SCBA's Schmooze Cruise
Barbara R ther -- 11/27/00
With membership doubling in the last two years, SCBA expands beyond its Author Feast
More than 325 people were welcomed aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., the first weekend of November for the eighth annual Southern California Booksellers Association Author Feast and Fall Seminar. With membership in SCBA almost doubling since 1998, this year's gathering featured a full schedule of seminars and events. New author events, educational programs and workshops all made their debuts this year and drew standing-room-only crowds.
An author luncheon with Marsha Mason (Journey,Simon & Schuster) and Mark Salzman (Lying Awake, Knopf) was very popular with the crowd. An afternoon of Book Sense marketing and BookSense.com events culminated with the author feast on Saturday evening.
Unique to the SCBA is the feast format in which 31 authors move between courses among 31 tables, giving all attendees a chance to talk intimately with the authors. Jon Winokur, author of How to Win at Golf Without Playing Well (Knopf), thanked his publicist for allowing him the pleasure of "this Schmooze Cruise."
Representatives from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books were there to discuss possible collaborative efforts with SCBA for its 2001 event, to be held April 28 and 29. The association may operate a service booth at the fair, and will again be distributing its member store guide. "Last year we distributed 5,000 guides to independent bookstores in Southern California at the festival, and next year we plan on even more," said Jennifer Bigelow, SCBA's executive director.
While some members are interested in expanding the SCBA to include a full-scale trade show, others feel that it will be hard to compete with the large scale of the NCIBA. And many of the southern-most members of the SCBA already attend NCIBA's yearly trade show in Oakland.
SCBA president Guy Adams, who manages the trade book department at the UCLA bookstore, is happy to see the tide turning for the organization. "We have often wondered why this area has been difficult to organize, but it is finally changing," he told PW. "I think Book Sense has helped independents see themselves as a unit. Having Jennifer Bigelow as a full-time director for the last two years has also helped the organization gain new members and bring old ones back into active status."
According to Adams, critical mass seems to be working to revitalize the organization. As more members become active, others join in. One of the things Adams feels the SCBA can best offer in the immediate future is information and news about issues that concern Southern California. Though the association d s have a newsletter, he said, more frequent e-mail and other communications will be a key to building up its visibility, and its viability.
Kingsolver Tour Helps Indies Clean UpWhen bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver thought about hitting the road to promote Prodigal Summer (HarperCollins), she wanted to find a way to take the emphasis away from what she called "the me, me, me" aspect of author tours.
"Touring has always been hard for me, because I'm uncomfortable with self-promotion," Kingsolver told PW. "I realized I'd feel much better using my presence to draw attention to local issues and raise interest in community activism." As a strong advocate for indies, she added, "I thought independent booksellers would be great at this kind of community organizing."
Last spring, Kingsolver's publisher, HarperCollins, asked independent booksellers to put together proposals for readings in large halls, where admission fees could be used to help support local environmental groups. More than 100 suggestions came in for collaborative events that would improve water quality, clean up toxic waste and assist small farms.
Now Kingsolver is about to start the second leg of her two-week, 13-store environmental tour. Although the final tally is not in, it looks like she will raise more than $30,000 for environmental groups ranging from the San Diequito River Project in California to the Huron River Watershed Council in Michigan and the Environmental Learning Center in Washington State. In the end, said Kingsolver, "I approved all the events my publisher suggested--more than I'd initially planned--because the proposals were so compelling. If it were humanly possible, I'd have done a hundred more."
For the lucky booksellers who have had a chance to host Kingsolver, it's definitely been worth it. More than 700 people turned out for the first event sponsored by the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops at the Milwaukee Public Library on October 24-- just one week after the book's on-sale date. "We had hosted Barbara twice before, so it was like having an old friend come back," said marketing director Nancy Quinn, noting that the $3,600 raised at the reading will be split between Citizens for a Better Environment, which has long been a beneficiary of the Schwartz Gives Back program, and Friends of the Milwaukee Library.
At Kingsolver's next stop, Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor, Mich., publicity manager Raymond McDaniel described the sold-out reading as "very remarkable, because of Kingsolver's fan base. They're a hyperbolically affectionate bunch. She showed up as if it were her very first book. She was very gracious."
For marketing director Susan Cohen of R.J. Julia in Madison, Conn., the reading gave the store a chance to work with Save the Sound. "We contacted them out of the blue," she said, 'because we liked what they're doing." That cold call and Kingsolver's reading raised $3,000, and put the book on the store's bestseller list.
Ten-year-old McIntyre's in Pittsboro, N.C., about eight miles from Chapel Hill, sold out its 600 tickets in a day and a half, and plans to make a $3,000 donation to a local environmental group. Because it was such a nice day, McIntyre's was able to set up an outdoor sound system to accommodate an additional 400 people who gathered outside the renovated barn where the reading was held. For manager/buyer Robert Segedy, the reading was a high point in the store's reading series. "She was incredibly cordial and generous. I can't recall an event where so many people were smiling." Kingsolver's stop, which helped boost store sales of Prodigal Summer to 850 copies, also underlined a message that Segedy has been trying to get through to publishers, "there's more to the south than Atlanta or Florida."
Kingsolver, too, has been pleased with the tour to date. "Even more important than the money, I think, is the renewed energy and enthusiasm I've met every stop of the way. It's the most gratifying tour I ever imagined." And one of the most useful. At each stop, Kingsolver worked on selections for her next book. She's the guest editor for Houghton Mifflin's The Best American Short Stories 2001.
Volume 246 Issue 48 11/27/2000