In my last post, I shared some of the most useful tips I’ve compiled over the last four years or so (yes, it has taken me that long to open a physical storefront; no, I wouldn’t trade that timeline, as I’ve learned so much). To summarize that post, the three indispensable tips for prospective booksellers are:
1) Join the American Booksellers Association (ABA)
2) Sign up for the Paz & Associates program “Owning a Bookstore Workshop Retreat”
3) Connect with your community.
In this the first of three follow-up posts, I’ll explain a little more about why joining the ABA helped me so much.
Join the American Booksellers Association & your regional association.
The ABA is made up of hundreds of independently-owned bookstores across the world.
Once you become an ABA member, you will find that the ABA truly does what a great trade organization should: it represents you and always keeps in mind the best interest of independent booksellers. The ABA staff are extremely well-versed in bookselling, business, advocacy, web development, marketing, financial aspects of business, commercial leases, PR, free speech, and more. While joining the ABA would behoove any bookstore owner, actually becoming involved with the ABA can make a world of difference.
Since my first time meeting ABA staff in person at Book Expo America (BEA) in 2008, I have kept in touch with them and have attended any and all educational sessions I could make it to. During these trainings and workshops, I’ve gotten a chance to get to know some of the bookselling superstars, people who own amazingly successful stores.
To my happiness, all the booksellers I meet at ABA and SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) have offered to help me in my role as a prospective bookseller in any way they can. Being able to call or email any one of these people is an ABA benefit beyond belief—can you imagine having access to the most successful people in your industry, people who actually want to set aside time to make sure you also succeed?
Once you’re an established member of ABA, the benefits are numerous. You can read all about what the ABA does on its website. I at first thought there was no point in joining until I had a storefront open, but I have learned my lesson and hope you’ll heed my advice. If you’re strongly exploring the option of opening your own independent bookstore, one of your first steps should be to join ABA and/or your regional association today.