The new independent booksellers associations of the Atlantic and the South (NAIBA and SIBA) launched a combined virtual fall conference on September 27, marking the second year in a row that the two organizations have joined forces to offer educational programming, author readings and buzz choices for editors. .
Dubbed “New Voices, New Rooms,” the opening day of the conference showcased bookstore expertise from the opening keynote to the day’s closing educational meeting for small bookstores. The event began with a panel featuring authors Sesali Bowen, Imani Perry, and Jason Reynolds in a discussion of being black in America.
Ramunda Young, co-owner of MahoganyBooks in Washington DC, moderated the open conversation, which reflected the rise of her bookstore among independent bookstores as much as it deepened the experiences and thoughts of the panelists.
Perry led the way, praising the bookstore in his opening remarks. “The first time I was in MahoganyBooks, I literally wandered around with my mouth wide open and my eyes were on tears,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful space.
From there, the conversation crossed regions, age groups, and spoke of a writer’s life for each of the three authors as Blacks in America today. Reynolds spoke about the underlying themes he hopes to share with black youth when they read his books. “I’m still trying to figure out how to make sure they understand that we already exist in a place of abundance, that we exist in a place of surplus, that we are more than equipped and more than sufficient, more than competent in anyway, despite some of the physical challenges and resource issues that we can have in some cases, ”Reynolds said.
Bowen discussed the decade-long process of developing the ideas behind his next Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from a Trap Feminist (Amistad, Oct), which received a star review from PW, telling readers that her interest in looking behind the stigma of misogyny applied to Trap music has led her to broader reflections on feminism that coincide with the rise of rappers like Meghan Thee Stallion.
After the speech, the booksellers guided each other through a series of educational sessions, starting with an overview of the new Professional Bookseller Certification that was developed by NAIBA Executive Director Eileen Dengler. The program offers advanced courses for booksellers, and the conference featured an upcoming course on school book fairs. Booksellers Molly Olivo of Child’s Play Books and Toys in Washington DC, and Maribeth Pelly of BookTowne in Manasquan, NJ led the session, which provided an in-depth look at how booksellers can harness book fairs.
Olivo encouraged booksellers to approach school book fair committees with confidence, which can be difficult, but is necessary when developing relationships with schools. “You can say no,” Olivo told the more than 50 attendees. “Your instincts are better than theirs because you actually know better. There will be titles they are right about, but you don’t have to take every book they ask for. Your curation is the reason they came to you. So trust your instinct and your conservation skills.
During the afternoon sessions, 12 small-group roundtables awaited booksellers on a range of topics, and confidence was again at the forefront during a roundtable on hand-selling. many booksellers are still adjusting in new ways due to the pandemic and the – and expected – shortages of titles before the holidays.
Kimberly Daniels from The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, NC facilitated the sessions with Anna Weber, from White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Both gave basic advice to booksellers, starting with Daniels’ saying: “Making eye contact is essential”.
“I don’t care how nervous you are,” she said. “Make eye contact and if you’re too nervous to say hello you might want to work on that. If you are on the [sales] ground, make that eye contact.
From there, the two booksellers gave advice on building shelves, tackling the challenges of recommending books to readers of genres that a bookseller may be less familiar with, and asking questions that help a bookseller discern. what to recommend overall.
Asking the duo for tips, a bookseller wrote that they had worked for eight days. Both facilitators encouraged them to stay confident that their skills will develop over time, and to approach clients with ease, even though they may not be familiar with all the books at hand.
The conference continues throughout the week, including independent annual meetings for the two associations on September 30, the “Vindies” top video conference awards and a closing speech on October 1.