If there’s a chill in the air and the leaves are starting to change, it must be time for the fall regional trade shows. Although the shows have shrunk in recent years, Wanda Jewell, executive director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, promises “a show people can’t miss,” with 150 authors. Change is also afoot at the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, which is extending its show from one day to two. Still, there are no seismic shifts like last year, when the Great Lakes and Midwest Independent Booksellers Associations held the first joint show, the Heartland Fall Forum. Most of this year’s changes involve new initiatives and sessions focused on bookselling basics.
The shows continue to provide many opportunities for booksellers to meet authors—at breakfasts, lunches, teas, and receptions. While a number of big-name authors are touring, trade shows continue to offer a space for regional writers, like debut novelist Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif., and author of The Circle of Thirteen. And this year SIBA will introduce the first One Book, One Regional read: Sherri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial. “We’re sending more authors than ever before [to the regionals]. It’s really key to get our authors out there,” says Joan DeMayo, senior v-p, director of sales, children’s books, special markets at Random House. She also plans to use the shows to introduce a new holiday campaign tied to Dr. Seuss.
Simon & Schuster has a large lineup of authors touring in conjunction with the shows as well. “We have over 20 different authors going to the regionals,” says Brian Kelleher, field sales director at the house, who regards the regionals as every bit as important as Winter Institute. Both, he noted, offer booksellers face time with authors. “That’s one of the things you don’t get from Edelweiss,” says Kelleher. The regionals also come as booksellers head into the all-important fourth quarter.
At BookExpo America last June, American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher spoke of continued “modest gains” in membership. Many of the regional associations boasted similar increases, particularly in the Midwest. Both Carrie Obry, executive director of MIBA, and Deb Leonard, executive director of GLIBA, say that that they’ve seen their numbers grow. Obry attributes this growth to the opening of new stores and free memberships for new participants. The Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association also reports that its membership numbers are up—enough for it to add a mentorship program to assist new store owners.
But openings haven’t offset closings and lapsed memberships in every region. Both SIBA and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association report that membership figures are slightly down. The New England Independent Booksellers Association, which is celebrating its 40th fall conference, and SCIBA are holding steady. Since most booksellers join associations in order to attend the shows, membership could still rise in these regions before the end of the year. One possible exception is the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, with close to 100 member stores, which has seen steady declines. “We are getting smaller, and our stores are getting smaller,” says PNBA executive director Thom Chambliss.
Despite tough economic times in some parts of the country, a number of bookstores are still basking in the warm glow of strong sales in 2012, coupled with a good start to 2013. “We’re more optimistic going into [this year’s show]. It’s been a good year,” says Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. As a result NCIBA has begun moving away from what Landon calls “urgency mode” to explore the question of “how can we sell more books?” One answer, which could have implications for booksellers around the country, is California Bookstore Day. Details for the spring event, which is modeled on National Comic Book Day, will be rolled out at the trade show. “I don’t think it would have been as enthusiastically received by our board three years ago. There’s a feeling [now] that indies are stable,” says Landon.
To the south, SCIBA, which is going in a new direction under its recently named executive director, former bookseller Andrea Vuleta, will also promote California Bookstore Day. But that doesn’t mean, she noted, that the two associations have any intention of merging shows. To fill this year’s expanded trade show schedule, Vuleta is adding more education. With less e-anxiety this year than last, when Kobo was first introduced, she’s putting together programming on how to hire so that you don’t have to fire, as well as two sessions on subjects that are on almost every regional’s agenda: Common Core and the Affordable Care Act.
“I feel like we [have] really focused on social networking and the e-book,” says SIBA’s Jewell. “Now we want to get back to selling books.” Last month, Jewell introduced Parapalooza, a YouTube channel meant to encourage consumers to share paragraphs from their favorite books to get others inspired to read them. At the trade show, SIBA’s first in New Orleans, Jewell is promoting the initiative by lining up a dozen writers to share favorite paragraphs from their latest works with booksellers. She is also using the show to introduce an as-yet-unnamed POD publishing program to allow booksellers to print books, particularly titles specific to their areas. SIBA will handle the details, including printing through Lightning Source.
Although exhibits remain a key component of every show, views on ordering are shifting. Jewell finds it unrealistic to expect booksellers to bring paper orders, since they now order electronically. Instead she views the exhibits as places for booksellers and vendors to meet. “We need so much more face time,” she says. To encourage that, she’s planning a scavenger hunt in the exhibit area again this year as “a conversation starter.” SIBA is also emphasizing the importance of displays by holding a table-top display contest at the show. The winning bookseller will get $1,000.
NAIBA is taking a different tack by holding its opening night reception at the Baker & Taylor warehouse in Bridgewater, N.J. “We’re trying to make [the show] all encompassing, so it helps publishers with the sale of their books,” says NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler. Ten authors will speak at the warehouse, and booksellers will be able to place orders for signed books to be shipped directly to their stores. The show, which is organized around the theme “What’s in Store,” will also offer practical workshops like one conducted by Paz & Associates on reimagining a store’s physical space from the customer’s perspective. In addition, Lissa Muscatine, co-owner of Washington, D.C.’s Politics & Prose, will moderate an industry panel.
At PNBA, getting orders remains key, but the mix of exhibitors is changing. At the request of the board, Chambliss is filling more booths with nonbook vendors. “Gift items are the way stores are keeping their doors open,” says Chambliss. “Books are not enough.” That’s not to say that books and authors don’t remain an essential ingredient of the PNBA fall show. “Our real emphasis is on the regional authors that booksellers can run up to and ask, ‘Can you come to my store?’ ” says Chambliss. To date, PNBA has received proposals to send more than 160 authors to the show.
For Steve Fischer, executive director of NEIBA, geography and declining bookseller attendance at BEA makes this year’s fall conference particularly valuable for member stores. “For whatever reason, BEA was less important for a lot of booksellers, and Winter Institute is going to be in Seattle. For a lot of our stores, the regionals are really where they can connect to their colleagues and reps and see the fall books,” he says. As a further incentive to attend, NEIBA is making this year’s unofficial theme, “Come Back to NEIBA.” “We’re going to reach out to as many old friends as possible,” says Fischer. Programming, too, is designed to draw in old members and new. The conference will open with Sunday brunch with Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild and author of Identical. Education includes nuts-and-bolts sessions on succession planning for owners, being a financially successful bookstore, and building a bookstore community with writers’ workshops and other literary endeavors.
MPIBA’s show is also returning to bookstore ABCs. “The past couple years the show has been focused on bigger issues like Amazon and e-books. This year, it will come back to bookstore basics, like handselling in the 21st century,” says executive director Laura Ayrey. She’s particularly excited about holding a special event with Arielle Eckstut and Joann Eckstut, authors of The Secret Language of Color, to help booksellers choose colors for their stores. Other sessions will focus on inventory control, with MPIBA president Andrea Avantaggio of Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Colo., as well as Edelweiss.
Basics were at the top of the list for booksellers surveyed for the second annual Heartland Fall Forum, which this year is in GLIBA’s territory. “We made a conscious decision to focus on the things that make bookstores unique right now,” says Obry. That translates into sessions on doing a self-audit, handselling sections that scare you, and working with self-published authors, as well as a plenary on “Conversations That Work.” The latter grew out of a longtime GLIBA session on “Ideas That Work,” designed to generate “indie-friendly” talking points.
Although the MIBA and GLIBA boards will reassess the joint forum after this year’s gathering, Leonard says, “I can’t imagine we’d go back [to separate shows]. Together we just make a bigger, better show.” To keep attendance up, she and Obry arranged an Amtrak discount and worked with vendors to contribute to a scholarship fund.
In conjunction with changing up the trade show, Obry is in the midst of introducing several initiatives at MIBA. “I started looking at the trade show as an extension of what we do,” she says. As a result she’s begun building a new database so that she can keep in better touch with member stores. After the show, the organization will start a mentorship program to help new booksellers and will join several other regionals in creating an Edelweiss Publisher Advocate Program to make sure that bookstores without reps receive the information they need on forthcoming titles.
Back to basics doesn’t mean no technology at the shows. Several are planning Kobo panels and Heartland has a separate technology track. But without strong business skills and customer-friendly businesses, it doesn’t matter how many followers a bookstore has on Twitter or Facebook—or how deeply its online competitors discount.
Fall 2013 Regional Trade Shows/Conferences
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance
Sheraton New Orleans in New Orleans
For more information go to: www.sibaweb.com
Southern California Independent Booksellers Association
The Omni Hotel in Los Angeles
For more information go to: www.scibabooks.org
New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association
September 30–October 2
Somerset Doubletree in Somerset, N.J.
For more information go to: www.newatlanticbooks.com
Northern California Independent Booksellers Association
South San Francisco Conference Center in San Francisco
For more information go to: www.nciba.com
The Heartland Fall Forum (GLIBA and MIBA)
Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill.
For more information go to: www.heartlandfallforum.org
Pacific Northwest Booksellers
Airport Holiday Inn in Portland, Or.
For more information go to: www.pnba.org
New England Independent Booksellers Association
Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, R.I.
For more information go to: www.newenglandbooks.org
Mountains & Plains Independent
Renaissance Denver Hotel in Denver
For more information go to: www.mountainsplains.org
Below is a sampling of some of the many authors who will be at this year’s eight regionals.
Adult Authors at the 2013 Regionals
At Night We Walk in Circles (Riverhead, Oct.)
This novel by one of the New Yorker’s “20 under 40” chronicles a man’s search to find the truth about another’s downfall.
Onward Toward What We’re Going Toward (Ig, Aug.)
This debut novel tells the story of the decline of an American family.
Radiance of Tomorrow (FSG/Sarah Crichton), Jan. 2014)
In his first novel, the author of the memoir A Long Way Gone returns to Sierra Leone.
NCIBA, NEIBA, Heartland
The Death of Santini (Doubleday/Talese, Oct.)
In this memoir, Conroy tells the real story about his father, the inspiration for The Great Santini.
Glitter and Glue (Ballantine, Feb. 2014)
The author of The Middle Place examines her bond with her mother, and how it has changed over time.
Heartland, MPIBA, SIBA
It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris (Grove, Aug.)
Twenty-year-old Lita Del Cielo comes to Paris for adventure and falls in love with the son of an anti-immigrant politician.
The Signature of All Things (Viking, Oct.)
The author of Eat, Pray, Love follows the fortunes of the Whittaker family in this novel, set in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Hild (FSG, Nov.)
This historical novel describes the rise of one of the most powerful women in the Middle Ages.
Survival Lessons (Algonquin, Oct.)
In this slim book, Hoffman shares what she learned from surviving cancer. Her next novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Scribner), will be published in February.
Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Ballantine, Jan. 2014)
The author of Loving Frank imagines the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne.
Ties That Bind (Penguin Press, Oct.)
StoryCorps founder Isay selects stories from the oral history project’s first 10 years.
The Seventh Mirror (Mercer Univ. Press, Sept.)
The Mirror Man has mirrors that distort people’s shape, but one allows children to see themselves as they want to be.
We Are Water (Harper, Oct.)
Anna Oh’s plan to marry her Manhattan art dealer brings secrets to the surface.
Chickens in the Road: An Adventure in Ordinary Splendor (HarperOne, Oct.)
The former romance writer turned farm girl describes life at Stringtown Rising Farm.
The Days of Anna Madrigal (Harper, Jan. 2014)
Now 92, the transgender landlady of 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco is committed to “leaving like a lady.”
Sena Jeter Naslund
The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman (Morrow, Sept.)
Naslund offers an alternative to Joyce in this novel about a woman writer and her subject, an 18th-century female painter.
Joyce Carol Oates
Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong (Mysterious, Sept.)
“The relationships between the damaged, sometimes monstrous individuals who people these pages will keep the reader riveted,” wrote PW in a starred review.
Kids These Days (Algonquin, Jan. 2014)
Walter and Alice are expecting their first baby. After she quits her job, he is unexpectedly laid off.
MPIBA, NCIBA, SIBA
Little Failure: A Memoir (Random House, Jan. 2014)
After three novels, Shteyngart writes about his American immigrant experience.
RASL (Cartoon Books, Oct.)
The author of Bone follows his epic fantasy with a hard-boiled tale of an interdimensional art thief.
Mud Season (Countryman, Sept.)
Stimson chronicles her family’s transition from city life to rural Vermont, where they manage the “Horrible Quaint Country Store.”
Heartland, NEIBA, SIBA
The Valley of Amazement (Ecco, Nov.)
This tale about two women’s intertwined fates takes readers to the parlors of Shanghai courtesans and a remote Chinese village.
Identical (Grand Central, Oct.)
Paul is running for mayor when his identical twin is released from the penitentiary and the murder case that resulted in his conviction is reopened.
Men We Reaped (Bloomsbury)
The National Book Award winner examines the loss of five young men in her life in this memoir.
Children’s Authors at the 2013 Regionals
The Copernicus Legacy: The Forbidden Stone (HarperCollins/Tegen, Jan. 2014)
This book marks the start of an adventure series involving 12 magical relics and 12 quests to save the world. Ages 8–up.
Count the Monkeys (Disney-Hyperion, June)
Spoiler alert: this counting book has everything but monkeys. Ages 3–6.
The Fallout (Feiwel and Friends, Sept.)
In book two of the Compound series, the family must readjust to life in the real world after living in an underground shelter. Ages 12–up.
Bad Kitty Daze (Roaring Brook/Porter, Jan. 2014)
Time for Kitty to go to school—obedience school. Ages 7–10.
Tin Star (Roaring Brook, Feb. 2014)
On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family end up at a remote space station. Ages 12–up.
The Testing (HMH, June)
“Charbonneau works action, romance, intrigue, and a plausible dystopian premise into a near-flawless narrative,” wrote PW in a starred review. Ages 12–up.
Train (Scholastic/Orchard, Sept.)
All aboard in this picture book filled with trains, from a night train to a commuter train. Ages 4–8.
Ghost Hawk (S&S/McElderry)
From the Newbery Medalist comes an adventure story about a young Native American and a colonial settler. Ages 10–up.
Llama and the Bully Goat (Viking)
Llama Llama isn’t sure what to do when Gilroy Goat starts teasing him. Age 3–5.
Inhuman (Scholastic Press, Sept.)
When someone close to Lane McEvoy enters the Feral Zone, which was once the eastern part of the U.S., she must follow. Ages 12–up.
Locomotive (Atheneum/Jackson, Sept.)
This picture book uses a family’s trip in 1869 to tell the story of the Transcontinental Railway. Ages 4–10.
Life’s a Witch (S&S, July)
A new edition of the Wattpad story that kicked off Geragotelis’s series about a girl who has it all—because she’s a witch. Ages 14–up.
The Clockwork Scarab (Chronicle, Sept.)
The bestselling author’s YA debut is also her first Stoker and Holmes novel, about two girls in steampunk Victorian London. Ages 12–up.
Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Fire with Fire (S&S, Aug.)
In book two of the Burn trilogy, things don’t go exactly as Lillia, Kat, and Mary had hoped at the Homecoming Dance. Ages 14–up.
Russian Roulette: The Story of an Assassin (Philomel, Oct.)
This is the 10th and final book in the Alex Rider series about a teenage spy. Ages 10–up.
Snowflakes Fall (Random House, Oct.)
Kellogg was inspired to illustrate, and his friend Patricia MacLachlan was inspired to write, this hopeful picture book, intended to offer solace in the wake of the Newtown shootings. Ages 3–7.
An Otis Christmas (Philomel, Oct.)
Otis gets his first Christmas present—a shiny horn. Ages 3–7.
Cress (Feiwel and Friends, Feb. 2014)
Cinder and Captain Thorne are on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf, in the third volume of the Lunar Chronicles. Ages 12–up.
Spirit Animals: Wild Born (Scholastic)
The book marks the start of a multiplatform series, which is part book series and part role-playing game. Ages 8–up.
The Infinite Moment of Us (Abrams/Amulet, Aug.)
This story traces a passionate romance between Wren and Charlie the summer after they graduate from high school. Ages 14–up.
Heartland, MPIBA, SIBA
Steelheart (Delacorte, Sept.)
Sanderson launches a new series about the Epics: people who develop extraordinary powers after an unexplained explosion. Ages 12–up.
Bugs in My Hair! (Scholastic/Blue Sky, Aug.)
Who knew? The funny side of lice. Ages 4–8.
Heartland, NCIBA, SCIBA
Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic (Andrews McMeel, Oct.)
The syndicated cartoonist tells the story of a boy whose monster-y pranks could get him kicked out of middle school. Ages 7–up.
Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things (Knopf, Sept.)
The first book in a trilogy about the mysterious Mister Max, whose parents disappear. Ages 8–up.