While Midwest Independent Booksellers Association board president David Enyeart of Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minn. suggested during the MIBA meeting that “the motif of this year’s [show] is talking to one another,” both MIBA and Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association members also took their cue from the front cover of the Heartland Fall Forum program, which featured a quote by Stephen King: “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
The third joint MIBA and GLIBA trade show, held at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel at The Depot, a renovated 19th-century train station in Minneapolis September 30-October 2 drew 310 MIBA and 98 GLIBA booksellers from 90 MIBA stores and 45 GLIBA stores, up 30% from last year’s show in suburban Chicago. There was a slight decrease in exhibitors, 69 from last year’s 75, with regional presses in attendance skewing towards those based in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The show started working its magic during Tuesday evening’s awards ceremony, which culminated with an appearance by Kate DiCamillo, this year’s winner of the Voice of the Heartland Award from both GLIBA and MIBA booksellers. DiCamillo, who cut short a book tour in South Dakota to be present at HFF to accept the award, reflected upon her move to Minnesota from Florida 20 years ago. She was “catatonic with fear,” she said, and “didn’t have mittens, socks, or a job.” DiCamillo thanked the booksellers in the region for their support from the very beginning, noting that it was here in Minneapolis where she was transformed from a “terrified, hopeful, clueless” writer into a bestselling author.
The magic of books extended to the bottom line, with a number of booksellers reporting recent double-digit increases in sales. Scout & Morgan in Cambridge, Minn. reported a 10-15% increase in sales since it began collaborating with a local winery to host author events that include food and wine pairings. Dragonfly Books in Decorah, Iowa reported that sales are up 25%, also, in part, to increased programming. Sue Boucher, who bought Cottage Bookshop in Glen Arbor, Mich. in April, reported that sales are up “double digits,” with Ice Caves of Leelanau by Ken Scott Photographs selling 700 copies this summer. Charlevoix Books in Charlevoix, Mich. also reported a strong summer going into the fall, with sales up 30%, due to a Book World outlet closing its doors last month, the third of the regional chain’s stores to close in recent months.
The announcement on the eve of this year’s show that The Bookcase in nearby Wayzata, Minn. was closing its doors in mid-October after 50 years in business did not cast a pall over Heartland, perhaps because there were so many booksellers in attendance who had recently opened or bought existing bookstores, including two booksellers from Daybreak Books in St. Paul who were hoping to add to their opening inventory. Daybreak Books, which specializes in international books, opened its doors on September 19. Sandy Koropp of Prairie Path Books in Wheaton, Ill. who opened her 1,500-square foot bookstore inside an upscale furniture store in February was also a first-time attendee. Describing herself as a bookseller who “doesn’t know anything,” she reported that the “first instinct” of booksellers here was to help her out.
“It’s like being with a bunch of family members," she said. "And I wasn’t expecting the free books.”
Although there wasn’t any one book creating a huge buzz among a diverse crowd that included booksellers from the northwoods as well as those from the Rust Belt, there were a number that had booksellers pausing and slowly turning pages inside booths. Larry Millett’s coffee table book, Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes (Nov.) from Minnesota Historical Society Press had several MIBA booksellers raving about its production values. “The photos are gorgeous. They’re eye-popping. Millett is great and MHSP does a great job,” said Common Good’s Enyeart of the $50 coffee table book. Nancy Simpson-Brice from the Book Vault in Oskaloosa, Iowa talked up Greer Macallister's debut novel, The Magician’s Lie (Sourcebooks, Jan.). “I want it to be the next Water for Elephants,” said Simpson-Brice.
Young adult titles with multicultural themes also drew attention. Cynthia Compton of 4Kids Books & Toys in suburban Indianapolis said that she’d read a few chapters of An Ember in the Ashes (Penguin, April 2015) by Sabaa Tahir and is “totally jazzed about it.” Jamie Schwesndi of Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis praised Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend (Curbside Splendor, Sept.), by Erika T. Wurth, explaining that it is the kind of YA novel that he would have wanted to read as a teen and wants to read as an adult. “That’s rare,” he said. Fulcrum’s pair of graphic novels about African-American history, Bass Reeves: Tales of the Talented Tenth and Strange Fruit, drew a long line of excited booksellers to author Joel Christian Gill’s signing, including Deena Strohman of the Book Wagon in St. Paul. Strohman said she had read Strange Fruit the night before and “it was a great book; there aren’t many good books about minority history” for middle-grade and YA readers.
Heartland will return to the Chicago area in 2015, held at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Ill. on October 9-11. The 2016 show is already booked at The Depot in Minneapolis, October 5-7, 2016.
For a closer look at children's booksellers at the Heartland Fall Forum, see Heartland 2014 Works Its Magic on Children's Booksellers.