The decision by NAIBA to revamp this year’s annual convention into a mini-sales conference for booksellers was seen as a success by all parties who attended the October 13-15 event in Baltimore. “I like that they’re trying something new,” said Lori Zook, director of telephone sales at Random House. “We’re happy to be here.” Noted Len Vlahos as part of his report from ABA at NAIBA’s the annual meeting, “It’s really innovative. We’re really impressed with what’s happening at NAIBA.”
Attendance, which was slightly down from last year, with 295 booksellers, 97 featured authors and 250 publishers, mirrored a decline in NAIBA membership from 156 members and 167 lapsed members in 2006 to 130 members and 164 potential members this year. But as NAIBA president Joe Draybak at Chester County Book & Music Company in Chester, Pa., pointed out, this year’s facilities gave the show a sense of intimacy that was lacking last year at Valley Forge. “I thought the show went extremely well,” he said. “For the most part, the publishers seemed to be on board.”
In addition to changing the emphasis, other tweaking was evident, including moving the Moveable Feast to lunch time and having a broader mix of adult authors, including Baltimore writer Laura Lippman at the opening night dinner, along with children’s writers, who predominated in ’06. NAIBA was also careful to avoid conflicts between the rep picks and other programming, and there was far less overlap among programs.
The rep picks were among the best received part of the weekend. Mindy Ostrow, co-owner of the River’s End bookstore in Oswego, N.Y., said the presentations “made me want to read almost every book.” They also helped spark a lot of activity on the exhibit floor. Adena Siegel, who represents Harvard, MIT and Yale University presses, said when she returned to the exhibit hall, “in the first 20 minutes I had a lot of people ask about the books I talked about.”
At the Awards Ceremony Sunday evening, Tim Seldes, Anne Tyler’s long-time agent, accepted NAIBA’s Legacy Award on Tyler’s behalf. “In my pantheon of writers,” he said, “there are few higher than Jane Austen and Eudora Welty. Anne Tyler shares many of the same qualities.” Present to accept NAIBA Book of the Year Awards were Michelle Knudsen (Library Lion, Candlewick) and Ishmael Beah (A Long Time Gone, FSG), who said, “I really feel that through literature we can bring cultures together.”
An encouraging sign for the health of NAIBA was the appearance of several booksellers who had either recently opened new stores, like Kenny Sarfin, owner of Books and Greetings in Northvale, N.J., or were readying new stores, like Karen Fadyen, who recently purchased Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, Pa., which she is extensively renovating before reopening it in fall ’08. In addition, for the first time NAIBA presented its Helmuth Sales Rep of the Year Award to a telephone sales rep, Kim Gomber at HarperCollins.