In this guest post, University of Washington Press exhibits, advertising, and direct mail manager Katherine Tacke writes about moderating a panel with independent booksellers at the recent 2016 AAUP Financial Officers Meeting, held from April 13-15 in Seattle.
Before coming to the press to work in marketing, I sold books and coordinated events at a small indie bookstore. I sometimes miss the thrill of the new Tuesday releases, carrying teetering piles of used books, searching for a book for a customer that had “a blue cover with a person in water,” and holding events with people stretched out the door. Now that I’m on the other side of the book biz, I realize the extent to which our press relies on our local booksellers. They are devoted readers. They have curatorial prowess. They are ambassadors for university press books.
This year the annual AAUP Financial Officers Meeting was held in our lovely book city and I was happy to have the chance to lead a panel of local booksellers in a discussion of all of the things independent bookshops do on behalf of publishers.
We were lucky to have four brilliant and experienced booksellers on our panel who have been working with books in Seattle (and Bellingham!) for years. Each one brought a unique contribution, and we discussed everything from selling university press books on commission (which is a good way to work with short discounts and return windows), to how to use the resources of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, to tips for collaborating with bookstores to hold events at museums or cultural venues. Booksellers hold positions on our advisory board, and in many instances we seek the advice from the shops because they have their finger on the pulse of the book world and our specific community.
Most heartening of all was the unanimous praise from the panel: “We LOVE university press books!”
A lot of this information is commonplace in marketing circles, but was new material for an audience of business managers who are often more focused on rolled-up sales figures and organizational budgets than they are on the details from the shops. But there were many relevant crossover points: short discounts make special orders difficult, return windows could be longer, and some price points are hard to sell. But more than that, the booksellers illustrated not only all the consideration and hard work that goes into choosing and selling press books, but all of the extra steps they take to offer excellent customer service, going above and beyond to provide their readers with the easiest way to purchase press books. Combined, the area bookstores have hundreds upon hundreds of events each year and regularly work with sales reps and publicists to highlight press books.
At the end of the session, it was clear presses and independent retailers share the same goals: to disseminate knowledge, to champion underrepresented voices, and to encourage creative and critical thinking through reading. And that’s why we LOVE independent bookstores!