I’m thinking I might like our store to try our hand at book fairs but I don’t know where to begin. Any pointers to help me strategize over the summer would be much appreciated!



Back-To-School Bookworm In Buffalo



Dear Bookworm,


Congratulations on this big step! Book fairs can be financially rewarding, a meaningful way to work with your community, and they promote literacy and the love of reading! But they do require quite a bit of prep and organization. (We would say give yourself at least 3 months to plan a book fair!) Since you’re in the ideas and strategizing phase right now, let’s call this Book Fairs: An Intro, and we will go into greater detail in a later column. 

The first thing you want to do is ask yourself why you are interested in book fairs. Are you considering in-school or in-store book fairs? Are you looking to increase your profile in the community and generate more foot traffic? Or maybe you are looking to strengthen already existing partnerships with local schools? There are no wrong answers! But identifying your motivations and goals will help you create a more specific, and therefore, more manageable and successful book fair experience. 

Another thing you should ask yourself is how will the local schools benefit from working with your bookstore on their book fairs as this might come up in discussions. Perhaps you have a staff that is stacked high with children’s booksellers and you can draw on their knowledge and experience. Or maybe you are a local parent yourself and know the community inside and out. Financially, ask yourself how you can make the book fair profitable for both your bookstore and for the PTA or school organizers since book fairs are, most often, fund raisers for the school. 

You also want to create a list of expectations for yourself and the school, meaning…who will do what? Making this list will require you to figure out what you and your staff are capable of doing and what you would be asking of the school. For example, you might want to ask and consider who will be staffing the book fair and running the register? Will the school provide volunteers to help staff and set up, or are they assuming the bookstore will be providing staff during the days of the fair. Who will provide the tables and fixtures needed to set up the book fair? Will the school provide you with a list of books they want to be sold, or will they leave the book selection all up to the bookstore? Writing down all the questions, expectations, and concerns you have will allow you to create a book fair that works for you, your staff, and your store.


Yours in Reading,





I’m a bookstore owner who is considering starting a loyalty program at my store, but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any pointers for how I can begin to evaluate which type of loyalty program would be best for me, my store, and my customers? 


Loyal In Larchmont


Dear Loyal, 

What a terrific question! Loyalty programs can be a wonderful way to show appreciation to your regular customers and provide a boost to certain areas (event attendance, pre-orders, etc.) of your business. Since you’re in the preliminary stages of designing a loyalty program, you want to think about the reasons your store would have a loyalty program and what you are hoping to get out of it. Ask yourself if you are hoping the loyalty program will boost sales and consumer buying,or is it more to gather emails and information about your customers for marketing purposes, such as newsletters and event emails. Another question you should ask yourself is would this be a paid loyalty program, more like an annual membership, or would it be free to join. Some stores have one or the other, and some stores have both! The important part is to be clear in what you are hoping the program will achieve, and clear in how you promote it to your customers and your staff. 

For a paid membership loyalty program, you would want to determine what the customer would be getting for the membership fee. The perks of being a member could be a percentage off of each purchase, advance registration access to big events, special shopping nights, and gift wrapping, if your store provides that service. Here is one example of a paid membership program from our friends at Let’s Play Books! 

Free loyalty programs can come in a variety of forms, but the most typical is something along the lines of a customer signs up with their name and email, and for every (for example) $100 they get either a $5 coupon or $5 off of their next purchase. One thing we will caution is that if you are collecting customer emails for store marketing to just be upfront with the customer about this fact! 

This is some preliminary information to get you started, but Dear NAIBA will return to this wonderful question in the future. In the meantime, if you are looking to speak with other bookstore owners about loyalty programs, might we suggest joining the NAIBA Discord? NAIBA members can email to learn more about joining!

Yours in Reading,





I am a new and relatively young bookseller. I love my job and feel like I’m fairly well-read but recently I’ve had customer interactions that sometimes make me feel like if I haven’t read every book ever published I’m not a legitimate bookseller. So I guess my questions are: How personally should I take certain comments about my reading knowledge and how much should I be reading? 


Nervous in Narberth


Dear Nervous,

First, let us just say…you’re doing fantastic! We have no doubt that you are reading just the right amount and are able to make creative and thoughtful book recommendations. But we’ve all been there and we empathize because no matter how much we may have read there are always more books to read! A wonderful and sometimes overwhelming plight. But there will also always be customers who are surprised that the booksellers at their favorite local bookstore haven't read that book and they will often comment on it. Of course I haven’t read that book!, you want to yell when they express disbelief that you haven’t read that book. You want to explain that you’ve only been on planet earth a finite amount of years and even if you had been alive for thousands of years you still couldn’t have read every book! But you don’t yell and you don’t go into a long defense of your reading habits. Instead you take a breath, thank the customer for the suggestion, and move on. Because while these types of interactions can often feel personal or patronizing or as if you are trapped in a teachable moment from across the sales counter, they more often than not are just the customer making small talk and it has nothing to do with you. 

As to your second question: Read what you like! Read how much you want! Read fast or read slow! Listen to audiobooks if that’s your jam! Read backlist or read frontlist! There is no right or wrong way to read. That being said, if you are interested in staying on top of books that are currently out, one way to do that is check out book reviews in national or local newspapers, in industry publications, or listen to book reviews on the radio. And definitely utilize your best and closest resources: your co–workers, other booksellers in your area, and NAIBA! NAIBA is here to keep you informed with monthly book buzz panels (such as this one happening on May 1) and book-focused events all year round. 

Hang in there, Nervous. You’re doing great!

Yours in Reading,






I’m a new bookseller and would like to get more involved with my independent bookselling community and NAIBA. Any tips?



New In Newburgh


Dear Newburgh…


…ok, ok, Dear NAIBA admits…we submitted this question because we really want to meet you, our NAIBA booksellers, and have you get involved in whatever way suits you! First things first: If your bookstore is a NAIBA store (if you are reading this question there’s a good chance the bookstore you work at is a NAIBA store) you are eligible to create your own NAIBA account, which will allow you to register for events, receive the NAIBA newsletter, and have access to our resources. Here is the link to creating your own account. Why not create your account right now? It’s ok, we’ll wait. 


Congratulations, you are now a NAIBA member! We suggest that you cast a glance over our calendar to see what NAIBA has cooking in the next couple of months. Are you interested in learning about what type of books are on the horizon? Join us online for the next NAIBA Book Buzz on April 3. Or maybe you’re a frontline bookseller who is looking for some new bookselling strategies; on April 8 our next online Frontline Bookseller Strategy session will meet to discuss all the ways you can sell books without talking to people. Fun right? (NAIBA is very fun, if we do say so ourselves.) If you are involved with Events at your store we also have an online Events Manager Strategy session on May 16.


But we don’t just meet in the virtual realm! On May 6 and May 7 NAIBA is hosting a Bookseller Beach Retreat that is sure to be too much fun. Come to Rehoboth Beach with your fellow booksellers, tour local bookstores, and then read on the beach. What could be dreamier? (We’ll answer: Nothing.) In August, we even co-host a conference with our friends at SIBA called New Voices New Rooms (NVNR.) This will be three days of education, socializing, professional development, and all things bookselling in Washington, DC. Registration opens in April so keep your eyes open.

And finally, the NAIBA board has a number of committees that are often looking for members to help make decisions about education, membership, and awards, just to name a few, that will best serve our NAIBA members. If you are interested in finding out what the committees are all about feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!


Yours in Reading,





I have heard that sales at independent bookstores go down in election years? Is that true? Any thoughts about ways to combat the decline?



Perplexed On Main Street


Dear Perplexed,


Wow, what an amazing question! This is a question we haven’t heard before, but by no means is that to suggest that sales decline during an election year isn’t an actual phenomenon. While we can’t speak to whether this is something your store should anticipate, perhaps we can give some suggestions to combat a decline in sales that might be the result of election fatigue. 


Independent bookstores are often the locus of their communities and as such can feel like a refuge from the world outside once a customer steps over the threshold. One bookstore we know of really leaned into this sensation during the last election year by being very mindful of how many election-related books they carried so as to prevent sensory overload. Additionally, your store could create displays that directly address the fatigue that might accompany following the election cycle day and night; something along the lines of, “Books For When You Need a Tiny Break From The Election,” and then create a display of your staff’s coziest reads or most fun fantasies. Being civic minded and involved is important, but, in order to keep doing that important work, you also need to take care of yourself and reading can help! Maybe even consider hosting a silent reading event on election night for people who don’t necessarily need to watch every return as they come in and just need to get out of the house.


Or you can go in the other direction and create a display of books that provide a nuanced understanding of election issues both nationally and specific to your community. You could also consider holding a community-focused event such as a letter writing evening or serve as a center for people volunteering to get out the vote.


Dear NAIBA would love to hear how your store does during this election year and how you choose to address sales, whether positive or negative! Thank you so much for this interesting and thought-provoking question!


Yours in Reading,





I am a local bookstore owner who loves working with local and self-published authors and supporting my community but I’m finding that navigating the emails, phone calls and meetings with authors is taking up a large portion of my time. Do you have any suggestions for ways that I can still support these authors without having it devour entire days at a time? 



Swamped in Schenectedy


Dear Swamped,


This is a question we hear often. The relationship between bookstore and self-published authors can be a lovely and special one that gives the store a real sense of local identity and the author a literary home they can call their own. But navigating the waters of consignment agreements, personalization requests, and, most importantly, how and where to get these books can be time consuming and tricky. 


The first thing you need to determine is how much time you have in your schedule to devote to self-published authors each week. You could set aside a portion of a day each week to respond to emails, placing orders, making payments and fielding phone calls or, if taking each request as they come is your style, that’s fine too! Figure out what works best for you and, if possible, stick to it! You’re a busy bookseller and your time is important! The next thing you might consider doing is deciding if you would like to come up with a policy and putting it in writing. This policy will lay out expectations for you and the author and should include the payment policy, how long you will carry the book, when sales will be evaluated and when payments will be made and expectation of the author regarding picking up/dropping off books, updating contact information and just in general making it clear about who is responsible for what. Having a consignment or self-published author agreement is also helpful for the frontline booksellers who are fielding calls: “Are you a self-published author? Why don’t I send you our Consignment contract and you can email (insert appropriate name and email) with any questions after you read it.”  Here is an example from our friends at Bethany Beach Books.


Some bookstores we know of only accept self-published authors if they can be ordered through Ingram Spark, other bookstores take it case by case, publisher by publisher; some bookstores have “reading periods” where they evaluate all self-published or consignment requests and any requests that come in outside of those “reading periods” will not be addressed. If you cannot carry a local author's book but know of a local writer’s association, you can point them in that direction. There is no right or wrong way to handle self-published authors! The right way is the way that works best for you, your schedule, and your staff. 


Yours in Reading,






I’m a new store owner about to tackle my first inventory. What tips or tricks do you have for making the process run smoothly? 



The Count


Dear Count,


First inventory! A big moment! Prepare yourself for a long day of scanning, counting, and camaraderie with your staff. Also be prepared to hear the sweet, sweet sound of beeping scanners in your sleep the night after you finish inventory. But in all seriousness, inventory is not something to be dreaded but is a time when advanced preparation will serve you well. 


Before inventory day, we suggest you tackle any returns you may have been putting off. This will reduce the products you need to scan, which is the goal when running inventory. You don’t want to breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve finally finished scanning only to realize you forgot to scan four boxes of pulled stock hiding under a table. Another thing you can do to prepare is run a pre-inventory sale as another way of reducing stock is also something to consider. One NAIBA store we know makes it a whole social media event where they pulled out all of their holiday leftovers and clearance books and asked customers to help out: “Please don’t make us count all these books!” 


Once you’ve decided on an inventory date, sit down with the staff members who will be leading the inventory and come up with a game plan. Consider questions such as: How many scanners will you need? If you need more scanners than you have on hand, consider where you might get more? How many laptops will you need? Will you need staff to bring in their laptops? Will staff work in pairs or individually? How will you mark when sections have been scanned? You should designate one person who will be leading inventory; this person will be responsible for any glitches that come up and who will finalize the count and run an end-of-inventory report, sometimes known as a discrepancy report. You should also consider how you will tackle hunting down any missing inventory. Is this something you will tackle immediately after inventory or within the next day or two?


A few other things! Sometimes you can rent equipment, such as scanners, but you might also consider trying to borrow equipment from other businesses in your neighborhood as a way of keeping costs down. Try to get as early a start as you feel comfortable with because trust us when we say no matter how well you plan inventory always takes longer than anticipated, especially if it’s your first time. Which brings us to another point: While it is possible to run an inventory while the store is open our recommendation would be to close for your first time. There are a lot of moving parts to inventory and if you can give it your full attention then all better. 


And finally, a coffee or tea run in the morning is imperative as is ordering lunch in. And don’t forget to have some fun!


Yours in Reading,




It was a busy week for all those attending Winter Institute 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eileen and Kit thoroughly enjoyed seeing and talking with the many NAIBors who were there! It was exciting to have so many booksellers from all types of stores sharing ideas, stories, and supporting each other.


We spotted a few things that made us very happy...



NAIBA store owners and booksellers at dinner together on Monday evening. What an amazing, supportive group!


The Professional Booksellers School's exhibit table that was constantly busy all three days of conference!



Have some NAIBA photos from Wi24? Send them to along with details or captions and see them featured in our newsletter!


Candice, the official mobile hype unit, sporting flags and building enthusiasm for the Professional Booksellers School and our New Voices New Rooms annual conference!


Yours in Reading,






Sometimes it is very hard to come up with something totally creative and brand new. Is it okay to pull ideas from other bookstores to help generate ideas? From chalkboards sayings to displays - is it best to give them shout outs in the appropriate medium?



Stumped In PA


Dear Stumped,


Thank you so much for acknowledging something we all struggle with: The challenges of retail creativity! Many a Tuesday have we thought to ourselves while shooting a photo for social media, “Well, here we go again with another frontlist stack. Sigh…” And who hasn’t stared down writer's block when standing in front of a blank chalkboard sign trying to conjure up one more clever literary pun? It feels so good when lightning strikes, but make no mistake - the struggle to be creative is real. 


As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and so we are inclined to say it is fine to occasionally borrow inspiration from other bookstores especially if your well has gone dry. Independent bookstores are known for their sense of community, for owners and customers, so gaining inspiration from your fellow bookstores is just more of the community-minded impulse. But it is also a gesture of community to give credit for this burst of creative inspiration when possible. 


In fact, NAIBA is so keen on the sharing of ideas that in the NAIBAhood Newsletter our brilliant social media maven Kathy Ellen Davis will share fun and creative  ideas she’s seen that week across NAIBA’s social media landscape. By sharing these ideas, NAIBA is hoping to inspire and connect us with our own brilliant ideas.


Yours in Reading,




We are a small store that loves to work with local authors. Aside from carrying their books and encouraging the author to run pre-order campaigns with our store what are other, creative ways we can work with local authors? 


Loving Our Local

Dear Loving Our Local, 

Your enthusiasm for working with local authors is wonderful to hear as the relationship between author and bookstore is a meaningful and special one. Local authors give independent bookstores local flavor and when you find an author willing to throw their hat into the ring for your store, magic can happen.

First of all, don’t underestimate the power of having signed local author books on hand in your store at all times. Knowing they can send a customer your way to get a signed copy of their book means a lot to authors. Perhaps, in addition to having the book on the shelf, you can create an arrangement where the author will come by once a month or so to personalize any orders that might come in for their title. The customer might have to wait a bit longer than usual for the book but their copy would be one of a kind. As long as you communicate the estimated delivery time to the customer, this type of arrangement often works well.

Another suggestion for working with local authors is an idea we used to promote at NAIBA where hometown authors would adopt a store and the store would adopt the author. When an author adopts your store, not only do they come by periodically to sign stock, they link to your store on their website as the place to buy autographed and/or personalized copies, and launch their new books with your store. In turn, the store could provide the author with a staff picks shelf, have them do a social media takeover from time to time, invite them to be a guest bookseller on Independent Bookstore Day, and host events for the author like launch parties, writing and/or illustrating workshops, and pre-order campaigns. The ideas are endless! Get creative with your local author(s)! Have fun!

Yours In Reading,




Now that the holidays are over I’m looking for ways to thank my lovely staff for all of their hard work during the holidays and every day! Any suggestions? I’m assuming people don’t give fruit baskets anymore... 


Grateful On The Potomac

Dear Grateful,

Congratulations to you and your staff on making it to the other side of the holidays! Phew! You did it! January is the perfect time to think of ways to show your gratitude to the staff that brought you across the finish line. It is (ostensibly) calmer, it’s a time of setting intentions, starting anew, and finding the things that bring you joy both professionally and personally. 

First, we would be remiss if we did not direct you to the NAIBA Owner’s Retreat on January 25 where we will be talking about strategic store closings as a way of giving staff time off; paid time off is most certainly one way of saying thank you to staff and gives all involved a time to recharge. If paid time off is not a possibility you could also consider giving your staff gift cards or bonuses. 

Other ways to show your staff appreciation might be to give them the opportunity to do something different in the store that they’ve always wanted to try or to provide space to do more of the things they already love doing. Do you have a bookseller who is interested in learning about book buying? Maybe they could be a book buyer for a day. Or, if you have a staff member who is crazy about sidelines and has impeccable taste, see if they would be interested in going through catalogs and picking out the swooniest Valentine’s. Consider having a staff meeting where you brainstorm ideas about creating new partnerships, changing the customer experience, or changing the layout of the store. 

We know that January is often a time of inventory and cleaning, but it can also be a time when you make space for your staff’s opinions to be heard and to learn what it is they really enjoy doing in the store. A wise person once told us that we should always be working toward doing things we enjoyed and love. Will there be parts of bookselling that aren’t necessarily the most awesome? Of course! But in giving your staff that space to express what they enjoy about bookselling, and allowing them to do more of those things, you’re expressing appreciation and gratitude in sincere ways. 

Yours In Reading,






I’m a newly minted buyer who works in a store where we often get self-published authors stopping by to ask if we could carry their books on consignment. Could you give me some suggestions on how to evaluate these requests and handle consignment titles in general? 



Lost in Consignment

Dear Lost in Consignment,


We actually turned to the expert instructors of the Professional Booksellers School that teach the Event Management Course. They knew just what to do!...


Excellent question, and a situation we are well familiar with. Authors who walk in, or who live nearby, can be great assets as well as a great challenge.


The first step to getting requests for consignments under control is to decide whether or not you are willing or have the time to do consignments. Many shops don't because it takes staff and bookkeeping time. If you decide you want to try, write out your policy: what percentage of the cover price you'll keep, how many copies you'll accept at once, how long you'll keep them, where you will shelve them, and most importantly, your criteria for which books to accept. Determine clear criteria for what kinds of books work for your store, mission, and community, and what process you’ll use to evaluate self-published books.


Then, create a handout that outlines your criteria, submission process, evaluation process, and policies for selling books on consignment.


Next, make those guidelines public by posting it on your website. Make it easy to steer authors to the information you want them to have. Many stores have found that having a dedicated webpage, submission process, and/or screening form, as well as a consignment contract to be the most useful way(s) to convey policy and divert self-published authors away from staff working the floor. These items also serve to educate authors and deter those who are less serious about the prospect of working with you.


If an author successfully makes it through the initial screening process, you can take their book, review it as much as you need to, and then accept or reject it based on the policy and criteria you have established. Remember, "No, thank you" is an acceptable and complete response!


Know that you can find true gems among the books and authors who fill out your forms/applications. There are many great books that don’t get published by the Big 5, especially titles with strong regional interest. The goal of screening forms is to spend your time working with these finds rather than reviewing everything that comes your way!


If you want to learn more about this subject and all things Event Management, there are just a couple of spots still open for the 2024 course which starts January 21st. Click here for details and registration.


Yours In Reading,



Booksellers have been so busy selling last month they haven’t had a chance to write in with questions, so NAIBA thought we could share some social media tips and tricks from our Social Media Maven, Kathy Ellen Davis!

Ideas to make posting on social media a bit easier when you are incredibly busy:

  1. I, Kathy Ellen, have said it before but I’ll say it again: I love to see bestsellers! Run a report or pull a list of your store's bestsellers and then take a picture or create a graphic to share on social media. For the caption ask your followers how many of the titles they have read and or how many they have bought. You can also survey the staff and ask how many of the bestsellers they have read.
  2. Put together a list of 24 books (I know it’s easier said than done) to start off the year right. This can be one post or multiple posts if you want to take up more space. Fill the list with personal growth books, how-to, books where people can learn some facts, the possibilities are endless! Or if you’d like to go in a different direction you can choose 24 titles your staff is eager to read in the New Year - they can be new or old titles. This is a great way to get people thinking about your store in January and the entire year.
  3. This is one I’m selfishly putting here because I want to see what your booksellers have to say! What book or books have they handsold a lot this past year? Did they have any great customer interactions they are still thinking about? Did they help build a new section in the store or add to an already existing section. Did they take on a new role this past year? Did they start a new book club, bring in a new sideline, or take on a new role? I think this is a wonderful way to get the staff to reflect on their year and endear them to your community.
  4. Most stores do a majority of their business over the holidays. If you feel comfortable, why don’t you share that with your customers? Thank everyone who shopped with you and encourage them to shop local year-round.
  5. Events recap! This type of post is one you could be doing every month but for December and even January, you could do a collage of the events you had in 2023 and then segue into 2024 events. Don’t forget to mention if you have signed copies of books left over from events!
  6. This is an idea for after Christmas: Customers will have gift cards they are itching to use so have your staff share what they would use the gift cards on. Highlight fun things in the store or maybe some out-of-the-way titles!
  7. Include us! Facebook, X @NAIBAbook, Instagram @naibabooksellers

Yours In Reading,




I am a bookseller at a romance-focused bookstore and I have a crush on the most adorable human alive who works at a mystery bookstore. I think they might like me too, but here’s my dilemma: We agreed to exchange books for the holidays as a way of getting to know one another better. Great, right? No! I have zero mystery recommendations!  How do I choose a book in a genre I typically don’t read when the stakes feel so high?


Hyperventilating Along The Hudson


Dear Hudson,   

Congratulations! What an exciting predicament t to be in. Not only have you walked right into the plot of your own romance novel, you also get to wade into the waters of a new genre. Fun! We suspect you know more about recommending outside of your preferred genre than you might think. Similar to romance, mysteries often follow a similar beat from novel to novel, but (also like romance!) it’s how the author gets you from beat to beat that makes the difference. Think of what types of questions you might ask your romance loving customers to put the right book in their hand: Do they want high heat or low simmer? Are they interested more in character development or do they want a plot-driven story with lots of momentum? Do they like historical, contemporary, or paranormal? Are they looking for something cozy or a book with more edges? Now try to apply these questions to mysteries. You’re halfway there!

Can you ask your crush what type of mystery they prefer or is that prohibited in this getting-to-know-you exercise? If direct questions are not allowed, sift through past conversations and see if you can remember what authors they mentioned. This will allow you to get a sense of what type of books they might gravitate toward. Do you run the risk of getting them a book they might have already read? Yes. But now is not the time to falter! Put on your winter coat, get yourself to your favorite local, independent bookstore, find yourself a bookseller/co-worker, and throw yourself at their mercy. Remember, booksellers love this type of question and we suspect you will walk away with more than one fantastic suggestion.

But in all seriousness, please remember the beauty and point of this exercise, and that is to get to know your crush better through books and language and emotion. What could be more romantic than that? Nothing. Nothing could be more romantic! So even if your book pick is not perfect, the gesture and impulse is perfect and that is what matters.

Yours In Reading,





Do you have any suggestions on how to respond to the comment, “I can get this cheaper on Amazon?” Or really, do you have any suggestions on how to respond to the looming specter of Amazon that seems to hover over so many customer interactions.


Anxiously Yours,

Boxed Out


Dear Boxed Out,


This is a tough question but such an important one! The Big A does in fact loom over so many customer interactions, whether the name is spoken or implied. And during the holiday season, when local bookstores, (beholden to forces beyond themselves), might not be able to keep the hottest titles on the shelf all the way up until December 24, the conversation feels even more pressure-filled. 


First, remind yourself that, as they say in High School Musical, we’re all in this together! Every independent bookseller across the country is having these same conversations, on scales large and small, with their customers and with one another. When you and your fellow booksellers are having these conversations, remember what it is that makes your bookstore and the experience of shopping at your store so special, because independent bookstores are super special, community-oriented places. Maybe your store is one where you know your customers really well, so well that when they walk in the door you greet them with, “I read this book and immediately thought of you!” Maybe you are a bookstore that excels at genre fiction? The deepest knowledge of romance! The most niche of speculative fiction titles! Perhaps you have a staff that reads all the new titles that come down the pike and can speak about them at great length. Whatever it is that’s special about your store, remember that and, if you feel comfortable, use it in your response: “Yes, you could get it cheaper on Amazon, but this comes highly recommended by my human coworker, M!” Or an alternative response could be, “You could get it on Amazon, but when you do that you become the product. They want your data and information. When you buy it from us you’re an individual; we want to put the perfect book in your hand.” Or, if you’d like to go with a more gentle approach, you could say something like, “We’re all doing the best we can and you need to make the decision that works for you, but we love being a part of your community.” (Mild disappointment implied.)


An idea to borrow from one of your fellow NAIBA stores is to have a “swear” jar that people have to put money in every time they mention The Big A. The funds placed in the jar can then be used as a donation to a local or non-profit organization. (Adding money to the jar is optional, but the clearly labeled presence of the jar helps get the point across and opens a dialog. It also gives you a prominent spot to display how supporting local helps the community!)


Some days you just might not feel like engaging with this question and that’s okay, too: “I could get this cheaper on Amazon.” “Yes, you probably could.” You might be tired, you might be busy, you might have already tackled this comment 10 times today. In these moments it’s okay to save your strength, interact with your most fun regular customers, work with your lovely coworkers and know that, unfortunately, you’ll be tackling this question again tomorrow.


Yours In Reading,





I’m a turkey with a new lease on life and I’m longing to snuggle up with a good book! What would you recommend to someone - fair or fowl - who is looking to embrace life in all its vulnerability and glory? Or rather, how would I begin to find that perfect first read as I enter into my new future? 



Pardoned & Appreciative


Dear Pardoned & Appreciative,

First let us start by saying congratulations! It sounds like you have been on a real roller coaster of a journey and are ready to settle into a future full of possibility. The best books allow us to discover new aspects about ourselves and our world, or transport us to someplace new, or envision a different type of life or future. Or all of the above! Yours is a big question, but a vital one.


First, be honest about the type of book you are looking to read.! Think about the last book you read that you really, really loved. What was it about that book that spoke to you - and don’t be afraid to describe the sensation of reading it in any language you choose! Or, if you can’t think of a book, think of a movie, show, piece of music, or magazine article you read that really got you excited.


Second, determine your reading mood. Are you looking for something lighthearted? Cozy? Grisly and dark? Epic? Romantic? Out of this world? Are you looking to be inspired or distracted by this book?


Finally, once you have determined the answers, reach out to a bookseller friend or one of your publisher reps, share your answers, and ask them for a suggestion. We work in an industry where everyone wants to help you find your next great read!


Also, can we suggest the beauty of the re-read? Returning to a book that brought you comfort and joy in the past might be the perfect thing for this time in your life. Clear your mind and ask yourself: what is the book I loved so much I wish I could read it again for the first time as I start my new life? Often when we re-read book after a change in our life, we appreciate it anew and for different reasons.


Just in case, we spoke with some of our fellow booksellers about what they would read in your situation and came up with a few suggestions. Here’s wishing you a long and literary future!

Yours In Reading,



Spook Who Sat By The Door-Sam Greenlee

The Brothers Karamazov-Fyodor Doestoevsky

One Hundred Years Of Solitude-Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This Is How It Always Is-Laurie Frankel

Tender Is The Flesh-Agustina Bazterrica

Happy All The Time-Laurie Colwin

Pond-Claire-Louise Bennett

Small Things Like These-Claire Keegan

Song Of Solomon-Toni Morrison

The Magical Language Of Others-EJ Koh

Painting Time-Maylis de Kerangal


In last week's column we addressed a question from a bookseller who was wondering how to handle a chatty customer who, while a frequent and presumably welcome visitor to the store’s booksellers, would occasionally try to chat up other customers, whether they welcomed the attention or not. Dear NAIBA thought it might be useful as bookstores head into the busy holiday season to provide some resources regarding handling customers that range from friendly-but-overly talkative to more challenging so you can create a welcoming and safe space for all of your customers.

First, if you are a manager or supervisor, we encourage you to check in with your staff regarding any regular customers that might be on their and/or your radar. Make sure that they know it is their safety that comes first and should be prioritized. It’s also important for them to know that they do not have to handle uncomfortable customer interactions alone and can always call you to help manage the situation with respect and grace. Consider creating a code word or phrase that staff can use to subtly request help.

If you do find yourself in a situation with an angry customer that feels inappropriate or unsafe here are a few suggestions to de-escalate the situation:

  • Most times a customer just wants to vent their frustration and be heard. Active listening can sometimes be enough.
  • Remain calm, but remember that neither you, nor your staff should be their punching bag.
  • Try to move a disruptive customer to a location in the store that is least disruptive to the other customers. Use phrases like, "Why don't we step over here so we can talk."
  • Try to find common ground by using phrases such as, “I understand your frustration. Let me find a solution.”
  • If it is appropriate, acknowledge and apologize for any mistakes that were made.
  • Thank the customer for their patience.
  • If necessary, call in reinforcements.
  • Let senior staff know about the situation.

One de-escalation technique that might be simple to remember goes by the name of GOMBLIN. It stands for:

Get to “we” – Create a sense of unity with the person

Offer Alternatives – Give them choices so they feel they aren’t being forced

Match and lead to step down – Match the vocal intensity of the person and slowly lower your voice

Broken record – Repeat the same phrase over and over until the person corrects their behavior or leaves

Lose to win – Proactively make compromises to protect yourself or other people

I” statements – Speak from your own position and perspective to voice your feelings without expressing judgment

Name the behavior – Focus on what someone is doing instead of passing judgment

The ABA is also a good resource to use for finding other de-escalation techniques that work for your particular store. You can find one such article here, but there are quite a few others.

The idea of a community space, as bookstores often are, is for all parties to feel safe & welcome. For some people that may mean being left alone and for others it might mean making a connection with fellow shoppers. Helping customers realize boundaries will help reinforce that your store wants everyone to feel welcome, safe, and comfortable.

Yours In Books,





We have a customer who comes in now and then and spends at least an hour talking with a bookseller about whatever's on his mind. The other day, he tried to engage another customer, who clearly felt uncomfortable about it and left the store without making a purchase. What can we do to discourage the garrulous customer from approaching other customers and scaring them off?



Comfortable Space Curator


Dear Comfortable Space Curator,


Ah, the delicate dance of engaging with a chatty customer. These customers can be delightful moments of sunshine that break up your day. Or, if it’s a busy day in a crowded store with a small staff, they can make things a bit more complicated. Based on your question and the fact that you periodically spend an hour speaking with this customer, we are going to assume for the purposes of this answer that, in general, this is a customer whose company you enjoy and isn’t a thorn in the side of you and your staff or isn’t someone who makes you feel unsafe when he enters the store. That’s good news! The unfortunate news is that he might have some difficulty reading cues from other customers and that he perhaps cost you a sale or a regular customer. You want the store to be a space where everyone feels comfortable shopping and if one customer is disrupting that experience for another customer, no matter how pleasant or well-meaning they are, it needs to be addressed. 


First, let us say that chatting with a customer for an hour about whatever is on the customer’s mind is extraordinarily generous. Booksellers and bookstore owners are busy people, and while these conversations with customers are a highlight of the job, they also take time. So our first piece of advice would be to start setting some boundaries with this customer. After chatting with him for a few minutes, try saying something along the lines of, “It’s been so wonderful talking with you but I really do need to finish up a few things before the day gets away from me.” In saying this, you are reminding the customer that while the bookstore is warm and welcoming to him, it is still a place of business and you and your fellow booksellers are in the middle of a work day. Of course, if you enjoy spending an hour with this customer and it doesn’t interrupt the flow of your day, we fully and wholeheartedly support that! 


So what to do after you’ve set that boundary and gone back to work only to see out of the corner of your eye that he has directed his chatty attention on a fellow customer who looks none too pleased? This is a situation where you might need to intervene and shift the chatty customer’s attention away from the quietly browsing customer. (As an aside: Sometimes customers like to chat with one another and we love to see it! It warms our hearts. However, this does not seem like one of those situations.) First, you should let the staff know that they do not have to handle this tricky situation alone and that they should always feel comfortable asking their manager to assist or intervene. Keep things friendly, but book-related; distract your chatty customer with a book recommendation as you gently and surreptitiously guide him away from the other customer. Maybe set the customer up at a table with a few recommendations you chose especially for him. This will, hopefully, subtly indicate to the browsing customer that you recognized their discomfort and attempted to adjust the situation while also making your chatty customer feel welcome - only in a different part of the store.


Yours In Books,





I’m in a pickle: I find myself in…a reading slump. I know, right??!? How does a bookseller handsell to customers when they are feeling so uninspired?


Desperately Seeking Some-Kind-Of-Guidance


Dear Desperately,

First of all, cut yourself some slack. It happens to the best of us. And by the best of us we mean, quite literally, every single one of us. One minute you’re blazing through multiple books a week and the next you can barely read your horoscope. Nothing appeals to you. Every book you pick up feels the same. “Didn’t I read this already?,” you ask yourself. No, you did not. It just feels that way, as if you’ll never find a book that will make your heart sing again; as if every book is the same.

But you will read again! We promise. It might not happen overnight but you’ll get out of your slump eventually. And listen, even if you do spend a few months reading only your horoscope while watching Law & Order there’s nothing wrong with that even for a bookseller. However, you have come to NAIBA seeking practical advice and practical advice we shall give. So let’s address the first dilemma: Getting you out of your reading slump. 

A few lightning-round suggestions to jump-start your reading all accompanied by exclamation points because we enthusiastically endorse these methods:

  • Pick up a novella or short story collection! There’s nothing like finishing a short story on your lunch break to make you feel like a reader extraordinaire.
  • Re-read a book you find comforting and cozy as a reminder that reading is pleasurable and joyous, not just a component of your job!
  • Try something new and read a top-selling book in your store in a genre you've never read.
  • Treat yourself and read a novel from or about a country that you’ve always wanted to visit.
  • Become a customer and ask another bookseller for a recommendation. (in person, or on our NAIBAhood Discord server in the book recommendations channel)

While it might seem that being a bookseller in a reading slump makes it impossible to handsell, we assure you it isn’t. Even if you’re just not feeling it right now you aren’t some kind of bookselling phony-baloney. You have years of reading experience and lists of book suggestions to fall back on; you have coworkers ready and willing to help, and you have the curiosity and knowledge to ask your customer the right questions that will help you lead them to the right book. Plus, you have the added benefit of being deeply empathetic to your customer’s search for a good book that grabs their hand and won’t let go because you are looking for the same thing. 

In fact, being a bookseller in a reading slump who is required to handsell might just be the perfect position to be in right now. No, really…Hey wait! Come back here! As we were saying, you are in an enviable position because inspiration for your next great read could be right in front of you in the form of your customer. Something really special happens when the customer becomes the bookseller. It’s magical. It’s kismet. And we highly recommend embracing these moments. 

Yours In Reading, NAIBA



I’m a new bookseller about to experience my first holiday rush. I’m excited! But also...nervous. Do you have any tips for making it through the end of December with faculties and love of books intact? 


Buddy The Elf

Dear Buddy,

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the big-time! The holiday season looms large in the imagination of booksellers because it is large. Bookselling amplified. To the max. But it is also a very fun, festive, joyous time that allows you to bond with your co-workers and customers in the spirit of giving. Ideally. Here are a few suggestions, tips and tricks (in no particular order) to make this the best and most fun holiday season EVER!

  • If you are a store that offers gift wrapping and you don’t feel so confident about your skills-- practice! This doesn’t even need to happen on the floor with real-life customers just grab a few galleys and wrap ‘em up over the course of a week. You'll feel like a pro in no time. Once the rush is in full swing don’t be afraid to ask your co-workers for help with wrapping if you...just can’t...wrap...another gift.

  • Make sure you know the last date customers can special order books so that they arrive in time for (more-often-than-not) Christmas. If you are a store that offers shipping, there will probably be two separate dates: One for in-store pickup and one for shipping. Logistics are important!

  • Have a few titles to suggest to customers if you are sold out of THE book of the season, especially toward the end of the shopping season, when shipping sometimes slows down.

  • In that spirit, consider suggesting to your coworkers that you create a gift-guide with various titles, including but not limited to children’s books separated by age-group, to keep behind the counter as a reference. Or you can create one just for you as a way of having some suggestions right at your fingertips. 

  • Hydrate! Be mindful of your physical and mental well-being. Stretch. Take a walk around the block if you need to. Maybe enjoy a little dance party if that’s appropriate. But also don’t forget to have some fun and enjoy the hustle and bustle.

  • Lean on your coworkers! Get to know their staff picks and recommendations so when asked to recommend something that might be outside your comfort zone you have a few titles to fall back on. Let your fellow booksellers be your personal bookseller. 

One thing to remember when the phone is ringing off the hook, you’ve wrapped your hundredth gift, and heard “Holly Jolly Christmas” for what feels to be the millionth time that day: Every little extra bit of effort you make for a customer this time of year is appreciated tenfold and remembered for a very long time after. 

Yours In Reading, NAIBA



What advice do you have for a new bookseller in a general interest store who is occasionally...stumped when asked to give children’s book recommendations? The stakes seem so high! I really want to put the perfect book in the perfect little hands as often as possible! 


Alice In Wonderland

Dear Alice,

First, let us start by saying: You are not alone. Children’s bookselling is a wild, wonderful, rollercoaster ride of experiences. It’s literacy in action! It’s last-minute birthday party gifts! It’s proud grandparents! It’s impromptu read-alouds! And it can also be kind of nerve-wracking precisely for the reason you stated: You really want to get it right for these new and emerging readers. 

Deep breath in and deep breath out. You’ve got this. You’re a professional bookseller with enthusiasm and expertise to spare. Our first bit of advice is to take the lay of the land. If the child is present, don’t be afraid to direct the conversation to them. Ask them about the last book they read that they really, really loved. And then ask them why they loved it! This will give you a sense of both their reading level and what they are interested in. Smaller bookworms might need some help from their grown-up expressing their likes and dislikes, but we guarantee they will be able to name a few of their favorite books and favorite things. Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions! Do they like realistic fiction or sci-fi/fantasy? Do they like laugh-out-loud books or ones on the more serious side? Once you have a few pieces of information, select some titles, give an overview of what the book is about, and then encourage the child to take time to look the books over themselves. It’s important that they know you want to help them find a book they love and that they can always say, “Hey, this isn’t my cup of tea!” and you won’t be offended. (Do children use that phrase? Do children drink tea that often? Probably not but you catch our drift.) 

If you are assisting an adult who is buying a book for a child, they might start discussing lexile scores or tell you where the child is on the reading scale of the school they are attending. This can be confusing and while we are not saying to completely disregard these data points, we are saying don’t stress out if it sounds like they are speaking a foreign language. Instead, ask what grade the child is in and some of the books they know the child likes so you can puzzle out their reading level and interests. Some other questions to ask might be: Are you looking for a book to read together or will the child be reading independently? For picture books, are you looking for books that have more of a linear story or ones that are a bit more impressionistic? If these questions still yield few dividends and the grown-up still seems to be at a complete loss (though this happens very rarely!) you still have options! Two beautiful words: Graphic. Novel. Most kids like graphic novels and they are AWESOME. However, if possible, try to avoid the more popular titles (Dog Man, Wimpy Kid, Raina Telgemeier) as the child may have already read them. And if that still has you stumped take a trip down memory lane and ask the adult what they liked to read as a child and use that as a jumping-off point to make suggestions.

A gentle note about YA: Sometimes you’ll encounter a young reader who has blazed through all of the middle-grade selections and might be ready to move on to YA. As we all know, there are a wide-range of experiences expressed on the YA shelf and you want to make sure what you’re recommending is appropriate to both the reading and the emotional level of the young customer. This also might be the time to go into a bit more detail about the books you are recommending.

Can we be corny for a minute? Children’s bookselling, whether it is something you do full-time or periodically, is, and we don’t use this word lightly, magical. Stressful? Yes. Overwhelming at times? Of course. But to think that you might be recommending what will become a child’s favorite book? That makes us giddy just thinking about it and we hope this helps even a tiny bit. 

Yours In Reading,


Interested in learning about leveled readers from an expert? Join us for Noon With NAIBA: Level Up