Coming off what has been a particularly good summer and fall for many booksellers, the mood at this year’s Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) annual trade show, held at the Red Lion Hotel at Jantzen Beach in Portland, Ore., from October 5–8, was markedly upbeat. “We had a very strong summer,” said Jenna DaTrapani at Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island, Wash. “We’ve been up double digits for four months now.” Paul Hanson, co-owner of Village Books in Bellingham and Fairhaven, Wash., said that his store is on course to better 2018, which was the store’s best year ever.
Robert Sindelar, managing partner at Third Place Books with three stores in and around Seattle, said that he anticipates a strong holiday season and a good year overall. “Some of the big books are already out and performing really well,” he noted, citing new works by Margaret Atwood (The Testaments), Malcolm Gladwell (Talking to Strangers), Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Water Dancer), and Raina Telgemeier (Guts). “Some are still coming, like the Elizabeth Strout (Olive, Again) and the Prince book excerpted in The New Yorker (The Beautiful Ones).” Sindelar also predicted that a number of regional titles would continue to sell briskly, including Karl Marlantes’s Deep River, published in July.
Despite Baker & Taylor’s decision to exit the trade book business, sales for most stores were relatively unaffected. Mary Swanson of the Bookloft in Enterprise, Ore., is among a number of booksellers who have begun ordering more books direct from publishers as a result of overtures that presses have made to sign up new accounts and expedite shipping.
At a panel on operating in a post-B&T world, “Finance Focus,” Muir Cohen, co-owner of Waucoma Bookstore in Hood River, Ore., said, “We go with publishers if we can.” But instead of making Ingram his sole wholesaler, he has begun placing some orders with Bookazine. “They ship UPS out of New Jersey. It took about four days, which was similar to Ingram,” he said. Panelist Ariana Paliobagis, owner of the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont., agreed that having one major wholesaler isn’t “ideal.” She encouraged attendees to contact Bookazine about opening a warehouse in the Pacific Northwest.
Tariffs, on the other hand, were a concern, particularly when it comes to sidelines. “We’ve definitely seen prices increased with the tariff,” said Cohen. Those increases will have to be passed on to customers. For Paliobagis, both the tariffs and printing issues have led her to buy a lot more aggressively, she said.
But those worries did little to diminish the show’s positive hum, which was helped by the presence of new and potential booksellers. Todd Summers told PW that he was at the show to learn more about opening a small store in the Glisan section of Portland. He said that he was heartened to meet Megan Waterman, who opened a 300 sq. ft. used bookstore, the Book Nook in Canby, Ore., in December 2017, and has since seen it grow significantly. At her customers’ request she added new books, and when a long-time gift store closed, sidelines. With a second expansion in April, the Book Nook is now quintuple its original size.
Like Summers and Waterman, Jesse Mullen, who purchased Browsing Bison Books in Deer Lodge, Mont., in May, was among many first-time attendees. Although the final numbers had not been tabulated at press time, executive director Brian Juenemann said that attendance at the show was up a little overall.
Annual Meeting and Show Floor Hum
At the annual meeting, bookkeeper Larry West said that PNBA ended 2018 with a surplus of more than $35,000. While that was less than the previous year, the association continues to erase the $100,000 losses it suffered in the wake of the 2008 recession. Other news from the meeting included PNBA’s logo redesign, with the first T-shirt with the new logo to be given to outgoing ABA CEO Oren Teicher.
Juenemann also announced that in 2020 PNBA will be throwing its support behind Bookstore Romance Day. The inaugural event, which was held in August, was the brainchild of Billie Bloebaum of Third Street Books in McMinnville, Ore. In addition, based on a suggestion from sweet pea Flaherty, owner of King’s Books in Tacoma, Wash., PNBA has begun planning for a bookseller camp out next summer. Although the Romance Day announcement was met with excitement, there was some concern about the dearth of adult romance authors on the show floor. In a Facebook post at show’s end, Bloebaum wrote that “there was no romance at the PNBA fall tradeshow.” Both she and Flaherty along with Annie Carl, owner of the Neverending Bookshop in Edmonds, Wash., led an educational session on growing romance sections, but Bloebaum counted only two adult romance authors out of the dozens of authors at the show.
A number of booksellers took advantage of opportunities to meet face-to-face with publishers on the show floor and to see current and upcoming titles. Publishers were pleased with the number of booksellers who stopped by their booths as well as a schedule change on the first day to give rep pitches, or as it was called “The Big Pitch,” more attention. More than 180 booksellers attended this year’s pitches. Exhibitors, including first-time attendee Randy Lotowycz, director of marketing and sales at Algonquin, described the show floor as “very busy.” Cindy Heidemann of PGW, the 2018 PW Rep of the Year, said that “there’s been a lot of foot traffic and a lot of interest in the fall and winter books.” Some booksellers came with the intention of placing orders, although not all of them were written until the end. David Godine of the eponymous publishing house said that he received a large order ten minutes before the show floor closed.
Correction: A previous version of this article said Bloebaum was from Third Place Books, not Third Street.