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Based on a True Story: Fiction, Memoir, and Authenticity​, a EUREKAsiba talk by Erica ​Witsell

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Based on a True Story: Fiction, Memoir, and Authenticity, a EUREKAsiba talk by Erica Witsell

Where is the border between autofiction and memoir? Who has the right to tell which stories? Erica Witsell will discuss the limitations and freedoms of both genres, the works that inspired her, and her own novel’s transformation from memoir to fiction. She will also explore the question of authenticity in the age of identity politics and sectionality.

Witsell’s talk is part of SIBA in the Springtime (SITS) & EUREKAsiba, a program of bookseller education in an intimate format, designed to emphasize creative and innovative solutions to running a business. SITS takes place Monday, March 18 –Wednesday, March 20, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Atlanta Airport. Here’s a link to REGISTER!

Erica Witsell is the author of the novel Give, the story of one family’s troubled quest to redeem the mistakes of the past, and a testament to the bonds of sisterhood. Ron Rash praises, “Give is a striking, often unflinching, depiction of a doomed marriage and its enduring consequences. Erica Witsell is a very talented writer and her debut should garner a wide and appreciative audience."

Tags:  Bookseller education  eurekasiba  SITS 

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Share Your Great Idea from WI14!

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Share Your Great Ideas from WI14!

Many SIBA booksellers attended Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, participating in educational programming, author events and dinners, and networking forums. It was wonderful for SIBA staff to see familiar faces and check in on how things are going in your stores. We’d love you to share one (or more!) great idea or insight you gained from the WI experience. Is this something you’ll bring to your author events, your HR, your buying, or another area of your business, like tech tools for communicating with staff, working with publishers, or negotiating with your landlord? Please share your ideas with and we’ll compile all your great ideas into a future article in our newsletter, so that all SIBA booksellers can benefit and explore what might improve their stores. When possible, we’ll also build in education in our webinars and in-person events to bring more attention to topics of interest to you. Thank you for your help sharing knowledge!

Tags:  bookseller education  winter institute 

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Small Presses Present Their Spring & Summer Lists

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Small Presses Present Their Spring & Summer Lists


On Wednesday, Feb 20 at 2PM EST, SIBA is hosting “Small Presses Present their Spring & Summer Lists,” as part of our Publisher Picks: Best Bets for SIBA Booksellers series.  In this bi-monthly series, publishers, editors, marketing directors, and reps present their favorite frontlist titles via Zoom to booksellers. Besides forging important connections with publishers and their reps, attending booksellers will discover new titles to add to their store shelves and earn 10 B3! points. The following industry folks will present on 2/20: Michael Reynolds, Editor in chief of independent publisher, Europa Editions, Carin Siegfried, the Mid-Atlantic field sales representative at Macmillan, Emily Midkiff, editorial assistant and marketing director at Month9Books, Meg Reid, Director of Hub City Press, and Lynn York, publisher of Blair. Please RSVP to attend.


Edelweiss collection of presented titles

More information on our presenters:

Michael Reynolds is the Editor in chief of independent publisher, Europa Editions. He is the recipient of numerous industry awards, and has served on the jury for the PEN/Heim Translation Fund, the Gutekunst Prize for Young Translators, and the foreign jury of the Strega Prize. He is a regular speaker at the Columbia School of Journalism’s Columbia Publishing Course, and at publishing and translation conferences in America and internationally. He is the founder of Bookselling Without Borders, a scholarship program that diversifies the culture of reading by building bridges between the American bookselling community and the international book industry. He is also an author and a translator whose published translations include three historical mysteries by Carlo Lucarelli, and Viola Di Grado’s prize-winning novel, 70% Acrylic 30% Wool.

Carin Siegfried began working with books at the ripe old age of 17 with her college job in the Davidson College campus library and her summer job at the Vanderbilt University Bookstore. After graduation, she worked at Bookstar (a B&N), as a bookseller and shipping & receiving supervisor. She next moved to Ingram Book Company as a junior buyer and then decided to pursue work as an editor in New York. After five years in editorial at St. Martin’s Press, Carin got a job in sales at Baker & Taylor. After that, she worked as a freelance editor until she could move back to the New York area as the sales manager for Soho Press. She founded the Charlotte chapter of the Women's National Book Association and has served as the National President of the WNBA. She is currently the Mid-Atlantic field sales representative at Macmillan and lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

Emily Midkiff loves reading so much so that she got a PhD in children’s and YA literature. You don’t have to call her Dr. Midkiff, though. She just did it for the books! Emily especially adores fantasy and science fiction storytelling. She was a professional princess at a children’s theater for nine years, cosplays at fan conventions, and makes appearances at every available Renaissance Faire to fool everyone with her trusty goat puppet. At Month9Books, Emily applies her love of story to the roles of editorial assistant and marketing director.


Meg Reid is the Director of Hub City Press in Spartanburg, South Carolina. A book designer and editor, she also writes extensively about all areas of design. She holds an MFA in Nonfiction from University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she served as Assistant Editor of the literary magazine, Ecotone, and worked for the literary imprint Lookout Books.

Lynn York is the Publisher of Blair. In January 2018, the nonprofit Carolina Wren Press acquired the titles of John F. Blair, Publisher. The resulting press, based in Durham, NC, is named Blair. She is the author of two novels:  The Piano Teacher (Plume, 2004) and The Sweet Life (Plume, 2007), a Booksense Notable Book.  She holds a BA in English from Duke and an MBA/MA from University of TX Austin. She has taught workshops at Duke’s Osher Institute, NC State University, High Point University, and elsewhere. She has served on the Board of Directors of the NC Arts Council, the NC Art Society, and Carolina Wren Press.


Tags:  B3! Webinars  Bookseller education 

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B3! Webinar with Bryan E. Robinson: #Chill for Booksellers: Integrating a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, December 31, 2018

B3! Webinar with Bryan E. Robinson: #Chill for Booksellers: Integrating a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Wednesday, February 6, 2019⋅2:00 – 3:00pm


The cycle of 24/7 work addiction can be difficult to break, but according to Bryan E. Robinson, Ph. D., a licensed psychotherapist and mindfulness expert, it’s only a matter of reframing priorities and practicing mindfulness. Chilling is not something you do. It’s a mindset, a way of being in the world.

Bryan E. Robinson is the author of #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn On Your Life. In our webinar, he'll present his philosophy and some tools and exercises to reframe priorities, practice mindfulness, and break a cycle of work addiction. He'll also take your questions about challenges that come up for you and your workplace. Please RSVP to attend.

SIBA Booksellers praise Robinson's # Chill:

  • "Robinson's approach to workaholism comes from his own experience, so it is a compassionate and knowing approach to a subject that could otherwise get thorny. Still, you'll want to give it to your boss and your boss's boss, and anyone else whose own workaholism keeps you at your desk after hours."--Melanie McNair, former Director of Marketing and Events and Assistant Manager of Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe

  • "Bryan has combined best practices from psychology, meditation, and mindfulness to  create a guidebook for those struggling with work/life balance. Nearly every business owner I know could benefit from this book." --Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction



Tags:  B3! Webinars  Bookseller education 

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A Year of Education with SIBA

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Year of Education with SIBA

SIBA kicked off 2018 with EUREKAsiba in Atlanta. Modeled on TED-talks, this daylong series of presentations by booksellers, industry experts, musicians, and writers offered booksellers insights on a range of topics including “Taking Your Social Media to the Next Level” (Sarah Benoit, JB Media Institute), “Is Profit a Dirty Word?”(Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction), “A Self-Published Author Walks into Your Store...What Do You Do?” (Gordon McClellan, DartFrog),  “Sensual Marketing: Creating Intimacy Through Storytelling” (Gwyn Ridenhour, Matchbook Marketing), and “Big Mouth: Big Marketing” (Kelly Justice, Owner of Fountain Bookstore). Over 50 SIBA booksellers attended the inaugural EUREKAsiba. Registration for EUREKAsiba in 2019 opens on January 1st. Mark your calendar and save the date for March 18-20 in Atlanta!

SIBA enlisted Maribeth Pelly, event planner at Booktowne and independent marketing consultant, to present in two extremely popular webinars: “How to Pitch Your Store to Publishers” and “How to Prepare a Press Kit for Your Store.” As a bonus, Maribeth coached attendees at Book Expo, before their Publicist Speeddating events.

SIBA partnered with Sarah Benoit of JB Media Institute, who offered a three-month course “Social Media and Content Marketing” to SIBA booksellers. Those who attended, including SIBA staff,  raved about how it improved their social media efforts. We’ll keep you posted when another course opens.

In 2018 SIBA offered the following webinars:

  • Creating Community: Developing and Maintaining an Authors in School Program

  • Inventory Activism

  • Non-Traditional Bookstores: Hybrids, Pop-ups, and Non-Profits

  • Getting your Staff on Edelweiss

  • Bridging the Divide and The Open Discussion Project

  • Creating and Managing a Successful Online Sales Campaign

  • Avid Bookshop's Favorite Bookstore Forms, Documents, and Procedures

  • Partner with IngramSpark to Enhance Your Publishing and Marketing Services to Authors.

  • Priya Parker on the Art of Gathering for Booksellers.

  • The Art of the Pitch: Handselling Books & Sidelines to Customers

Many of these webinars were recorded. You can watch Maribeth Pelly’s webinars, and see some handy checklists for press kits here. Recordings of our other webinars are here, at the bottom of the page. We’re looking forward to presenting more webinars in 2019, beginning with Book Subscription Services on January 9, 2019. If you’re interested in attending, please email to reserve your spot. Attendance at any SIBA event-online or in person-gets you B3! points, which translate into $$ you can use towards future SIBA programming, to pay for tickets, registration fees, and more.

Much of our educational programming is made possible by SIBA booksellers, who present their best practices, tips, and great ideas to other booksellers. Thank you to everyone who presented in 2018. You offered so much and we really value and appreciate your time and effort. We’d love to hear from booksellers about any topics they’d like us to address in 2019. Please share your ideas by emailing

Tags:  B3! webinars  bookseller education 

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B3! Webinar: The Art of the Pitch: Handselling Books & Sidelines to Customers

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, October 1, 2018



B3! Webinar: The Art of the Pitch: Handselling Books & Sidelines to Customers

November 7 at 2PM, via Zoom!


Listening to customers, discerning their needs, and suggesting the best match is an art form that, when mastered, results in bigger and better sales. As we head into the biggest retail season of the year, what better time to listen to these veterans share their tips and tricks to profitably connect with your customers?


This webinar, for new booksellers learning the ropes, and veterans who seek a fresh look at handselling, offers tips and tricks from three experts: Toni Hetzel (sales representative at Penguin Random House), Caroline Green Christopoulus (gift and book buyer at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe), and Pete Mock (book buyer at McIntyre's Books). They’ll each present on a different aspect of hand selling/pitching, and take your questions during the second half of the webinar.


Toni (right) is a life-long reader starting with her school library and the library book mobile. She worked for 6 years for Chapter 11 Bookstores in Atlanta and has been a Random House sales rep for 18 years. She grew up in a small town in western North Carolina and currently lives in Decatur, GA with her husband, two kids, one dog, and three cats.


Caroline works at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, where she has been a bookseller for seventeen years and buyer for thirteen. She bought children's books for a number of years, and is now one of Malaprop's sidelines buyers and the consignment buyer. She and her husband live in Asheville and are proud foster parents. 


Pete calls them as he reads them. He came to McIntyre’s Books in 1995 and has developed a reputation for recommending lesser-known mystery authors and often-missed authors from other genres. He’s never short on opinions but is willing to back up what he has to say. Customers come in and call regularly to check on what he’s reading and make plans accordingly!


Please rsvp to reserve your spot in the webinar.

Tags:  B3! Webinars  Bookseller education 

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Priya Parker on the Art of Gathering for Booksellers: a fresh look on how to approach author events, book clubs, staff meetings, and more.

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Priya Parker on the Art of Gathering for Booksellers: a fresh look on how to approach author events, book clubs, staff meetings, and more. 

B3! Webinar with Priya Parker, author of "The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters"

Time: Wed, Oct 31 at 2pm via Zoom.


In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that we rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play.


Drawing on her expertise as a facilitator of high-powered gatherings around the world, Parker will discuss what works, what doesn't, and why. For booksellers hosting author events, book clubs, community gatherings, staff meetings, and more, this webinar offers an opportunity to hear from an expert, ask questions, and receive advice to enhance and improve this area of your business.


Please to attend.

Tags:  B3! Webinars  Bookseller education 

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On the Exhibits Stage at #SIBA18: The Rise of Alt Science Fiction & Fantasy

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Monday, September 3, 2018

On the Exhibits Stage at #SIBA18: The Rise of Alt Science Fiction & Fantasy

SFF is more than a one-trick unicorn: we are seeing a smart evolution in one of literature's most popular sub-orbital genres. Even if you don't read science fiction, it's hard to ignore the critical attention that the new crop of alt SFF is generating. Whether it's a foray into the mildly dystopic future, and exploration of Afrofuturism, a re-imagined world under some of the harshest authoritarian principals at work on Earth today, SF is edging so much closer to science faction. Alt SFF is worth paying attention to- so as we navigate an increasingly dystopic present day, how can your store foster informed escapism by recommending hottest new titles in the SFF scene, cultivating sales to lit lovers and genre readers alike? Don't miss this panel discussion on Friday (9/14) on the Exhibits Stage in the Inverness Ballroom from 11am-noon. 

Moderator: Caroline Perny, (Senior Publicist at HarperVoyager)
Nicky Drayden (Author of TEMPER and THE PREY OF GODS)
Lucia Drinkwalter (Bookseller at Flyleaf Books)
Beth Seufer Buss (Community Outreach and Bookstore Manager at Bookmarks)
Jessica Osborne (Bookseller at E. Shaver)




Tags:  #siba18  Bookseller education 

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B3! Webinar: Avid Bookshop's Favorite Bookstore Forms, Documents, and Procedures

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Friday, August 10, 2018


B3! Webinar: Avid Bookshop's Favorite Bookstore Forms, Documents, and Procedures


Join us on Wednesday, August 22 at 2pm for a B3! Webinar on Avid's Favorite Forms! Rachel Watkins, Communications Director at Avid Bookshop, will share her approach to organizing store operations, from creating better checklists and forms, to creating procedures for self-published authors, events, and daily operations. Avid Bookshop has found that clearly spelling out expectations for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks makes the bookshops run more smoothly and keeps booksellers on task. All of the forms Rachel will be referring to during the webinar are now in SIBA’s Peer Brain Trust under Working with Authors, Working with Groups and Events, and Working with Business Resources.

Rachel served as Avid Bookshop's first Events Director from October 2011-June 2017, then transitioned to Communications Director where she provides human resources, community outreach, employee relations, and public relations support. Born and raised in Mississippi, she came to Athens, Georgia for graduate work in the early 1990s. After ten years in Monterey, California, she moved home to Athens in 2005.

To RSVP or for more information, please contact Linda-Marie.


Tags:  Avid Bookshop  B3!Webinars  Bookseller education  Rachel Watkins 

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Old is New Again: Ten Lessons from the Retail Trenches

Posted By Linda-Marie Barrett, Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Old is New Again: Ten Lessons from the Retail Trenches

Michael J. Coles is a business executive, serial entrepreneur, education advocate, well-known public speaker, and the namesake of the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University. After almost two decades in the clothing business, he cofounded Great American Cookies in Atlanta in 1977 and built it into a multi-million dollar company and later served as CEO of Caribou Coffee. His new book, Time to Get Tough: How Cookies, Coffee and A Crash Led to Success in Business and Life, published by University of Georgia Pressoffers practical tips for retail, whether you are selling books, clothing, or coffee.

  1. A customer-centric equation will transform and sustain your businessWhile at Caribou Coffee, I created an equation that made me a success:  P + E + S = Ef (Product + Environment + Service = the Experience factor). This stood for Product + Environment + Service = the Experience factor. I had not taken algebra since high school, but I knew that if you changed any variable in an equation, the result will not be the same. I explained it to my team in this way: If you serve a great product, offer warm and friendly customer service, and have dirty counters or restrooms, you are not offering a superior customer experience. If you have a clean store, a great product, and terrible service, again your equation will yield an inferior result. If this happens with new customers, they will not come back. Existing customers might be more forgiving, but if the problems persist, they will stop coming as well. All three elements are critical—skimping on any one of them undermines the experience factor. Make sure the equation is working in every store, with every transaction.
  2. In the digital age, customers respond to, respect, and remember the personal touchTechnology is one of the most effective ways to reach customers, and if used wisely, it can replicate the warmth of face-to-face contact that has defined exemplary customer service over the past century. The companies that have used technology in thoughtful and creative ways to serve their customers will continue to thrive in the digital marketplace.
  3.  Hire and train well. The employee who cares only about getting paid tends not to pay attention to all the other things that help build customer satisfaction and loyalty. Once hired, train them well. For years we had trained our associates at Great American Cookies from behind the counter—showing them all the mechanics of how to make the cookies, handle the food safely, clean the store, ring up purchases. We realized that if you are only showing your employees the experience from one vantage point, you have a missed opportunity to serve your customer. So we put them on the other side of the counter as well, to let them understand the shopper's viewpoint. We wanted them to see what a good cookie looked like and what it was like to encounter a welcoming employee. We had each employee and trainee bake a batch of cookies, and we lined them up on the counter. Then we asked them all to pick the best batch—so they could see what was overbaked, underbaked, or, like in "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," just right. This, the training emphasized, was the cardinal rule: If you burn a batch of cookies, you throw them away. You do not worry more about food cost than about quality. No customer has a contract to come back—you have to make sure you sell the very best product you can.
  4.  Trust your employees and give them the opportunity to do their best work for you. Few businesses invest in human capital in the way that they should, with professional development, opportunities for growth, and a meaningful reward system. Even fewer companies use the most important and cheapest tool in their arsenal—communication. The more you communicate to your associates and colleagues, the clearer the road map, and the more effective your company will be.
  5.  Never take your customers for grantedOne Saturday when I was working at Dorwins, a clothing shop in Miami Beach, the owner, Irving Settler, and I were closing after a particularly successful day. I turned to him and said, "These customers love us. We own them.” He shot back, "Kid, the minute you think you own any customer is the day you lose your business. Remember, there are fifty companies standing in the wings waiting to take your business from you. Never get cocky and think that you have a contract with a customer. They can always shop somewhere else if you don't give them the product and the price and the customer service they deserve."
  6.  The biggest mistake most businesses make is keeping incompetent people far too long. If they are not working out, you have to either let them go or retrain and reassign them. I am fiercely loyal to my colleagues, but it is not good for the employee, the coworkers, or the company to keep an underperformer on the payroll without corrective action. I also learned from this experience that hiring and firing decisions in business really affect people's lives and should not be made casually.
  7.  Have a clear mission and vision statement, and make sure your team is fully committed to it. If your associates cannot explain the importance of your company's mission and why it resonates with customers, you have some work to do. If you are leading a company and discover that there is nobody behind you, you are just out for a stroll.
  8.  Find a mentor and take their advice. One of my first companies, Pant-O-Mine failed because I did not heed my mentor’s advice. Irving Settler had taught me as a teenager in Miami Beach to learn everything you can about your business. I was good at marketing and merchandising, but I did not pay enough attention to the bottom line, and the company had to file for Chapter 11 reorganization. I also realized that you have to honestly face the role you played in a crisis. Admitting failure requires digging deep to find strength that you may be surprised you have. I left Pant-O-Mine certain of one thing. If I ever went back into business for myself, I would make mistakes—probably a lot more of them—but I would never make the same mistake twice.
  9.  Failure and crises are great teachersWhen we opened our second Great American Cookie store, we expected to surpass the monthly sales for $15,000 at our first store. But in our first week at Greenbriar Mall, we did only $2,000 worth of business. We gave away samples beyond our lease line just as we did at Perimeter Mall. We had cookie cakes in the glass showcase. There was three times the foot traffic, but we had far fewer customers. What was happening? I had to find out fast, because we were doing the one thing a new business cannot afford—bleed money. The crisis at Greenbriar forced me to turn all of my attention to that store, and efficiency and customer service became the key to the company’s success.  
  10. The most powerful thing I learned during my time at Caribou was not to rest on your laurels. Even if you deliver a great product and experience, do not assume it will age gracefully. Be prepared to test it, find its weak spots, and use that knowledge to improve it on a continuous basis. The four keys to success are information, innovation, implementation, and improvement. The last one is the one that most businesses forget. You have to constantly make your product, service, and environment better so your experience factor never gets stale.

Tags:  Bookseller education  customer service 

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