelle Cavalier, owner of Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, LA
I almost don’t want to tell you about how great SIBA in the Springtime and EUREKAsiba is because, here’s the thing, one of the best parts about this event is how intimate it is. But I also really, really want you to come next year so we can get to know each other, so here goes!
We started off on Monday with a bus tour of Atlanta area stores. I did the bus tour in Tampa as well, and this is genuinely the best way to spend a day! You are on a bus with a bunch of book nerds visiting your colleagues, learning best practices, and gossiping about which authors are most fun to host. And y’all, we even had the best ever story time at Little Shop of Stories (I tried to hire our reader, Ms. Hannah, away from the shop, but she was steadfast in her loyalties). I did, fortunately/unfortunately, spend all my money at the five bookshops we visited, but luckily on Tuesday I was refueled with ideas and enthusiasm to go back to my bookselling life with enough EUREKA moments to recoup my investment (plus, I have all those cool books)! Quick note of thanks to Southern Fried Karma for hosting our bus tour!
Back to the hotel for a dinner celebrating the Southern Book Prize. We got to hear from Will Walton (oh, you remember, you fell in love with him when he hosted a dinner in Tampa and of course, you read his books) and Jo Watson Hackl, our kids prize winner! Jo spoke about how her own upbringing in a ghost town inspired her debut novel, Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe, and also outlined the many resources she has available for helping kids delve deeper into her work and the world at large. Seriously, from treasure hunts to a classroom empathy exercise – this is an author after my own heart.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Tuesday morning, we entered the ABA’s session on pre-order campaigns. My biggest take away here is that you’ve got to be creative! Through the ABA’s hard work, the pubs are getting behind us and supporting pre-order campaigns with swag, signed copies, and exclusives but we must engage our customers with pre-orders in the same way we would with in stock handselling. Did you know that up to 30% of a book’s total sales can come from preorders? Yeah, we gotta get in on that. Second take away, complete the ABACUS form, you guys! Oren and Joy went through the data with us and it is so helpful! The percentage breakdown allows you to assess what is happening in other stores, and ideas that may boost your business (like the growing percentage of nonbook, which does make my heart die a little, but facts are facts). We also had lunch with the ABA for the spring forum. The access we have to the heads of this national organization is unparalleled and during this event we have the opportunity to advocate for new ideas, to get questions answered, and to find new ways to be involved. Whether you want to be on the Indies Introduce team, are looking to host a Well-Read Black Girl book club, have questions about how indie commerce sites work, it is all open to discussion here.
But what you really came here for were the Eureka talks, right? We heard from twelve speakers (and two musicians!) full of enthusiasm and innovation. Our TBRs exploded, our ideas grew and were challenged, we laughed, we cried, we were validated by the very idea of moral injury (f*ck burnout, am I right?). I couldn’t possibly summarize it here for you. Many of the talks were recorded and will be shared, but there is definitely something about the experience of being there in the room with an engaged group of your peers that defies summary. So, here’s the part where I urge you to join us next year! I’ll be there, along with another group of inspiring speakers in our industry. I promise you will experience one of those EUREKAsiba moments; it happens to all of us (I mean, John bought a button maker immediately after seeing how much fun and profit the owners of Underground Books had with theirs!). I think I’m reaching my word count max here, but I’ll tell you this one last thing: books! The event is capped by author signings and a dinner that includes talks and readings (and this time, a game of Never Have I Ever) that is a great way to wrap up. You will leave so ready to recommend all the books and implement all the ideas – your customers and staff won’t know what hit ‘em!