Monday, January 28, 2008

Winter Institute--Part Three

A number of publishers were hosting dinners on Friday night, I attended the Harper Collins dinner hosted by the indefatigable Carl Lennertz. Before we left for Louisville he wrote those of us attending the dinner to ask if we had any authors we were especially keen to sit near--I requested to be near E. Lockhart (I figured anyone who wrote such books as Fly on the Wall and The Boy Book --books I know would have been my favorite books in the world if they were around when I was 13--would be a fun dinner companion), and was glad to see that my wish was granted!

In addition to Ms. Lockhart I was seated near Elizabeth Bluemle, one of the most fun people you'll ever spend time with, and wonderful booksellers from Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis and Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL, both bookstores I've heard so many great things about and been wanting to visit for the longest time. This is the first time I've gotten to go to an author dinner with booksellers who focus on children and young adults, and it was a really fun change of pace.

Saturday's breakfast was without a speaker, instead it was an opportunity to chat with other booksellers about what you're reading--a great chance for me to practice my handselling skills!

After breakfast I went to a panel on the business of publishing. It focused on the P&L, or the Profit and Loss Statement, which is the set of numbers publishers run to figure out how to make a title profitable, taking into account the expenses--production costs, author costs, operating expenses, etc. I actually found it quite fascinating. As someone who is just learning what the difference is between gross and net, margins and profits, it was a very helpful crash-course in business practices and great insight into the minds of publishers and how they make decisions about book design and print run quantities based on their P&Ls (because God knows I wonder what they're thinking often enough--even a bit of clarity can be helpful!).

Another set of publisher rep picks followed, and then it was on to lunch with a panel of experts on the national movement towards shopping independent and local--Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy (a previous staff pick of Dana's), Stacy Mitchell, author of Big-Box Swindle, and Michael Shuman, author of The Small-Mart Revolution. All were incredibly upbeat about the direction of independent businesses, particularly in areas where they have been able to band together as independent business alliances (such as nearby Cambridge Local First or Local First Vermont). They observed that it has often been bookstores that have led the way in forming such alliances and that we should, as centers of ideas and culture, continue to do so--in fact, in the words of Mr. McKibben, it is our "moral obligation."

The post-lunch session can be deadly, but I actually had the most fun at a session at "Consumer Behavior Revealed--The Dating Game." This could be because they, in fact, took an unsuspecting volunteer from the audience and had her play the Dating Game! The point was to learn about what motivates consumers in their decision making processes. The fact is that books can be purchased everywhere--why do people choose one place over another (and, of course, how can we get people to choose to buy their books with us)? We reviewed Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs and looked at how psychological, situational, social, and commercial influences can affect consumer choices.

Dear lord, it's time for me to go and I'm still not done talking about Winter Institute! Well, one more post tomorrow should do it--until then...

1 comment:

Sustenance Scout said...

Woops, thought I left a comment yesterday but apparently Blogger ate it! Just want to thank you for all these updates from the Winter Institute, Lori. I'll be in Brookline in March and am looking forward to visiting your store! K.