The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association returned to the Portland Airport Holiday Inn, October 6-8 and proved to be another in the string of fall regional shows where booksellers were upbeat about business and bookselling.
It was more than coffee that had folks in a good mood. Tina Ontiveros of Klints Books, said the show was especially valuable for rural bookstores to connect with peers and reps who don’t reach rural regions often. PNBA teasurer Larry West inspired applause in the membership meeting when he announced that the association finished 2012 in the black and predicted the present year as “good for the association.” Attendance was marginally down, with lower bookseller and rep numbers countered by a rise in author attendance and five new general merchandise exhibitors.
Executive director Thom Chambliss lauded the strong mood of cooperation among Northwest booksellers as demonstrated in education sessions like Third Place Books' Robert Sindelar’s Edelweiss tutorial for reps and booksellers. This collective information sharing was popular also in sessions on Kobo eBook readers for libraries and bookstores, discussions on social media use, events with independently published authors, event partnering with local businesses and libraries and tips for multi-author events, which are becoming standard for many stores.
Author events weren’t only education session topics, they were also a boon for the show, which featured 96 authors in nine meal showcase events or scheduled signings. Sunday’s Celebration of Authors lunch presented 10 writers eager to book appearances in local stores. First-time author Bryce Andrews, (Badluck Way), greeted a line of booksellers that stretched far into the next room. He was humbled by the enthusiasm and excited to get out to visit many of the stores that approached him.
Beloved classics got stage time in a new interview format during the Northwest Classic Authors dinner featuring Ivan Doig (Sweet Thunder), Barry Lopez (Home Ground, 2nd, field guide edition) and Jane Kirkpatrick (One Glorious Ambition), moderated by Brad Smith of Paulina Springs Books. The authors praised indie stores for unflagging support throughout their writing careers, strengthening debut books as well as solidifying backlist sales. Lopez thanked booksellers “for everything you do to take care of people. We’re with you on that and we’ll try to keep bringing work to your counters that count.”
Holy Myers of Elliot Bay Books felt especially affirmed by the Northwest Classic Authors dinner, which she found heartening in the face of industry changes like the increase in general merchandise in stores and decrease in books. She was reminded that the core was unchanged and booksellers were appreciated for their power to help people, “whether they need to make pot roast or get through the loss of a child.”
During the show, both formal and informal conversations about forging mutual relationships between authors and stores sprouted. Strong desire for expanded author events triggered a membership meeting suggestion that authors be required to feature a PNBA member bookstore on their Web site to be considered for show events and so transform the respect and gratitude authors expressed for indie booksellers into more tangible practice.