A change of venue and fewer booksellers made for a more low-key Southern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show this year at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood on October 23, 2010. The meeting was the last of the regional trade shows.
“The economy finally caught up with us this year,” said SCIBA executive director Jennifer Bigelow. “There are a few more bookstores here, but less booksellers. Maybe the stores couldn’t afford to bring their entire staff to the show this time.” Exhibitors numbered the same as in 2009 at a modest 23 tables, business was quiet at the booths, and in a gesture of goodwill several of the reps raffled off their display books to booksellers at the conclusion of the show. The one new exhibitor was PEN Center USA, which recently decided to allow booksellers to become associate members. A local representative was selling memberships at the PEN table for $10 rather than the customary $15 annual fee.
After holding the show at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. for the last five years, the SCIBA decided to switch to the venue that was ABA’s “Hotel California” during the 2008 BEA. “The (Renaissance) hotel wanted us, and gave us a good deal,” Bigelow said. Next year the show will be held in Long Beach.
‘This event isn’t about buying for us,” said Skylight Books owner Kerry Slattery, whose staff didn’t give out orders on the show floor. “We come because the trade show is educational for the employees, and it’s a great opportunity to see the reps in a different environment and get to know the authors.” Skylight, which is having a challenging year similar to many SCIBA bookstores, also asked their reps for support in adjusting their fall orders down and talked with them about accounts payables difficulties. “They’re all so understanding,” added Slattery. “The reps know it’s all about the long run.”
With seven speakers at the Authors Luncheon the event was nearly a sell-out. Particularly well received were authors Ellen Hopkins (Fallout, Simon & Schuster) Benjamin Hale (The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, Twelve), and Weird Al Yankovic (When I Grow Up, HarperCollins, Feb. 2011). “I know my books are a challenge for you as booksellers,” said Hopkins, whose YA novels focus on dark subjects such as drug addiction and prostitution and are written entirely in verse, “but because of the Internet it seems that kids today are used to reading in snatches.” Hale’s novel, about an intelligent, English-speaking chimpanzee, began its life as a satire when the author was studying at the Iowa Writer’s School. “But after spending day after day at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago watching the chimps in the primate house,” Hale said, “I began to struggle with some deep, dark issues about the relationship between animals and humans. The tone of the book changed completely.” Saturday was Al Yankovic’s birthday, and luncheon emcee Gabe Barillas, the local HarperCollins rep, led the crowded room in a rousing version of “Happy Birthday” for the eccentric comedian and entertainer. After a hilarious montage of Yankovic’s video clips was shown he took to the stage for an interview by author Michael Grant. Referring to the fact that his book is for children Yankovic said, “I wanted to reproduce before writing a book. Actually, I had my daughter so I could write kid’s books.”
In fact, there was a definite emphasis on children’s books at the trade show, with more kid’s authors in attendance and on panels than ever before. “This is a very important part of our membership,” Bigelow explained. “The market is so big. We even added children’s stores to our annual bookstore tour this year.”
The trade show portion of the day began at 4:00 p.m. and ended at 7:00 p.m. when the Author’s Feast commenced. Book Soup staffers Tosh Berman and Paige Garver both mentioned Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters, by Marilyn Monroe (FSG) as a potential Christmas bestseller for their store. Berman is also banking on Bob Willoughby’s Audrey Hepburn: Photographs 1953 – 1966 (Taschen) despite its $500 price tag, and Frank: the Voice, by James Kaplan (Doubleday, Nov. 2010). Other titles being bantered about on the show floor were Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen (FSG), Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 (U. of California Press), and You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness, by Julie Klam (Penguin).
The keynote speaker at the Author’s Feast was crime and mystery writer and former private investigator Don Winslow (Savages, Simon & Schuster), who was introduced by T. Jefferson Parker. “I’m the Susan Lucci of crime writer awards,” joked the self-effacing Winslow, who has never won any major literary awards. “Some of the most interesting and humiliating experiences of my life have taken place in your bookstores,” he said, “including the time only one person showed up for me at a book signing, an elderly woman who finally walked up to me and asked me where the ladies room was.” Looking back on his early days as an author, Winslow gave great praise to indie booksellers in his talk. “You guys have kept me alive. You’ve given me cookies when I couldn’t afford to buy them myself, and you’ve always encouraged and supported me. God bless you. I’m so happy you exist.”
Fifty authors attended the Feast. The 2010 SCIBA Book Awards were given to Aimee Bender for The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Doubleday) in the fiction category, Father Gregory Boyle for Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion (Free Press) in non-fiction, Robert Crais for The First Rule (Putnam) in mystery (the T. Jefferson Parker award), Pseudonymous Bosch for This Book is Not Good For You (Little Brown) in the children’s novel category, and Marla Frazee for All the World (Simon & Schuster) in the children’s picture category. The annual Glenn Goldman Award for best art book went to Los Angeles, Portrait of a City (Taschen) by David Ulin, Kevin Starr, and Jim Heiman. In addition, two Glenn Goldman Scholarships were given to booksellers from Warwick’s and Skylight Books.