“It was great to see my ‘old-timer’ friends and yet it was incredibly refreshing to see all the younger people,” said Francine Lucidon, owner of The Voracious Reader in Larchmont, N.Y., one of a number of booksellers and publishers alike who were inspired by the number of younger booksellers who attended the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association fall conference, held from October 15–17 at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Md. Overall, 40 more booksellers attended the 2016 event, according to NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler.
“There’s a lot of great energy at the show,” commented Jason Rice, part of the Baker & Taylor sales team. The distributor helped get the show off to a strong start with a bookstore tour on the afternoon before the show officially kicked off. The first store on the route was the 38-year-old Children’s Bookstore in Roland Park. The other stores included Atomic Books, which is known for its graphic novels and zines—and as the place where director John Waters picks up his mail—and the Ivy, a general bookstore that’s about to add a second location.
Erin Matthews at Books with a Past in Glenwood, Md., which opened a second store in Savage, Md., late last year, singled out the programming as strong. “The keynote was particularly good,” she said, referring to a session on Advocacy Today with Dan Cullen, senior strategy officer for the American Booksellers Association. Greenlight’s Fitting and Kirsten Lavelett, executive director of Local First Utah also spoke on the panel and encouraged booksellers to contact their elected officials.
“We’re in a growth industry. We have this golden opportunity. We support minimum wage, sick pay, maternity leave. So much has been take away from our bottom line. It’s time for something to be given back,” said Fitting, referring to finding ways to make officials understand the financial problems that children’s and general booksellers face, such as double-digit payroll expenses to meet newly enacted minimum wage laws.
A number of educational sessions were geared to both general and children’s booksellers. For some specific bookselling tips from the show, click here.
The exhibition piece of the show was equally energetic. Despite its abbreviated four-hour length, the show floor had 20 more tables this year than last. Among the new exhibitors were several children’s houses. Jessica Salans, who recently launched the Los Angeles-based Coralstone Press, said, “It’s been so great connecting with booksellers.”
Heather Lennon, managing director of NorthSouth Books, who took a table to let booksellers know about the press’ distribution shift from IPS to Simon & Schuster, ranked her first NAIBA as “top-notch,” adding, “We’ll be back next year for sure.” Lennon was also one of several exhibitors and booksellers who singled out the children’s docent tour of the show floor as a show highlight. Back for the second year in a row, the tour is a way for booksellers to make sure their colleagues visit all the publishers with children’s books and point out upcoming books they should stock.
Docent Heather Hebert, manager of Children’s Book World in Haverford, Pa., spoke about her favorite picture books. Sam Droke-Dickinson, co-owner of Aaron’s Books in Lititz, Pa., chose middle grade picks. And Alicia Michielli, assistant manager of Talking Leaves…Books in Buffalo, N.Y., talked up new and forthcoming YA titles.
For Lucidon, NAIBA not only offered an opportunity to talk with other booksellers about upcoming titles but to hear editors single out their favorite upcoming books a la BookExpo. “It so enriches our understanding of the picks,” she said. Marfé Ferguson Delano, executive editor, preschool at National Geographic Kids and Family, presented Animal Ark (Feb. 2017) by Kwame Alexander and Joel Sartore as well as several other titles. Alvina Ling, executive editorial director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, also focused on a few titles, including Lindsey Becker’s The Star Thief (Apr.).
By contrast, Wendy Lamb, who heads an eponymous imprint at Random House, devoted her presentation to one book, Tanya Lee Stone’s Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time (Feb.). Lamb also used the buzz panel to thank independent booksellers for helping Wendy Lamb Books reach its 15th year. “All my books need handselling,” she said. “Every book I sign up, I think of you.”
Of course, no conference would be complete without the authors themselves. NAIBA featured kids’ authors throughout the conference: at breakfasts, wine downs, and dinners. Jason Rekulak, whom many booksellers know as the publisher of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Quirk), was one of the featured speakers for his debut adult novel with strong crossover appeal, The Impossible Fortress (Simon & Schuster). Other authors included Brendan Wenzel (They All Saw a Cat, Chronicle), James Howe (Big Bob, Little Bob, Candlewick), and Patrick McDonnell (Thank You and Goodnight, Little, Brown), a NAIBA Book of the Year.
But Laurie Halse Anderson (Ashes, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy), who already has an enormous NAIBA following, won over even more booksellers with her breakfast speech. “America would not be what it is today without you guys,” she said. “Your struggle is so worth it.” And in case anyone needed a handselling tip for selling her just-completed trilogy, she suggested: “Hamilton for kids.”