More than 740 people—including 141 authors, 162 booksellers, and 100 members of the public—attended the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Discovery Show in Savannah, Ga., this past weekend. The September 16-18 show saw a 25% increase over previous years, and of the 80 SIBA bookstores in attendance, 20 were either new stores or new owners.
The show’s exhibits, spread across the two conference rooms of the landmark DeSoto Hilton Hotel, drew exhibitors as diverse as David R, Godine from Boston, to Promontory Press from Vancouver, Canada.
Kathryn Little, associative director of marketing for Macmillan children’s publishing said: “I’ve interacted with a lot of the southern booksellers over email and and met many of them at BEA and the Children’s Institute, so I was looking forward to a warm reception and strong book lovers. And it was true: everyone is so passionate and kind. And, as a northerner, I am really appreciating the southern hospitality.”
“It’s a very hospitable show and there’s a lot of great energy,” confirmed Eunice Sibrian, marketing and sales representative for Bublish, based in nearby Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Bublish, which provides author services to independent writers, was one of a handful of exhibitors catering to the self-publishing marketplace.
Ingram, also had a program geared for the indie market; it ran an education seminar on Friday offering tips for interacting with self-published authors. The key message to booksellers was not to offer your time, or space, for free to self-published authors. “You should charge for your time and any service you provide. Most self-published authors are willing to pay for it—and if they are not, you don’t want to do business with them,” said Josh Floyd, key account sales manager for IngramSpark.
Jessica Osborne, co-owner and manager of E. Shaver Bookseller—Savannah’s top independent bookstore, which was only 25 feet from the back door of the Hilton Hotel—told PW that it was "important for the New York publishers to see just how vibrant the community is here."
SIBA executive director Wanda Jewell, who confirmed that the show was “very busy,” said she thought people found Savannah "really convenient, and enjoyed the city." Jewell also noted that it was “a very emotional show,” citing the continued debate about SIBA’s announcement on Friday, that the Discover Show would move to March and take up permanent residence in Atlanta. “It’s gratifying to see that the booksellers are so committed to the organization.”
The topic of the move continued to be debated throughout the weekend. Many booksellers appeared open to the idea, but expressed disappointment in the way in which the decision was presented to them—suddenly and without warning.
“I am not at all pleased with the idea,” said Sally Brewster, owner of Park Road Books in Charlotte, N.C. “I don’t think it will benefit us as booksellers." Brewster said that one issue is that "the fall lists aren’t likely to fully ready by the time of the show, and the publishers and reps are going to be distracted as [they are] preparing for their own sales conferences."
Brewster also felt that Atlanta isn't a great location because it's "expensive and a bit generic."
Doug Robinson of Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, Ga., who is a SIBA board member, told PW that he was in no position to speak for the board as a whole, but as a bookseller felt the show would be especially convenient for him and his staff because they are local. And, for others, Robinson felt Atlanta is "a good airline hub." Nonetheless, he added: "I can see why [some] people might not want to do it as well.”
Both Brewster and Robinson agreed, though, that the matter might be discussed further by the board. “At the very least,” said Robinson, “maybe we can try it for one year as an experiment, see how it goes, and decide after that.”