Among the many players in the book business, I would argue that independent presses and independent bookstores are perhaps the most closely aligned in terms of their goals and mission. For both of us, working to make sure that readers and book buyers have access to the widest possible range of authors’ voices and viewpoints is at the heart of what we do every day. From the perspective of both indie publishers and booksellers, there are many facets to this endeavor—from acquisition and editing to in-store promotions and passionate hand-selling. But there is one fundamental issue that, I fear, is often overlooked. It is not the most glamorous aspect of our business, but the dissemination of timely and accurate information about trade terms is absolutely critical. The simple fact is that when booksellers do not have that information readily at hand, titles will not be ordered and bookstores’ shelves will not reflect the full scope of the wonderful titles being published by indie presses. As the American Booksellers Association’s CEO, this issue is very much on my mind because ABA has recently significantly upgraded one of our core bookstore member services: the ABA Book Buyer’s Handbook (BBH). The BBH is a fully searchable online directory that provides indie bookstores key ordering and related information—the actionable, essential details that answers booksellers’ questions and fuel orders. Member stores continue to tell us that it is one of the most important services ABA offers. Several years ago, we launched an online version of the BBH, given the important role it plays in stores’ operations, ABA has committed significant resources to improving and updating the underlying technology of the BBH. With that in mind, we have also added staff to expand our outreach to publishers of all sizes to make sure we maintain the most accurate and up-to-date data as possible. But the updated BBH is only as good as the information it contains, which brings me to an important request: ABA needs your help in ensuring that the information in the BBH from your company is timely and accurate. I ask that you reach out to the proper personnel in your company to help make sure that they check the relevant information in the BBH; update or add to it; and set up the in-house systems necessary so there’s an ongoing review and updating process in place. Our booksellers want to support indie publishers; they want to know about your books and consider carrying them in their stores. But to do this, they need to know about them! With your help, I know the BBH will continue to be an effective and valued tool, and that independent publishers and booksellers will continue to work to better serve the needs of writers, readers, and the entire book publishing community.
Note: If you have questions about accessing the BBH, or about updating its listing for your company, I encourage the proper person in your company to reach out to ABA’s book data contact, Alison Larkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.