Last month, I celebrated my 10-year anniversary as the director of the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association. Ten years ago, I didn’t know my job existed, much less that it was part of this extraordinary industry where values are a commodity and competitors are friends. I’m grateful every day to work alongside the passionate and creative people who believe bookstores are community sanctuaries.
It’s fitting to experience this personal milestone at the same time MIBA is beginning its 40th year. It’s a time for reflection in so many ways. The pandemic is still gripping the world and not allowing any of us to get back to “normal.” In a prescient move, Bookshop opened in January, giving many stores without e-commerce an opportunity to keep selling books as state mandates forced their doors to close. Penguin Random House bought Simon & Schuster and we wait to see how it will unfold. BookExpo is no longer, while Publishers Weekly and Edelweiss have announced their own virtual and online gatherings in its place. Moon Palace Books is still boarded up after the uprising protesting the murder of George Floyd. Most recently, we are shocked and angered that a disinformation-fueled insurrection so easily overtook the nation’s capital.
As we make plans to celebrate our 40th anniversary, every moment will be tinged with sadness due to the catastrophic loss of “the Uncles” during the uprising after George Floyd’s death. Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s Bookstores, owned by Don Blyly, who founded MIBA in 1981, were burned to the ground, along with the unquantifiable treasure trove of books inside.
Despite all the loss, uncertainty, and fear, there’s still good news. During challenging times, we rise up together and collectively reaffirm our values. Many bookstores have had a successful year, and many more are reporting they had the best holiday in history. As of today, Bookshop is on its way to raising 11 million dollars for independent bookstores, an astonishing number having been in operation for just one year.
Whether or not sales were up, down, or flat, independent bookstores worked tirelessly to keep their bright light shining at a time when it feels like we need them more than ever--and I don’t say that lightly. We always need bookstores, but in a year when we were confined to our homes, disinformation flared, Amazon deprioritized books, and our country desperately needed to read about antiracism, bookstores were there for us as an unwavering refuge in the storm.
I'd like to say thank you to booksellers and everyone in the industry who reinvented their work again and again. Each book we bought felt like one more brick laid on the path to a better world.
As we head into 2021, we invite you to celebrate our 40th anniversary with us throughout the year. We'll look back on our history and reflect on the future, giving you opportunities to submit your photos and memories, donate to industry causes, and join us for some new programming. Plans will be rolled out in the weeks and months ahead, so please stay tuned for more information. Please make a note of your favorite MIBA memories, historical tidbits, and favorite pictures of bookseller gatherings! We want it all.
We'd like to make a special note of the contribution of Don Blyly, who founded MIBA in 1981. Don Blyly is the owner of Uncle Hugo and Uncle Edgar's, which were burned to the ground during the uprising following the protests after the murder of George Floyd. To contribute, you can donate to his crowdfunding campaign to help Don in his future endeavors.
Here's the origins of our association, which Don shared with us.
"In the summer of 1980, ABA put together a workshop in Chicago on organizing regional bookseller organizations. At that time, I owned Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore and Books Galore, a full-line shopping mall store. I was the only person from Minnesota who went. When I came back from the workshop, I called other local bookstores to get them interested, but didn’t find a lot of enthusiasm. I also talked up the idea with the local sales reps, and they were all very enthusiastic about the idea, and they suggested that it would be better if they pushed the idea on other bookstore owners, rather than having the idea come from a competitor. Cissy Tiernan (who was then the Ballantine rep), Wayne Farr (who was then the Harper rep), and Ray Jay (who was then the Pocket Book rep) talked up the idea with all the independent bookstore owners they sold to, and we had an organizational meeting in the fall of 1980 at the Lincoln Deli that used to be in St. Louis Park just across the border from Minneapolis. Bookstore owners from several local stores, one from Duluth, and one from Iowa showed up, and we all agreed to start the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association. We incorporated in 1981, filed nonprofit paperwork with IRS in 1981, and held our first trade show in the fall of 1981."
Through good times and bad, cheers to everyone in the book world for working so tirelessly to further the industry we believe in.
Our friends at New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association have launched a Professional Bookseller Certification program, with the first of five modules beginning in mid January focusing on event management. The course is so popular, it was sold to capacity within a day, but we encourage you to do the following if you are interested in this certification course, either as a student or a teacher.
Students: Even though the first module (Event Management) is at capacity, you should still register to get on the waitlist. NAIBA hopes to launch another class in spring and registering will put you on the wait list, and also demonstrate the demand for this type of education.
Teachers: Booksellers and industry staff who would like to be instructors for any of these modules are welcome to submit their name to NAIBA.
PRESS RELEASE FROM NAIBA
NAIBA is proud to announce the Events Management module of the Professional Bookseller Certification. Booksellers from across the country are welcome to register.
The Event Management module is the first of six courses that are part of the certification program. Currently in development are: Inventory Management, Store Operations, and Basic Bookselling. Those programs are expected to begin later in 2021. The remaining modules, Staff & Human Resources and Career Fast Track, are scheduled to launch in 2022. For more information, visit our FAQs page.
Booksellers and industry staff who would like to be instructors for any of these modules are welcome to submit their name to NAIBA.
The Professional Bookseller Certification Program is the first effort of its kind to draw upon the combined knowledge and experience of independent booksellers to create the modules and education materials while offering a professional certification for these learning opportunities.
“After 15 years of working in the book industry, I finally have the opportunity to be part of creating the professional certification program that I wish I had been able to attend when I was hired for my first bookselling job. It is an honor to be able to work collaboratively with my colleagues in the industry to compile our knowledge into these courses, to share best practices with other bookstores, and to be part of training the next generation of independent booksellers," says BrocheAroe Fabian, owner, River Dog Book Co., and an instructor in the Events Management course.
To be a professional in any industry requires skills and knowledge and not just time. This program will train staff wishing to make bookselling a career, keeping the industry vibrant and stable. Training and education in-store are a good foundation, but often resources and time are limited. This certification program will train booksellers in the skills and resources to do their jobs well and certify to the industry that they have achieved a higher level of expertise.
For more information, contact Eileen Dengler, NAIBA Executive Director at email@example.com or 516-333-0681.
At our annual membership meeting on October 26, Danny Caine, owner of Raven Book Store, granted the Midwest Bookseller of the Year award to Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl, owners of Moon Palace Books. (It's a tradition that the previous winner of the award presents the new recipient.)
Everything Danny, Angela, and Jamie said that night demonstrates the powerful truth that we are stronger together. Moon Palace's dedication to their community, in good times and bad, inspired not only those in the Twin Cities, but countless people across the country--while Angela and Jamie told us “We didn’t do it alone. We knew you had our backs.” There was barely a dry eye in the house.
I suppose that's what 2020 will do for you, force your beloved community online and then give you a reason to all cry together.
Crisis shows your true colors. This year has again proven the generosity and resiliency of our booksellers. Congratulations to Angela and Jamie and to all of the independent booksellers making it through this year. Scroll down for Danny's remarks.
"It’s not just that I’ve never heard anyone say a critical word about Minneapolis’s Moon Palace Books; it’s that I’ve never heard anyone say anything less than absolutely effusive.
This Twin Cities landmark has grown a devoted following of readers, authors, and fellow booksellers by doing exactly what indies do when indies are at their best: connecting with their community and finding a voice. Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl founded Moon Palace in 2012, and two moves later their massive, colorful building is a beacon in its neighborhood.
At the most basic level, Moon Palace is a kickass bookstore with a deep and interesting inventory. It has a beautiful event space that they fill with great programming. Their café, Geek Love, is delicious. But what makes Moon Palace most beloved—and most deserving of this award—is their community building. They’ve teamed with Milkweed Editions to send books to incarcerated people. They host the Twin Cities Queer Book Club. They’ve provided free meals for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. They’ve mentored less experienced booksellers. Most inspiringly, to me, they have navigated the challenges of this difficult year with a nearly unimaginable grace.
One of the defining feelings of 2020 is staring at Twitter with some combination of disbelief and helplessness. A feeling of seeing unimaginably horrible things, and subsequently feeling like I couldn’t possibly do anything about them.
In this state, horrified and angered by the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police, I saw a picture of Moon Palace Books the morning after the first night of the intense protests. The bookstore stood boarded up but undamaged. Across the plywood, messages like ABOLISH THE POLICE and JUSTICE and LOVE and BLM were painted in bold and colorful letters. The photo brought me to tears.
The Third Precinct was an epicenter of the protests, and Moon Palace was right there next to it. And there it was, Moon Palace, defiant and drenched in rainbows, still standing strong.
As the stories came out about Moon Palace’s actions through the protests, I found myself crying again. Jamie and Angela fed protestors pizza from Geek Love Café. When protestors offered to pay, Jamie told them to donate to George Floyd’s family. When the police tried to set up a staging area in Moon Palace’s parking lot, Jamie forced them away. Some folks believed these actions of solidarity are what led Moon Palace to be spared damage in the protests, but Jamie and Angela weren’t acting to save their business or their building or their books. They were acting for justice. Jamie even told people not to risk themselves protecting the store, saying in the New York Times, “Things that may be lost or damaged in our building are just things, but your life is priceless, just like George Floyd’s life was priceless. Be safe.”
Watching this unfold from afar made me believe that a bookstore owner does not in fact need to feel helpless, that a bookstore can and should figure out a way to do something. Moon Palace acted—and is acting—how a bookstore should act in turbulent times. This is how a bookstore can be an engine for positive social change. This is how a bookstore can protect and serve its neighborhood.
It’s not enough to call this political bookselling, because all bookselling is political. Rather, this is good community-building bookselling. This is bookselling to make the world a better place.
This is why it is my honor to present the Midwest Bookseller of the Year award to Moon Palace’s Jamie and Angela Schwesnedl."
To help support independent bookstores during the critical holiday selling period, Workman Publishing Co., Inc. is introducing a consumer-focused Shop Local FOREVER marketing campaign.
The campaign is comprised of three components:
Of the Shop Local Forever campaign, Liz Hunter, Workman Publishing’s Associate Director of Field Sales, said: “We are honored to partner with our authors, all of whom are leaders in their fields, to champion the message that independent bookstores are a vital part of our culture. We hope this campaign inspires consumers to take action to support local businesses this holiday season and beyond.” If booksellers have questions about videos, or materials for this campaign, they can email Christian Westermann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re celebrating the transformative power of independent booksellers by granting the Midwest Bookseller of the Year award to a pair of booksellers who’ve had an extraordinary impact on their community this year—Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl, owners of Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Thanks to Angela and Jamie’s dedication over the past 8 years, Moon Palace is known for its expansive footprint—within its physical space and the hearts of the community. Moon Palace is radically welcoming, with a generosity of spirit that radiates throughout the community and the book industry at large. In a year no one could have predicted, Angela and Jamie responded to both the pandemic and the civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd by prioritizing the safety and well-being of their community before their bottom line.
Jessica Peterson White, owner of Content Books in Northfield, MN says “Jamie and Angela have adapted their business to the pandemic and the heartbreaking destruction of the neighborhood with agility and care, setting a brilliant example of resilience and allyship for booksellers across the Midwest and the country.”
What made them who they are today
Angela and Jamie carefully built Moon Palace book by book, decision by decision.
Opening in the fall of 2012, they started out in a small location a short walk off a popular thoroughfare in South Minneapolis. In July 2016, they upgraded to a larger location on the main drag next to other independent businesses. Famously, a 60-person team joined together to move 10,000 books down an assembly line and into the new store, a joyful event demonstrating the close ties between Moon Palace and its customers.
As much of an upgrade as this new location offered, Jamie and Angela still saw the move as an intermediary one as they geared up to operate in an even more expansive way. They dreamed about having enough space to create “a bookstore that has stuff going on in it beyond being a bookstore from dawn to dusk,” says CityPages.
In October 2017, Angela and Jamie found the location where they could fully demonstrate their deep commitment to community engagement. Moon Palace’s third home is a tremendous multipurpose space located at one of the most densely urban corners in Minneapolis, featuring two floors of new and used books, a restaurant called Geek Love Café, and a separate performance venue for readings and bands.
Anitra Budd, longtime South Minneapolis resident and customer of the store, says “it’s like their heart grew bigger each time they moved. Their location at Minnehaha and Lake is so welcoming and versatile, it allows them to demonstrate their values in a really big way. It’s one of the most welcoming and community-driven businesses in the city.”
The location is a “much-needed anchor that has had a profound impact on the community,” says Peterson White—“from kids who come to drag storytime, to farmers selling their goods on Saturday mornings, to poetry fans who've been treated to the work of Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop participants, to name a few.”
Moon Palace also hosts the Twin Cities Queer Book Club, provided free meals for people in the community experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, and worked with Milkweed Editions to donate books to inmates.
Independent booksellers are known for their generosity towards one another, and the Schwesnedls exhibit that kind of caring regularly. Giving back to others, even their competitors, is built into their ethos.
Angela attends industry events, often with her young daughter on her arm. She’s become known as someone we all can reach out to. Claire Kirch, Publishers Weekly’s Midwest correspondent, says, “I've seen Angela at trade shows walking newbie and prospective booksellers around, introducing them to people, giving them pointers on how to do shows. Angela is one of this industry's unsung heroes.”
Tory Hall, a bookseller at Chapters Books & Gifts in Seward, NE, says “Angela is infinitely approachable to ask questions about the industry. I've reached out to her multiple times with questions and she always has time to listen and respond.”
When Zsamé Morgan began her preparations to open Babycakes Book Stack, she built a friendship with Moon Palace as a place to learn the ropes. She says, “Angela tirelessly mentored me, provided a listening ear and critical feedback and gave me a strong foothold in the bookselling community. Jamie has been generous to a fault with his wisdom and practical advice. Together, this powerhouse couple, the staff, and the store itself have become an immovable force for good—for diversity, inclusion, and community involvement, for honesty and integrity.”
Angela and Jamie are also lauded by our publishing partners for their finesse when it comes to navigating and hosting author events. In late July 2019, Anchor (an imprint of Penguin Random House) brought Oyinkan Braithwaite to the U.S. from Nigeria to tour for the paperback of her novel My Sister, the Serial Killer. Because the Upper Midwest hit above its weight in hardcover sales for the novel, Anchor decided to have one of Braithwaite’s five U.S. stops here and booked Moon Palace since they’d been an early supporter of the novel.
Jason Gobble, Moon Palace’s sales rep at Penguin Random House, says, “As we all know, just because a book does well doesn’t mean an event will, but it was a wonderful evening—a packed house, full of warmth and excitement. The author was happy, the publisher was happy, and I couldn’t have been happier. That’s what Angela and Jamie do—they work very hard, then make it seem effortless.”
Becoming a beacon
In a year that will go down in history as one of the most challenging in recent memory, Angela and Jamie showed their true colors once again by putting the well-being and safety of the community first with every decision they made.
During the pandemic, they closed their doors to foot traffic and turned the store into a busy shipping and customer service center. They let their creative spirit shine when they installed a pickup window so customers could safely interact to get their purchases.
What might become the most emblematic decision of Moon Palace’s history is the way Angela and Jamie chose to respond to the massive civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd. Moon Palace is located at ground zero of the uprising, a few buildings down from the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct burned by demonstrators.
In a moving demonstration of solidarity, Angela and Jamie met the needs of the protestors—leading many people to conclude that it was their support that saved their business from harm. As widows were busted, stores looted, and the neighborhood burned around them, Moon Palace emerged unscathed, as Morgan says, “firmly standing as a living monument to justice and all things literary.”
Jamie emerged as a staunch supporter of the demonstrators and a national voice for putting people before property. He scrambled to stop the police from setting up a staging area next to the store and Geek Love Cafe turned out pizza for people in the streets. When customers offered to help pay, Jamie said to send donations to George Floyd’s family.
As quoted in the New York Times, Jamie shared a post to their social media asking people not to put themselves “at risk to protect our store. Things that may be lost or damaged in our building are just things, but your life is priceless, just like George Floyd’s life was priceless. Be safe.”
“Through Moon Palace, Angela and Jamie have been a voice and a fearless champion for the disenfranchised in a heartbroken community,” says Morgan.
The following is a slideshow of pictures Jamie took from in and around the store during the uprising.
Moon Palace’s story is ultimately one of perseverance, through three locations, a global pandemic, and civil unrest. The bright colors on their storefront, the adorable sloth mascot sitting on books and eating pizza--they tell you to keep calm and keep on reading. Their storefront untouched by fire or vandalism suggests there’s hope to be had, that we will come together to embrace a new day free from racism.
Jason Gobble, Moon Palace’s sales rep for Penguin Random House, says “They promote the power of books to make the world a better place, and the world's a better place because of them.”
Please join us in congratulating Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl and celebrating Moon Palace Books.
This event is open to association member booksellers only. Pre-registration is required. Approved registered attendees will receive a Zoom link prior to the event.
Heartland is teaming up with the other regional associations to present Reverend Al Sharpton as he discusses his important, timely book RISE UP: Confronting a Country at the Crossroads (Hanover Square Press; 9/29/20), on Tuesday, September 15, from 3:30 to 4:30 pm CDT.
Rev. Al Sharpton is the host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation” and the founder and President of the National Action Network (NAN), one of the leading civil rights organizations in the world. With over 40 years of experience as a community leader, politician, minister and advocate, the Rev. Al Sharpton is one of America’s most-renowned civil rights leaders. Sharpton also hosts the nationally syndicated radio show, “Keepin’ It Real”, which broadcasts in 40 markets, five days a week.
In RISE UP, Rev. Sharpton revisits the highlights of the Obama administration, the 2016 election, Trump’s subsequent hold on the GOP and his interactions and relationships with other key players in politics and activism. He also amplifies the new voices and movements that have emerged in response to the Trump presidency.
Rev. Sharpton will be in conversation with Ramunda Lark Young of MahoganyBooks, and will take questions from attendees. This virtual event will be held via Zoom, and access will be limited to association member booksellers only. Booksellers may register for free now, via this link. Approved registered attendees will receive a Zoom link prior to the event.
Special thanks to Hanover Square Press/HarperCollins Publishers for their support.
About Hanover Square Press: Hanover Square Press publishes compelling fiction and nonfiction encompassing a broad range of genres—from crime, thrillers, literary and high-concept fiction to narrative history, journalism, science, biography and memoir, including New York Times bestsellers from Dan Abrams and David Fisher, and Rick Ross. www.hanoversqpress.com.
New this year! The Heartland Booksellers Award is a reflection of the powerful influence of independent booksellers throughout the Midwest.
This award was formed when the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association (MIBA) joined forces with the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers (GLIBA) to produce one unified awards program uplifting books with a Midwest angle that independent booksellers loved to sell this previous year.
Celebrating our book awards as one industry force amplifies the impact of the award for booksellers, publishers, authors, and consumers--as 12 states and more than 300 bookstores throughout the Greater Midwest celebrate these titles. "It's really exciting to watch it all come together," says Carrie Obry, MIBA's executive director. "First, booksellers nominate titles. Next, they vote for their favorites. Finally, we invite all the winners to a big party and celebrate the work of these authors and booksellers. Of course, this year will be different, as we celebrate virtually, but it will still be a fun and rewarding evening. The awards ceremony will be on October 15."
Our award-winning titles often remain on our bestseller lists for weeks, months, and even years to come and reflect the powerful influence of the voice of independent booksellers.
Everywhere You Don't Belong, Gabriel Bump, Algonquin Books, 2/4/2020, 9781616208790
This Tender Land, William Kent Krueger, Atria Books, 5/26/2020, 9781476749303
The Lager Queen of Minnesota, J. Ryan Stradal, Penguin Books, 6/23/2020, 9780399563065
The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, Michael Zapata, Hanover Square Press, 2/4/2020, 9781335010124
Rust Belt Femme, Raechel Anne Jolie, Belt Publishing, 3/10/2020, 9781948742634
In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado, Graywolf Press, 11/5/2019, 9781644450031
American Harvest, Marie Mutsuki Mockett, Graywolf Press, 4/7/2020, 9781644450178
Burn the Place, Iliana Regan, Scribner, 8/4/2020, 9781982157777
El Dorado Freddy's, Danny Caine, Belt Publishing, 3/3/2020, 9781948742627
HULL, Xandria Phillips, Nightboat Books, 10/8/2019, 9781643620084
Homie, Danez Smith, Graywolf Press, 1/21/2020, 9781644450109
Dear Delinquent, Ann Townsend, Sarabande Books, 5/7/2019, 9781946448347
Young Adult / Middle Grade
Beverly, Right Here, Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick, 9/24/2019, 9780763694647
Wink, Rob Harrell, Dial Books, 3/31/2020, 9781984815149
SLAY, Brittney Morris, Simon Pulse, 9/1/2020, 9781534445437
The Fountains of Silence, Ruta Sepetys, Philomel Books, 10/1/2019, 9780399160318
Children's Picture Book
Hello, Neighbor!, Matthew Cordell, Neal Porter Books, 4/6/2020, 9780823446186
Wild Honey from the Moon, Kenneth Kraegel, Candlewick, 11/5/2019, 9780763681692
My Footprints, Bao Phi, Capstone Editions, 9/1/2019, 9781684460007
A Map into the World, Kao Kalia Yang, Carolrhoda Books, 10/1/2019, 9781541538368
MIBA is seeking two BIPOC booksellers (owners, managers, or frontline) to join our board of directors.
Historically, MIBA has been governed by a 7-member board of directors. In the 2020 nomination season, we are expanding to a 9-person board of directors to add diverse perspectives and improve our representation. All of our existing board members are in the middle of their terms and will continue to serve.
Please submit the names of BIPOC booksellers you strongly believe would serve as excellent board members. We also encourage you to nominate yourself.
Read an overview of MIBA's board of directors nomination process.
The timeline is as follows:
Important details to note:
If you have questions about this process, please email either our executive director, Carrie Obry, at email@example.com, or our board president, Kate Rattenborg, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us for two special Meet the Editor events with Simon & Schuster. Registration is not required. The link to the adult event and children's event are below. See you then!
Adult Fall 2020 Presentation
Wednesday, June 10 from 3PM - 4 PM CST / 4PM - 5PM EST
GLIBA & MIBA Adult -- Wednesday June 10 from 4-5 (3-4 CT)
Children's Fall 2020 Presentation
Wednesday, June 17 from 3PM - 4 PM CT / 4PM - 5PM ET
Located in the Great Lakes and Midwest we don't have frequent access to publishing editors. The current state of our industry has offered us this amazing opportunity. A portion of each presentation will be dedicated topics including antiracism, helping kids talk about racism, resistance, amplifying Black voices and stories, celebrating difference, inclusion and immigration.
Caitlyn Dlouhy, VP and Editorial Director, Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Sarah Jane Abbott, Associate Editor, Paula Wiseman Books
Allyn Johnston, VP and Publisher, Beach Lane Books
Jennifer Ung, Senior Editor at Simon Pulse
Kendra Levin, Editorial Director, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Karen Wojtyla, VP and Editorial Director, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Alyson Heller, Senior Editor, Aladdin
Siobhan Ciminera, Editorial Director, Simon Spotlight
Jeffrey Salane, Editorial Director, Little Simon