What We Learned at Ci7

Pittsburgh, PA June 2019

I love going to industry tradeshows and conferences and Ci7 in Pittsburgh was one of the best (and most intense) I’ve been to yet. On my first day in Pittsburgh, I did the full-day bookstore tour where a busload of booksellers and other industry folks visited five of Pittsburgh’s growing and beloved indies: Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Spark Books, City of Asylum, White Whale Bookstore, and Classic Lines Bookstore. It was awesome to see these bookstores in person (the majority of which are less than four years old) and the growing literary community in Pittsburgh. There was another tour which was also offered where people visited indie bookshops in the north side of the city and surrounding suburbs. Opening a bookstore is often both a risk and the realization of a lifelong dream, and it is our core mission at Binc to support these intrepid entrepreneurs and their hard-working employees.

One of the most important Binc-related realizations that I took home from this gathering of booksellers was that even though Binc has been serving US booksellers’ emergency financial needs since 2011, there are still misconceptions about what Binc does, who qualifies for assistance, and what kinds of events Binc can help with.

Booksellers do not have to donate or “belong” to Binc to qualify for assistance—ever.

The first thing I often have to clear up when getting into a discussion with a bookseller who is mostly unfamiliar with Binc (oh you’re from that bookstore charity), is that Binc is not a membership organization. Booksellers do not have to donate or “belong” to Binc to qualify for assistance—ever. Binc is a nonprofit foundation funded and supported by a community of caring and generous donors from across the industry (i.e. authors, publishers, frontline booksellers, bookstore owners, the ABA, and regional associations like NCIBA and NEIBA) and we serve all people working full-time or part-time in a brick and mortar bookstore for over 90-days. We serve frontline booksellers, comic book retailers, owners, managers, buyers, events coordinators, and shift leaders. If you work in a bookstore—Binc is your foundation. There are no membership fees or costs, and there never will be.

Another misconception I often encounter at trade shows or when I’m visiting bookstores is that Binc assistance applies only to the bookstore itself or the bookstore owner. This is also not the case. If a tree falls on your house, and you work in a bookstore year-round, it’s possible that Binc can help. Due to donations from across the industry, Binc is able to help with a vast range of emergency events that effect booksellers’ lives outside of the bookstore where they work. Binc has helped pay for addiction treatment, vital medications, preventing eviction, repairs after a tornado partially destroyed a home, funeral expenses for a loved one, relocation for domestic violence survivors, dealing with bed bugs, and 100s more qualifying events. If you’re not sure if your situation qualifies, and you’re struggling financially after something unexpected happened in your life, call us. We’ll talk you through our simple application process and do our best to get you some relief.

If you’re not sure if your situation qualifies, call us.

Sometimes when I tell people about Binc they ask, “So what’s the catch? Do I have to pay the money back? Do you tell everyone I needed assistance?” The honest answer is that there is no catch. You never have to pay the money back (the assistance is in the form of grants, not loans), and our financial assistance programs are 100% confidential and judgment-free. We take your situation as it is and do our best to work with you and help you find a way out of it so you can get back to normal as quickly as possible.

At Binc we believe in the power of the indie bookstore in a community and the value of the people who work in that bookstore who every day make the store what it is. Binc is here for the children’s book buyer who is selecting the books on the shelves to reflect and at times challenge their community, the events coordinator who is always staying late and working weekends and moving that shelf out of the way for the 100th time, the aspiring writer and frontline bookseller who is trying to make her bookseller’s hourly wage work in New York City, for the new bookstore owner with a young family who has big dreams about building something great and valued for their community. Binc is here for each of them in times of great need. I always tell people, I wish that nobody ever needed Binc, but I also know that’s not the world we live in. At least it’s good to know if you need a little help during an emergency, that Binc will be here to help you find your way through a crisis. Then afterward, you can keep slinging those books and sharing your favorite stories with your customers and doing the incredible work of selling books and connecting readers with the stories they so urgently need to hear.

Kate Weiss was a frontline bookseller and book buyer for over ten years and is currently the communication and marketing coordinator at the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

Guest Post from COVR

Join us in welcoming the Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) to the bookselling community that Binc Serves. We asked president Karen Stuth to tell us a little bit about COVR and their member stores and booksellers.


The Coalition of Visionary Resources (COVR) is the not-for-profit trade association for the Mind Body Spirit marketplace. COVR support the success of its members by providing education, mentoring, member discounts, and targeted networking. Our members include retail bookstore and gift store owners, publishers, distributors, vendors, musicians, artists, authors, product developers and manufacturers, filmmakers, radio and television hosts, inspirational speakers, jewelry-makers, healing arts practitioners, and more.

COVR was formed in 1996 by a group of people from the very unique businesses that create and sell conscious living and visionary books, music, products, and services. Recognizing the special dynamics of our industry, our founders created an organization to help and support each other.

Our members are in the business of helping the world become a better place with their spiritually uplifting products and services that nurture and celebrate the human spirit. COVR Members support and embrace a spiritual world view characterized by global concern, social conscience, peaceful coexistence, and ecological sustainability. This world view includes the various forms of personal freedoms and human rights, including civil rights, peace, social justice, and equal rights for women. At the more personal level, COVR supports companies that emphasize creativity and personal growth, and generally hold in high regard the concepts of integrity, altruism, self-actualization, optimism, spirituality, authenticity, wholistic oneness, and direct personal experience. Our marketplace exists for personal growth, to instill knowledge, to encourage harmony, for self-help, alternative health, spirituality, and meditation.  Our industry members provide uplifting products or services for higher awareness or holistic or green living.

COVR understands what our industry members need to be successful. We support their success by providing business education, hands-on advice, member discounts, and targeted networking. COVR offers a portfolio of benefits that provide practical and actionable value to each member.

Each year COVR gives Visionary Awards to entries selected from among the best products in the Mind Body Spirit industry. Our Visionary Awards are the only awards of their kind in our industry. Our retailers and bookstore owners are passionate about new products, the next best seller, and the next undiscovered gem; our awards program brings new offerings to their attention.

If you carry self-help books, books about meditation, or other types of product that support and salute the human spirit, please consider joining COVR.  Information about our organization and a link to become a member is located at www.covr.org. Our lowest level of membership is free.

Year-End Musings from Binc

The beginning of a new year is a time for reflection on the previous year and anticipation of what is to come. While the work of emergency financial assistance is nothing if not unpredictable, there are certain things that seem to hold true.

Hardships Frequently Come in Multiples

It would be nice if bad luck came in single isolated events, one problem that, once solved, would let life continue on as before. At Binc we know that most often, this is not how real life works. Take for example a serious medical event. The overwhelming bills are bad enough, but a medical emergency is often accompanied by a loss of income as the person recovers. Piled on to the stress of the injury or illness is the worry of how to pay the bills without the income they need to do so.

Financial assistance is not based on one event or one moment in time. It is all about how that moment will impact household financial stability today and for the months to come. This is why Binc considers all the events happening in  and uses a multi-pronged approach to get the bookseller’s household back on firm financial footing. Helping booksellers to negotiate their medical bills and/or negotiating and paying bills on their behalf is the first step. Once the bills are under control, Binc focuses on the bookseller’s other household expenses. Can those be covered while the bookseller is off work? Will the time needed for recuperation put the family in danger of losing their home or having their utilities shut off? Only by looking at the big picture can Binc plan the best method to really help the bookseller and their family for the long term.

Disasters Happen in Spite of Our Preparation

You could have the best plan in place and have checked off every box on Binc’s Disaster Checklist, but bad luck can still strike. As we saw this year, Mother Nature is fickle, spreading snow and ice storms, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and wildfires across the country. When natural disasters strike, they can create both a short- and a long-term need. In the short-term those impacted may need lodging, food, clothing and medicine to get them through an evacuation in the first hours after a disaster strikes. Longer term problems may include damaged or destroyed homes, or in the case of Paradise, CA, the destruction of an entire town. Bookstores may also be damaged or closed during disasters and even when they reopen it is often to very few customers as the community rebuilds. Once again, the need comes in multiple forms: immediate disaster assistance, replacement and rebuilding expenses, and loss of income in the aftermath of the disaster. Binc is ready, willing, and able to help in all of those situations.

Booksellers are Hesitant to Request and Accept Help

If you want to drive a Binc staff or board member crazy, tell us that you didn’t apply for assistance because “someone needed it more”. We hear this too often and are constantly telling booksellers that their need is as important as another’s. We get it, booksellers are a proud and independent bunch. That is what makes you all so good at what you do and the pillars of your communities. But every now and then, even the strongest pillar needs a bit of support to keep it strong. So, if life knocks you down, let Binc help you back up. You will be stronger for allowing your community of book people to give you a hand. And you will be in a better position to help someone else on another day.

Book People are the Best People

We continue to be amazed by the willingness of book people to help each other and the imaginative ways you accomplish this. Every natural disaster or story of a bookseller needing help is followed by a cry across the industry of “How can we help?”. We see this help every day come in different forms, whether it is a publisher writing a check, a trade association holding a fundraiser, a bookstore donating a portion of a day’s sales, or a bookseller making a small donation with every paycheck, that is the power of book people helping each other.

We appreciate the calls and emails we get alerting us when someone is in need of help. The bookselling industry is a family of like-minded folks who understand that it is the community that matters. We are proud to be a part of this community and grateful that you have embraced Binc as your foundation.

Here is to a happy and healthy 2019.

Booksellers Overcoming Disaster

 

Every year Mother Nature finds ways to remind us of her power. Wind, water, fire and ice all combined to make the 2017 year one of the worst disaster years in recent memory. Getting through a disaster, natural or otherwise, whether as an individual, a family or a business requires planning and the help of your community, both local and industrywide. Libris and the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation have put together a disaster checklist to help you be better prepared in case the worst happens.

Having provided insurance services to the book industry since 1997, Libris knows a lot about the claims process after disasters, and more importantly, how to prepare your business beforehand. Whitney Balaun, business development specialist with Libris, advises you first to know your policy. Make sure you understand what is covered and not covered. For instance, many bookstores often have special events, she said, adding that Libris’ policy has outstanding special events coverage, where some carriers have events exclusions. At the holidays, the Libris policy flexes to cover your seasonal increase in merchandise, whereas many other policies do not.

Most policies also exclude flood and earthquake. If your bookstore is in an area where this is a concern, you need a standalone policy for this coverage. Does your policy have a waiting period on business interruption or a wind and hail deductible? That knowledge is helpful in your disaster planning. Save contact information for whom you’ll call to call when you need to file a claim.

“FEMA says more than 40 percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster,” said Balaun. She recommends that booksellers start by identifying and assessing their hazards: how old is your building; how up-to-date is your fire sprinkler system? How many exits do you have and are they clearly marked for customers?

“Another area to consider is how you can strengthen your supply chain,” she said, adding that business disruptions will break the chain: You may be cut off from book suppliers. You may be unable to open for business due to building damages. All create a critical issue, quickly draining your financial reserves and weakening your customer relationships.

“What’s your Plan B, in case of an emergency?” she said. “That’s why we’ve created this checklist – so you can think through all these potential issues and prepare before there’s any threat of danger. Don’t wait until the threat is imminent – under the pressure, you won’t be able to think clearly and may forget important steps.”

Even with the best of planning a natural disaster can create a critical financial hardship for booksellers and bookstores. In those cases, the Binc Foundation serves as a safety net to help aid in recovery. Last year the Binc Foundation assisted a record number of stores and booksellers impacted by hurricanes, wildfires, and floods. Whether a bookseller’s home was destroyed by fire, a store was forced to temporarily close after a damaging storm, or a bookseller’s family couldn’t pay their bills because the wage earners were not able to work after a disaster, the Foundation was able to step in and help.

In one instance, a bookseller’s home was severely damaged in the flood waters following Hurricane Harvey. With no family living nearby and all hotel rooms within commuting distance filled to capacity, the family was forced to move back into the damaged home as soon as the waters receded. Binc helped purchase cleaning and building supplies to help make the home livable again. The bookseller was able to continue working at the bookstore by day, while working each night to repair their home. Kit Steinaway, Program Manager of the Foundation marveled, “The resilience and determination of these booksellers facing unbelievable loss was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Their desire to help the bookstore stay open and staffed while struggling with their own personal losses, speaks volumes to the dedication of booksellers.”

We all know that in the book world, “community” is more than just a catch phrase; it’s a way of life. The bookselling community shows its true character during times of greatest need. Last year we saw it manifest in many ways, with publishers helping damaged stores restock, booksellers offering up spare rooms in their homes to displaced colleagues, and communities digging in to help repair and reopen stores. Booksellers look out for each other and are always concerned for someone who “has a greater need than I do.” When we all pitch in to help each other, we strengthen the entire book industry and create a caring community of book people.

With another disaster season underway, both Libris and Binc have already heard from booksellers who have weathered Hurricane Lane, Hurricane Florence and the every present California wildfires. In our wish for very bookstore and every bookseller should make sure that they are prepared, Libris and Binc have put together this Disaster Checklist. Please download the checklist, store it on your computer at work and at home and use it to make sure your shop and family are prepared when Mother Nature decides to strike again.