For the past six years, attendance at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show has remained steady at about 1,200 people, and this year's show, held October 4—6 in Oakland, Calif., was no exception.
Approximately 1,000 booksellers and 200 others (a category that includes exhibitors, authors and agents), attended. Overall, booksellers described the summer as a little lackluster and have placed cautious orders for the fall and holiday season. "I think people are definitely cautiously optimistic about the fall, but are prepared to have a good holiday season," explained NCIBA executive director Hut Landon. "There are good lists and a good holiday catalogue."
At the Chronicle Books booth, sales rep Barbara Beaver observed: "Everyone is taking a wait-and-see attitude about Christmas, but the mood is good." Most exhibitors agreed that they met with all the accounts they wanted to see in the course of the weekend. "The quality of encounter here has been consistently high," said Peter Goodman, publisher of Stone Bridge Press. "There might be fewer bookstores left standing, but those that are still here are on top of their game."
NCIBA is a three-day event, with educational programs on Friday and the trade show on Saturday and Sunday. "I think the educational sessions were interesting and very well attended," Dave Simpson, owner of Lafayette Bookstore in Lafayette, Calif., told PW. Simpson headed the session on mentoring; a new initiative started by the NCIBA to bring booksellers together to help each other deal with general bookstore issues, such as staffing, leases, etc., by drawing on other members' experiences.
Ginni Traver, a new bookstore owner who bought The Bishop Bookstore of Bishop, Calif., in February, told PW that she particularly appreciated the financial session with American Booksellers Association executive director Avin Domnitz. "I really got a lot out of it and will probably go to it again," she said.
A new session titled "The Future of Independents—A New York Perspective," featuring sales reps Ruth Liebmann from Random House, Roger Williams from Simon & Schuster and Jeanette Zwart from HarperCollins drew a substantial crowd. The panelists talked about the importance of bookseller data through Book Scan and other issues. In turn, booksellers expressed their concerns to the publishers's reps. It is this kind of free exchange Simpson said he hopes NCIBA will encourage in the future. "I will probably bring it up at the next meeting," he told PW.
Authors remain a key attraction at the regional trade shows, and NCIBA had its fair share of author events and signings. On Saturday evening, NCIBA held its first author feast, admittedly borrowing a page from its counterparts at the Southern California Booksellers Association, which has held a similar event for several years. Twelve authors participated—including a healthy mix of big-name writers, such as Scott Turow, Dave Barry and Sebastian Junger, and first-timers like Daniel Mason and Tom Steinbeck—switching from table to table to meet with booksellers. To help keep the evening moving along, the authors arrived early and had a separate dinner before the event with their appointed escorts for the evening, all events coordinators from various Bay Area independent bookstores. "The authors were immediately comfortable," said Landon. Apparently Steinbeck, who inherited the striking blue eyes of his famous father and a sharp wit all his own, felt comfortable enough to join Barry in some good-natured teasing of fellow Rock Bottom Remainder member Turow. "That's not anything you plan," said Landon. "It just set the tone."
One perennial complaint about regional trade shows is that bookseller attendance falls off on the last day. To avoid that, the NCIBA sponsored a Sunday feast offering samples from several of the season's cookbooks. "That was brilliant," said Chronicle's Beaver.