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Storymatic Studios: Say Yes to Your Imagination

Posted By Nicki Leone, Tuesday, November 5, 2019

What made you decide to come to the SIBA Discovery Show?

Storymatic StudiosWe wanted to continue meeting people from stores in the South. SIBA was at the top of our list when we were figuring out our fall schedule. We’re glad we could make it too Spartanburg, because SIBA offers so many good opportunities to get to know people.

Did it meet your expectations?

Yes! We’re based in Vermont, and when we first did SIBA (New Orleans, 2017) we barely had a presence in the South. We are now carried in quite a few shops throughout the South, and it’s much easier for customers to find our products. I’m glad we could return this year.

What did you learn from attending the show?

I learn a lot at every show, but I think what I especially like about SIBA and other regional book shows is that you get to meet so many people who are passionate about the importance of bookstores. I like to learn about the history of each store, and about how people came to own or work in the store. Bookstores usually come with a lot of history, and they are run by people who care deeply about their communities. The Haunted Book Shop, for example. I really liked talking with Angela about how she ended up running the store, which has such a rich history in Mobile.

I also continued to learn about how stores incorporate sidelines into their product mix. I can’t remember the exact percentage, but someone told me that around 25% of their sales come from non-book items. Storymatic is a fun, literate sideline, and it was interesting to talk with people who are just beginning to diversify their offerings to include more than books. 

Why do you think the independent bookstore market is important?

Independent bookstores have importance that goes way beyond the economic impact they have within their communities. Books change people’s lives. I have a ton of respect for independent bookstores. Indies pay rent, employ people, and make important contributions to society. It’s important to me that customers can find Storymatic in actual bookstores around the country, that they can hold it in their actual hands, and that they can buy it from an actual person. When you work or shop in an independent bookstore, you have experiences and interactions you cannot have online. You gain knowledge that cannot be transmitted through fiber optic cable. You make memories and friends you cannot make online. Bookstores are very, very important.

On a personal note, when I was 16, I started working at Railroad Street Books in Great Barrington, MA. The store is long gone, but it made a huge difference in my life. I worked there off-and-on through college, and I’m grateful for that experience. Being around books and readers helped me begin to think of myself as a reader and writer. Working in the bookstore gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to run a community-based business. Often, when I package up an order for a bookstore, I imagine a younger version of myself at the other end of the shipment, opening it and showing it to a customer. 

Storymatic StudiosDescribe Storymatic Studios and how it got started

I made the first Storymatic several years ago while leading a fiction workshop at Marlboro College in Vermont. I then took that first Storymatic to my high school classes at The Putney School Summer Programs. I added to that first Storymatic year by year, class by class. All the while, students told me I should make more than one Storymatic, because they wanted to buy it and use it outside of class with their friends and families. Finally, I took their advice. Really, if it weren't for the excitement and support of my students, there would be no Storymatic.

After the first Storymatic came out, parents started asking me to make one for younger kids. So I took their advice and made Storymatic Kids. Even though it’s called Kids, it’s great for all ages.

And then my poetry and memoir students started going, “Hey, what about us? Where’s the poetry one? Where’s the memoir one?” So I modified some of the memory prompts we use in those classes to make Rememory, which helps you recall and share moments from your own life.

I thought I was pretty much done at that point, but then students started asking me why I hadn’t done anything with one prompt that involves writing sentences that mix up your senses, and another prompt where people ask questions about your story and you have to give an answer, even if it’s about something you’ve never considered before. That’s how Synapsis came out. It gives you a different way to make up stories.

So now we have four different products that help people explore their imaginations and memories. I think it’s important to do that. Stories keep our minds nimble. Inventing characters can help build a sense of empathy. I’d like to see a little more imagination and empathy in the world.

We’re based in Brattleboro, Vermont. We have a lovely little space in an old mill, alongside a variety of small, independent businesses.

The “we” that I keep mentioning is me and my wife, the photographer Vaune Trachtman. Sometimes people think Storymatic has a bunch of people. But it’s really just me and Vaune.


What are your newest products for the holiday season?


It’s a conversational, somewhat improvisational way to open doors to your imagination. In Synapsis, you’re prompted to turn two or three words into a sentence, which you pretend comes from a certain kind of story. Then you answer questions about that story and begin to flesh things out. I love how in just a few minutes you can go from a couple of random words to knowing all about the characters, settings, motivations, and arc of a story. 

You can use Synapsis by yourself as a writing prompt, or you can make an evening of it with your friends. It’s super adaptable, so you can make your own ways to play. I like how Synapsis offers a different way of thinking about how stories are created, so it can be a little challenging at first. But challenges are good things.  We like to think of Synapsis as being a little box of Yes.

Who should booksellers contact if they want to place an order?

You can contact me directly at or leave a message at 802-451-0050. Thanks!

Tags:  #siba19 

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B3! Webinar: An Introduction to Bookshop, a new online bookseller

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, November 5, 2019

On Wednesday, December 4 at 2PM EST, Andy Hunter, CEO and Founder of Bookshop and Sarah High, Bookseller Liaison, will discuss Bookshop, its mission, and how it will partner with independent bookstores. The session will also provide time for your questions about the program and how you can benefit. Set to launch in January 2020, Bookshop is an online bookstore with an explicit mission to help promote and financially support the brick-and-mortar bookselling community. Built in collaboration with the ABA, independent booksellers, Ingram, and some of their favorite book and magazine publishers, Bookshop will be a way for websites, authors, indie stores, magazines, and bookstagramers to easily promote and purchase the books they love online without driving sales to Amazon.


Please RSVP if you'd like to attend the webinar. 



Tags:  B3! Webinars  Bookshop 

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SIBA19: "This is what I want to spend my life doing"

Posted By Cat VanOrder, Bookmarks, Monday, November 4, 2019
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2019

First, I’d like to thank the Reba & Dave Scholarship for allowing me to attend SIBA wherein I was able to experience a scene of community and belonging like I’ve never felt before. Second, I’d like to thank the independent booksellers, reps, and authors that are a part of that community, for making me feel entirely welcome, because that’s what my entire experience was. Like stepping into a home of a friend and knowing that no matter what, you belong there. I learned that independent booksellers absolutely do not care about showing vulnerability, that they will always reach down a hand instead of pulling up the ladder. 
I had never been to anything like this before, at least definitely not on this scale, that made me more positive than I had been before that this was what I want to spend my life doing. Helping my community connect and grow through the words and worlds of the authors that rely on, and support us the way we support them. That was something I hadn’t expected, or thought about; just how much independent booksellers mean to authors, but after hearing literally every author that spoke bring it up, it’s very much in the forefront of my mind now. A grave responsibility to be sure.

The roundtables were a bit of a conglomeration of my favorite things from SIBA coming together, in that it was where I truly got a good helping of knowledge from those determined to make sure we all succeed. From learning more about Ipage, which I thought I had known a lot about already (I hadn’t even scratched the surface), to learning how to up our display game, I came home with a ton of ideas that I immediately hopped on trying to figure out how to make it all happen, and I’m very excited for it all.

From the panels where I learned how to help make Independent Bookstore day a success, to the authors I chatted with that want to help make our Teen Advisory Council have some pretty cool meetings and events in the future, I’d say I achieved the goals I had going in. I connected with the people I wanted to, the people I didn’t expect to, and I made so many friends and opened up in a way that was incredibly shocking for myself. I explored the exhibition floor mostly on my own and found a ton of arcs to take home and review, and felt entirely comfortable doing it, like I was making an impact of my own. I came home from SIBA that Sunday knowing full well what I was going to be doing and why I was doing it, helping my fellow booksellers bring Bookmarks into a bright future for our community.
~Cat VanOrder, Bookmarks, NC

Tags:  #siba19 

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2020 Southern Book Prize Finalists

Posted By Nicki Leone, Friday, November 1, 2019

Announcing the 2020 Southern Book Prize Finalists

Southern Book PrizeSouthern independent booksellers have selected the finalists for the 2020 Southern Book Prize, representing bookseller favorites from 2019 that are Southern in nature—either about the South, or by a Southern writer. Nominations were submitted by bookstore members of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) and culled from books that have received strong reviews from Southern booksellers. The sixteen finalists which received the highest number of nominations are a collection of the most beloved “hand sells” in fiction, nonfiction and children’s literature of the year.

The finalists are now placed on the 2020 Southern Book Prize ballot. Winners in each category will be chosen by popular vote from readers who support Southern independent bookstores. Participating bookstores will distribute ballots to their customers, which can be returned to be entered into a raffle to win a complete set of the finalist titles. An online ballot will also be available at

Voting opens the week of the Love Your Bookstore Challenge, November 8-17, building on the momentum of the grassroots campaign to encourage book buying at local bookstores and giving store customers chances to win more prizes. Voting will run from November 8 through February 1, 2020.

2020 is the second year the Southern Book Prize has been opened up to a popular vote. SIBA launched the public ballot for the 2019 prize, shifting the voting period to build momentum and excitement during the holiday season.

“The response from our member stores and the general public was overwhelming,” said SIBA Executive Director Wanda Jewell. “Everyone got involved – booksellers, readers, authors – in the end nearly 3500 ballots were submitted from all over the South. It was a wonderful affirmation of how important and beloved our member bookstores are to their communities.”

Southern Book Prize winners will be announced on February 14, Valentine’s Day.

2020 Southern Book Prize Finalists

The Dutch House The Magnetic GirlNever Have I EverThe Nickel BoysNothing to See HereThis Tender Land


Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson (William Morrow)
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (Ecco)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Harper)
The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler (Hub City Press)
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books)

The Furious HoursI Miss You When You BlinkLate MigrationsSouthern Lady CodeTell Me a Story


Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy by Cassandra King (William Morrow)
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis (Doubleday)
Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss by Margaret Renkl (Milkweed Editions)
I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott (Atria Books)
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep (Knopf)

The Gilded WolvesHum and SwishI Will BE FierceThe King of KindergartenRayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee


Hum and Swish by Matt Myers (Neal Porter Books)
Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner (Crown Books for Young Readers)
I Will Be Fierce by Bea Birdsong (Roaring Brook Press)
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Wednesday Books)
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes (Nancy Paulsen Books)


For more information contact:
Wanda Jewell, Executive Director
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance


Tags:  southern book prize 

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Posted By Nicki Leone, Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Edelweiss+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 to be added.

The Deep In the Dream House Why We Can't Sleep In a Jar 

9781534439863 The Deep 11/5/2019
"This book's concept is absolutely mind-boggling to me, having never heard of Drexciya or Clipping before now. It's incredible, and I hope this game of "artistic Telephone" does continue - imagine this as a film! The world of the wajinru is fascinating and I would love to learn more about the society they've created for themselves, especially how it functions after the ending of the book.This book is a must for anyone interested in history and trauma and how they affect communities lifetimes later." -- Kaley Lowman, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

9781644450031 In the Dream House 11/5/2019
"I have never read a book quite like IN THE DREAM HOUSE: fragmented, yet shatteringly cohesive, experimental, yet utterly confident in its own project. I was mesmerized by the subtly devastating force of Machado’s craft and could barely put the memoir down. (In fact, I will probably re-read it as soon I finish writing this review.) IN THE DREAM HOUSE is both heartbreakingly honest—grounded in Machado’s lived trauma—and breathtaking in its examination of queerness, abuse, and societal memory.Part poetry and part socio-cultural analysis, yet wholly personal, IN THE DREAM HOUSE is one of the bravest literary projects I have encountered, and should be required reading for every one of us."-- Zach Claypole White, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

9780802147851 Why We Can't Sleep 1/7/2020
"I cannot say enough about this book! I want everyone to read it! Gen-X women are having a unique menopausal experience in the history of humanity. As the generation raised to “have it all”, Gen-X women born from about 1965-1980 are dealing with a set of circumstances unlike Boomers and Millennials about whom much more has been studied. The last generation to not “get a trophy” for everything is feeling like a failure at midlife. A lot of women my age and those around them are being profoundly affected by the issues studied by Calhoun: credit card debt, divorce, underemployment, exhaustion, profound anxiety. And we are being told to “lean in”, take “me time”, “tidy up” and a host of other suggestions usually just another way to sell us stuff based on our fears. This easy to read book offers practical suggestions, but more than that: it offers the voices of other women in the same place, dealing with the same issues, providing a much needed source of empowerment for Gen-X women like myself and those who love us. " -- Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA

9780525514596 In a Jar 1/21/2020
"My little sister was a collector, like Llewellyn. The corners of our shared bedroom were dotted with pinecones, rocks, and our books were filled with pressed leaves and flowers. I love the sweet premise and absolutely gorgeous illustrations of IN A JAR and I know our littlest readers will too. This is the kind of picture book I will want everyone I know to spend a moment with." -- Cristina Russell, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

More bookseller reviews

Tags:  Edelweiss 

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What's on Lady Banks' Bookshelf in November?

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

SIBA promotes six new books every month to consumers in our Lady Banks Bookshelf promotion. These titles appear at the top of our weekly Lady Banks Commonplace Book newsletter, which has a circulation of over 60k.  We also feature them above the fold on the homepage of Authors ‘Round the South and on the cover image of the ARTS Facebook page with buy links promoted to our 15,000 Facebook friends. A different member store is featured with the titles every week.


By promoting through Lady Banks, publishers are making an investment in SIBA member bookstores’ attention and market. SIBA works with them to select titles customers are looking for, and then we drive those customers to SIBA member stores.  Booksellers can boost sales by bringing in Lady Banks Bookshelf titles before the month begins, and putting up a winning display. Send in a photo of your display and earn 20 B3! points, too!

 November Titles:

The Monster Hypothesis by Romily Bernard 

The Rib Joint: A Memoir in Essays by Julia Koets

When Silence Sings by Sarah Loudin Thomas

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

Charlie Hernandez & The Castle of Bones by Ryan Calejo 

The Feminist Handbook: Practical Tools to Resist Sexism and Dismantle the Patriarchy by Joanne L. Bagshaw 

Link to the Edelweiss Collection



Tags:  lady banks bookshelf 

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Would you like to host a gathering during our March Madness Bookseller Series?

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

In 2020, we're transforming our SIBA in the Springtime (SITS) into the March Madness Bookseller Series (MMBS). Might we add another acronym, CYOA, as booksellers may decide to attend multiple events, depending on programming and proximity to host stores.


SIBA’s goal is to have gatherings within 2-3 hours driving distance of all member stores. These one-day gatherings will take place between March 9-20, and run from 10am-3pm with an author luncheon. Morning and afternoon programming will focus on education. 

Would you like your store to be considered as a host store? If so, what kind of educational programming would you want to present to visiting booksellers? What is your store doing really well that you'd like to show off to inspire others? We’d love to hear from you!

Please email  if you’re interested and we'll see what we can work out!

Tags:  bookseller education  MMBS  SITS 

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Joe's Place, a bookstore in Greenville, SC, is for sale

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Joe's Place, a truly beautiful bookstore in Greenville, SC featuring new and used books, coffee, a wine bar, and local art is up for sale.

From the owners:

It has been over five years since we first opened Joe’s Place. This opportunity allowed us to meet incredible people and have some wonderful experiences with them.

While it has been an incredible journey, after much consideration we have decided to close Joe’s Place at the end of this year. This decision is mainly driven from a personal perspective since we both turned 60 this year and are now focusing on moving towards our retirement. 

We are in the process of listing the property for sale but would also be very interested in selling the business and /or the assets. The building is being listed by Deanna Hudgens, owner of Signature Commercial Properties LLC. She can be reached through email at or phone 864-517-4600.

Thank you,

Mary & Alix Bernard

Joe's Place Bookstore
2 Williams Street
Greenville, SC 29601

Tags:  bookstore for sale 

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SIBA19: "Making real connections that last"

Posted By Kristen Iskandrian, Thank You Books, Monday, October 28, 2019
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2019

I wanted to enclose some thoughts about my experience at the conference, before too much time passed. To me it was superlatively organized and well-run. I've been on the planning end of conferences and events and I know first-hand how tricky it can be to address all logistics, and from my perspective, as a participant, everything felt very smooth and efficient.

Friday's lunch panel--spontaneous, lively, heartfelt, intelligent--featuring Kimberly, Gilly, Julie, Charlaine, and Akilah--was a definite standout. I loved the panelists' rapport with one another, their diverse backgrounds/writing interests, and their interactions with the audience. 

The discussion between Sharon Robinson and Peggy Wallace Kennedy was momentous and very moving. It was a privilege to witness an event that felt both historical and urgent to our cultural(ly divided) moment.

All of the author lunches and dinners were wonderful. I'm an author, too (Motherest, Twelve/Hachette 2017), and a reader first and foremost, and I loved getting to wear both of those hats, plus my newest, that of a bookstore owner, while listening to debut and seasoned authors discuss their books, their journeys, and their experiences with bookstores. It was affirming to be reminded, time and again, the pivotal role independent bookstores play both in shaping authors' careers and in cultivating culture, discussion, and community. Saturday night's dinner was especially emotional--Jaquira Diaz brought me to tears, and Isaac Fitzgerald kept everyone laughing. 

The trade floor was a dizzying dream. We were thrilled to meet in person our reps, who we'd been emailing with for weeks. We came away with dozens of ARCs and galleys that we've been gobbling up since returning home. It was great to put faces to names, and to take in such great swaths of the publishing landscape.

Lastly, I'll say that the conversations that I had with other booksellers, veterans and newbies, were SO helpful and heartening. Real connections were made that I believe will last. I feel buoyed by the time I spent in Spartanburg, determined to make our store the best it can be, and eager to join such a thriving community. The timing couldn't have been better--we're looking at an early-to-mid November grand opening, so it was a perfect way to reflect, prepare, and brave (joyfully!) for what's ahead.

Thanks again for the chance to attend--it's something we'll look forward to year after year. Best of luck to you as you head into the next chapter.
~Kristen Iskandrian, Thank You Books, AL

Tags:  #siba18 

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Have you ordered extra gift cards for the holidays?

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Friday, October 25, 2019

Have you ordered extra gift cards for the holidays? They are one of the easiest, and often most pleasing to the recipient, gifts your customers can give to friends and family. 

The trend this year shows an increase in gift card purchasing. The ABA’s IndieCommerce staff reports, “In the first three quarters of 2019, IndieCommerce stores saw a 20% increase in gift card sales compared to the same period in 2018. The average purchase price of a gift card also increased, from $48 to $50. With the majority of gift card purchases taking place between November 1 and December 31, now is the time for your store to promote gift card sales to your customers by email, prominent banners on your website, and social media promotions. This is the perfect way for your customers to support independent booksellers.”


Whether your store uses gift cards that run through your POS, or paper cards filled out by hand, now's a great time to take an inventory of your supply and put in any necessary reorders.

Tags:  gift cards  holidays 

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