The Canadian Booksellers Association's efforts to build a successor to BookExpo Canada are a bit bigger and bolder this year. But organizers are still avoiding the large trade show model in favor of a gathering more like the ABA's Winter Institute.
After BEC was canceled last spring, CBA scrambled to put together a small conference to accompany its annual general meeting, which had always been timed to coincide with BEC in June. Its Summer Conference included professional development seminars, panel discussions, publisher-bookseller speed-dating (an idea borrowed from the Winter Institute), and a small number of table displays from publishers, and it drew 82 people.
This year, with more time to plan, the CBA has moved the date forward to May 28—30, and the conference will be expanded, said CBA executive director Susan Dayus. Renamed the CBA's National Conference, it will be held over three days instead of two and in a larger space at the Toronto Delta Hotel, near Pearson International Airport. Dayus said the move away from downtown Toronto will allow the association to put an “exhibitor showcase” in the hotel ballroom, unlike last year when there was only space for six to eight tables of displays of books from publishers. The move is also expected to cut costs for members; the hotel rates are less expensive, and booksellers can attend this event on their way home from BookExpo America to save on airfare.
Dayus said there will be more opportunities for booksellers to talk with publishers and sales reps this year as well. “We're opening up registration to people who aren't booksellers, so if a sales rep wants to come or someone with one of the publishing houses, they can attend the sessions, too. Last year, we just didn't have room,” she said.
Impressed with the ABA's Winter Institute, last year the CBA borrowed the idea of a publisher-bookseller speed-dating session, in which sales reps or publicists circulate through tables of booksellers pitching their best books in the brief time allotted for each group. The session will return, but this year the CBA is also borrowing the idea of an author reception to open the conference on the first evening.
The second day of the conference will begin with a yet-to-be-announced keynote speaker, breakout sessions, speed-dating, and the exhibitor showcase, followed that evening by the CBA's Libris Awards, which have been upgraded from a cocktail reception to a full evening dinner and awards ceremony. The CBA's annual general meeting will be held on Sunday morning, and it will be another full day of professional development.
Dayus said she expects more publishers to participate this year. “We've gone out and talked to quite a number of larger publishers about the various opportunities and some of the new ways we're trying to expand the show and get their feedback on it, so we believe that we'll have support from a considerably higher number of publishers.”
Kim McArthur, president and publisher of McArthur and Company, was an enthusiastic supporter last year and is again this year. “I am cheering CBA on to model their new conference on [the Winter Institute] as much as they can without doing a trade show,” she said.
Response from the multinationals was low last year, with Penguin Group (Canada) the only one to set up a table. The company said it will be part of the conference again this year. HarperCollins Canada president and CEO David Kent said his company is considering participating if a significant number of booksellers attend. The other large houses did not reply to inquiries.