One of the central images of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance’s 35th annual trade show, held from Sept. 23-25 at the Plaza Resort & Spa and Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona Beach, was a double bed placed near the registration booth. If after walking past the bed there were any doubt that the SIBA board and executive director Wanda Jewell are convinced that bookselling’s future depends on social networking, a nearby monitor displayed live tweets throughout the show (hashtag: #SIBA10).
To help those nervous about getting their tweet on, SIBA held a day-long bookseller school, the Southern Social Networking Summit Redux, the day before the conference officially got underway, as well as a how-to workshop encouraging booksellers to Find Your Tweet Spot. “I loved the social networking,” said Linda Barrett-Knopp, general manager and senior buyer at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, N.C. “This is the best SIBA I’ve been to.”
That’s not to say that every electronic presentation went off without a hitch—at the Skype Demo consultant Jack Heape had trouble getting a good connection—or that old-fashioned in-person author talks weren’t equally popular, maybe more so. The Kids Kick Off Lunch was packed with booksellers who came to hear Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney, author of Three Little Kittens (Dial); Jennifer Holm, Turtle in Paradise (Random House); Debra Frasier, author of A Fabulous Fair Alphabet (S&S/Beach Lane Books); and Deborah Wiles, author of Countdown (Scholastic).
The latter gave an a cappella rendition of Que Sera, Sera accompanied by photos of herself as an innocent young girl, which were quickly supplanted by pictures of basement bomb shelters and other responses to the Cuban missile crisis. Holm’s book took an earlier moment in the nation’s history for its starting point, Key West during the Depression. “I wanted to write about a little girl,” she said, “who isn’t anything like Shirley Temple. She has a house so small that she could spit across it.”
Pinkney, who said that he had begun to concentrate on books for the trade since his great-granddaughter was born three and a half years ago, thanked booksellers for their support: “You read the papers [about what’s happening to bookstores], and I have not found anything here other than that excitement for a book.”
Frasier, who is interested in how books get used once they are published, gave a slide presentation about a project she created for families, libraries, and booksellers, which she launched at this summer’s Minnesota State Fair to get kids to collects words at the fair. Her talk inspired many to don a State Fair crown that had been placed at each table.
Children’s book art was a focus of the show in other ways. Illustrators Henry Cole, who wrote and illustrated A Nest for Celeste (HarperCollins); Johnny Atomic, illustrator of Z Is for Zombie: An Illustrated Guide to the End of the World (Eos) by Adam-Troy Castro; and James Dean, illustrator of Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes (Harper) by Eric Litwin participated in a panel titled Draw Me In.
Books & Books children’s book buyer Becky Quiroga showed off her collection of children’s book art tattoos, which will appear in Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor’s The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos (Harper). “It started as a joke,” said Quiroga, who thought it would be fun to have a caterpillar on her arm. But when Eric Carle picked up a black Sharpie and sketched it in, she decided to follow through and ask her tattoo artist to add color. Then in February when Mo Willems was at the store, he draw on her arm. Her third, and most recent one, was by Lane Smith for It’s a Book. [Becky the tattooed lady photo—Becky Quiroga, children’s book buyer at Books & Books in Miami, Fla., displays her literary tattoos.] Quiroga said that she finds it “inspiring” to see the tattoos on her drawing and painting arm and hopes to fill it in completely, maybe even adding illustrations from “dead authors” like Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss.
Beneath the show’s outward vibrancy were concerns about the potential havoc of storms and other natural disasters on the fragile bookstore ecosystems of coastal stores in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Elva Rella, owner of Patrick Paperbacks in Satellite Beach, one of the few independents remaining on Florida’s barrier islands, expressed concern about whether Mother Nature will let her hang on. Not that the economy has made it easier for stores in other parts of the South. At Fiction Addiction, a used bookstore in Greenville, S.C., which added new books to its inventory four years ago, owner Jill Hendrix saw sales dip in July and August to July 2008 levels. A signing by Nicholas Sparks earlier this month more than made up the difference, but she said, “I’m waiting to see what Christmas is going to do.”
If no one single holiday title emerged from the show, perhaps that was only to be expected. As Ann Carlson, owner of Harborwalk Books in Georgetown, S.C., whose store is near a number of mass merchandisers noted, “What’s big for other people is not going to be big for me.” For Laura Keyes, owner of two-year-old Blue Elephant Book Shop in Decatur, Ga., SIBA offers an opportunity to gather books and author information before she heads into the holiday season.