Box-shaped robots greeted attendees at the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA) Fall Trade Show Oct. 20-21. The conference was held at the Sheraton Los Angeles San Gabriel Hotel, a venue that opened in April and is packed with futuristic flourishes like self-driving luggage carts and automated concierges.

In a programming change, the SCIBA team spread the show’s activities across two full days, grouping most children’s sessions on Saturday, and adult sessions on Sunday. “There’s more social fellowship, which I think was missing in the past,” said SCIBA executive director Andrea Vuleta. Attendance rose slightly compared to last year, but some member stores had to divide staff between the SCIBA show and Politicon, an annual politics and entertainment event held in Los Angeles the same weekend. SCIBA membership also grew, adding four new stores in the last year.

Throughout the weekend, educational programming focused on innovative sales opportunities. Penguin Random House sales reps Tom Benton and Amy Comito led an intimate educational session called “Business-to-Business Revenue Streams for Indies,” exploring how bulk purchases from churches, hospitals, nonprofits, and corporate customers can boost sales. Comito recalled how she unwittingly helped the CEO of a major corporation during her early days as a bookseller. The CEO was impressed by her customer service, and told her to choose a book he could gift to 1,000 employees. “It ended up being a $16,000 sale, just because I had good customer service and helped him find a book,” Comito said.

Deb Lewis, Penguin Random House’s manager of B2B trade sales used video chat technology to join the presentation, offering additional tips for booksellers: sharing bulk B2B orders on social media so customers know that large gift orders are an option; following-up with B2B customers throughout the year to offer new gift book ideas; and sharing ARCs with B2B customers who might want to order them in bulk someday.

In another session, CEO Mark Pearson showed booksellers how to incorporate digital audiobooks in holiday shopping. Currently, the company is helping 550 bookstore partners in 1,100 bookstore locations deliver digital audiobooks to customers. Starting next week, bookstore customers can gift a digital memberships in monthly increments. “You can gift an audiobook membership to your loved one in a different part of the country, all through your local bookstore,” he said. “Customers are proud of their local bookstore, and they want to share that with friends and family.”

ABA CEO Oren Teicher briefed booksellers on the upcoming launch of Batch USA, the American version of the U.K. Booksellers Association’s centralized online invoice and e-payment system. Booksellers will get their first chance to set up a digital portal at the ABA’s Winter Institute in January 2019 at the Albuquerque Convention Center. “It will be modest in scope at launch, but the efficiencies in our operations that this could create are really revolutionary,” said Teicher.

The expo floor opened from 3-5 PM each day. The Lost Girls of Paris, Pam Jenoff’s historical novel about female spies in World War II, and The Library Book, Susan Orlean’s nonfiction account of a library disaster in Los Angeles, were among the most coveted galleys. Attendees also chased Jill Lepore’s one-volume history book, These Truths: A History of the United States; Marlon James’ first book in a new epic fantasy series, Black Leopard, Red Wolf; and Christopher Woods’ photograph-filled tour of global gardens, Gardenlust.

The show climaxed with the 2018 SCIBA Book Awards luncheon. The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner won the Fiction Award; I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara won the Nonfiction Award; Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle won the biography award, California Captured by Pierluigi Serraino, Emily Bills, and Sam Lubell won the Glenn Goldman Award for Art, Architecture, and Photography; and Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown won the T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award.

"It means so much to me to be recognized by the booksellers of southern California,” said Brown. “I owe so much of the success of this novel to you all. Bookstores are ground zero for the battle for the eyes of the reader.”