The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) met October 3—5 in Oakland Calif., and a week later, October 10—12, the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association (UMBA) gathered at RiverCentre in St. Paul, Minn.
Albright Headlines NCIBA
The highlight of this year's NCIBA meeting was an afternoon tea with Madeleine Albright, whose memoir, Madame Secretary (Warner), just hit store shelves. All weekend long, the author programs featured top names and attracted lots of booksellers, and the educational programs on Friday were packed. The only down side of the show was a lower attendance on the floor, due in part to store staffing issues and the home playoff games of both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's.
While the number of exhibitor booths remained the same, fewer people seemed to staff them. And the overall bookseller count was down. "It was the first time I've ever had so many people preregister and not show up—although the number was not large, it stood out," Hut Landon, NCIBA executive director, told PW. Still, Landon said, exhibitors seemed pleased with the orders they wrote, and "it was a very good show for the booksellers who came."
Peter Goodman, publisher of Stonebridge Press (who, rumor had it, brought along a tiny TV so he could watch the games) called this year's event "very steady." Seven Locks publisher Jim Riordan told PW that his company goes to four regional shows; he rated NCIBA as the best of them, and noted that attending makes economic sense: "For $1,000 and a weekend, you just can't go wrong."
"This show is about resilience," observed Paul Harrington, director of sales at Other Press. "I haven't met a depressed bookseller, and for a new publisher, that's fantastic." Chad Post at Dalkey Archive, which specializes in work in translation, agreed that the quality of booksellers attending NCIBA made the show attractive. "It is a literary community of booksellers," he explained. "To have them handsell your books is good for business."
Northern California does boast a wealth of independent booksellers of all sizes, which enables the trade show to attract authors. For a second year, NCIBA held a "moveable feast" on Saturday night, where booksellers enjoyed dinner with some of their favorite "hand-sell" authors with new books to promote, including Jonathan Lethem (Fortress of Solitude, Doubleday), Sena Jeter Naslund (Four Spirits, Morrow) and Ayelet Waldman (Daughter's Keeper, Sourcebooks). Booksellers also met new authors Frances Itani (Deafening, Atlantic Monthly), Julie Orringer (How to Breathe Underwater, Knopf) and Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife, MacAdam/Cage). Christopher Stroth of Bookpeople likened the feast to getting author "bon bons."
Appropriately enough, madeleines were on the menu for the Albright tea. She told booksellers that she once toyed with the idea of writing a book titled 14 Suits and a Skirt, about her years as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. While she writes about that experience in Madam Secretary, she also touches on more personal information, about her upbringing, marriage and painful divorce, as well as her years as U.S. Secretary of State.
During the q&a, Albright addressed everything from Kosovo to Iraq and North Korea. She was both critical of the current Bush administration and diplomatic: "Finger pointing on this doesn't help," she said. "What we need to do is figure out how to fight terrorism, and how to do it without giving up our civil liberties."
While many saw Albright's appearance as a boon to the show, some exhibitors lamented the lack of booksellers on the trade show floor on Saturday. Hut Landon told PW that is precisely why seating was limited to 150, and Albright subsequently signed on the show floor. "We normally don't do programs on Saturday and Sunday for just that reason," he said. "But if you can get Madeleine Albright, you're going to do it."
As at other regional meetings, Book Sense Gift Cards were a big hit—no surprise, since this is the region where Book Sense originated. ABA's Oren Teicher thanked the NCIBA membership for its help in getting Book Sense up and running and said the organization welcomed more input.
Every year NCIBA relies on feedback from its members on ways to improve the show and strike a balance between programs and exhibit time, but Landon said it would not become a one-day show as some of the larger publishers have suggested. "The smaller publishers and commissioned reps tell us they write orders on Sunday," he explained, adding that NCIBA might consider cutting back hours, as other regionals have done. "It's just not a one-day show," he emphasized.
Traffic did slow on Sunday afternoon, but veteran San Francisco book buyers Neal Sofman of A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books and Paul Yamazaki of City Lights were still spotted on the floor with order forms in hand.
"It's one slow year, and I'm not going to panic and change all of the good stuff we've done," said Landon.
Is it sacrilege to hope the home teams don't make the playoffs next year? Just kidding. —B.K.
UMBA's Buoyant Show
For years, the Upper Midwest Booksellers Association (UMBA) annual trade show included two days of exhibits. Last year, after some complaints that it was too long, UMBA was pared down to one day of exhibits. Others then complained it was too short. This year, exhibitors were given the option of exhibiting for one or two days—and most attendees thought this year's show was just right.
This year's total attendance was close to 1,230, with 588 booksellers from 136 bookstores, 350 exhibitors from 113 companies, and 245 authors present. Although total attendance was down slightly from last year's total of 1,250 attendees, the number of bookstores represented was up from last year's 131.
Booksellers and publishers agreed this year's show was better organized, better run and more productive than it has been in recent years. Kevin Morrissey, marketing manager at Minnesota Historical Society Press, told PW that he and his colleagues wrote more orders at this year's show than they did at the previous three UMBA shows. Liz Wilder, v-p of Books on Broadway in Williston, N.Dak., a veteran of 10 UMBA shows, gave this year's event high marks. "UMBA was less cluttered this year—we were able to talk to people and make orders in a calmer, more relaxed atmosphere. As a result, we were able to really talk to publishers and reps and place more orders," she reported.
Saturday hummed with activity that continued into Sunday. Exhibitors were not happy that Sunday's Moveable Feast, which lasted from noon until about 20 minutes before the close of the show, took booksellers away from the floor, but that was the only complaint heard about what all considered to be an otherwise well-run show.
While leafing through her stash of books and galleys Saturday afternoon, Kathy Arnold of the Paperback Exchange in Minneapolis told PW, "It's fun to see what's out there and to see if we can pick the sleeper of the year." Random House seems to have had the most sought-after adult fiction, with booksellers buzzing about Anne Tyler's The Amateur Marriage, Waterborne by Bruce Murkoff and The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (all February).
The trade paper release of Michael Perry's Population: 485 drew crowds to HarperCollins's booth and to his signing. According to Cathy Schornstein, HarperCollins sales rep, "Perry is really beloved, with a cult following. He's especially loved in the Midwest, because he lives here. But he sells well on both coasts, too. We were almost out of Population: 485 by noon Saturday."
Two October coffee-table releases also excited booksellers: local nature photographer Jim Brandenburg's latest, Looking for the Summer (Northword Press), and Minneapolis photographer Terry Gydesen's documentary on Paul Wellstone, Twelve Years and Thirteen Days (U. of Minn. Press), drew rave reviews. Douglas Armato, director of the University of Minnesota Press, told PW that the press had sold out of the first print run of 5,000 copies of Gydesen's book in a week, and that interest in the book at UMBA was "overwhelming."
Three children's titles by regional authors sparked the loudest, longest buzz among all the books featured this year: Old Turtle and the Broken Truth by Doug Wood (Scholastic); Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes (HarperCollins/Greenwillow); and Tell Me What We Did Today by Rick Kupchella, illustrated by Warren Hanson (from Tristan Publishing, a two-year-old press headed by Waldman House veteran Brett Waldman that made its debut at last year's UMBA). Many UMBA booksellers predicted that these books will sell well during what many anticipate will be a busy holiday season.
Although booksellers talked shop all weekend, there was agreement among attendees that the stellar line-up of educational seminars and author events were the highlights of this year's gathering. Mary Kay Watson of Sister Wolf Books in Park Rapids, Minn., cited Friday's seminars on stress by David Allen (Getting Things Done, Penguin) and on marketing by Jeffrey Stamp (Meaningful Marketing, F&W Publications) as "among the best two sessions I've ever attended at UMBA." Raynel White from Brilliance Audio considered Friday evening's paddleboat cruise down the Mississippi River "the greatest welcome reception at any show I've ever attended." She added, "It's something we'd never do at any other regional." Lisa Baudoin, manager of Main Street Books in Pella, Iowa, enjoyed Saturday's Book & Author Dinner, where Malachy McCourt (The Claddagh Ring, Running Press) regaled the crowd of almost 200 with Irish songs and stories.
But Sunday's Children's Book & Author Breakfast, attended by 300 booksellers, stole the show. Esme Raji Codell (How to Get Your Child to Love Reading, Algonquin; Sahara Special, Hyperion) literally blew her own horn (fashioned out of a piece of garden hose), while Doug Wood (Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, Scholastic) strummed his guitar and sang. Paula Danziger (Amber Brown Is Green with Envy, Penguin) joked about her artificial shoulder and Kevin Henkes (Olive's Ocean, HarperCollins/Greenwillow) displayed the statue that inspired the cover art for his book. Jane Dyer (Little Brown Bear Won't Go to School!, Little, Brown) jokingly apologized to the crowd for "not playing the guitar or bringing slides."
Sunday's moveable feast lunch featured 25 authors. Linda Burg of Little Read Book in Wauwatosa, Wisc., thought Jacquelyn Mitchard's keynote speech lauding booksellers was the highlight of the entire weekend. "She was so witty and inspiring—we've supported her for 18 years; we are so proud of her," Burg said.
UMBA members, though geographically spread out from Fargo, N.Dak., to St. Louis, Mo., form a close-knit community. That vibrant sense of community was clearly reflected at this year's show. "I've been all over the country promoting Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, and now I'm finally home talking about my book with my best friends, my family—the booksellers here at UMBA," Doug Wood told PW. Jacquelyn Mitchard agreed, adding, "I love UMBA—it's like Cheers for me here: everyone knows my name." —C.K.