Held this past weekend at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Norfolk, Va., SIBA 2014 drew more than 500 booksellers, authors, vendors, exhibitors, and attendees eager to embrace this year’s theme and “fall in love.”
Representing 53 bookstores, the newly renamed discovery show featured bestselling authors including James Patterson, Gayle Forman, Rick Bragg, Patti Callahan Henry and Tim Federle. Executive director Wanda Jewell said of SIBA’s name change, “While we still want to do trade, our primary focus is to offer discover for everyone – something that makes their business better than the year before.”
Jewell reported business for the regional association is “fantastic,” with financials up and six new stores attending the show. This year's programming focused on the various ways booksellers can grow their communities -- from how to increase independent bookstores success to utilizing the best online marketing practices to converting women’s fiction readers to romance. Authors Sarah MacLean and Cathy Maxwell joined booksellers Tom Warner and Kelly Justice on a panel Friday morning to discuss one way bookstores can increase profit.
In 2011 MacLean successfully challenged her favorite neighborhood store, Word, in Brooklyn, to sell her romance novels in the shop, giving them 15 books to fill ¾ a shelf space in 2012. “They moved 360 units that first year,” she said. Both MacLean and Maxwell advised booksellers to get to know romance authors in their communities “and let romance readers know your store is a safe place” where they can find their genre.
Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch introduced Saturday’s keynote, James Patterson, and took a moment to offer booksellers one piece of marketing advice -- that they should consider using Instagram to help promote books and their stores. “It’s profound,” he said of the app. “It’s something everyone can use.” He wasn’t alone in recommending the social media application, as Books and Whatnot marketer Beth Golay, SIBA’s marketing director Nicki Leone, and Baker & Taylor manager Julie Isgrigg also recommended Instagram to booksellers during their Friday morning panel, adding stores should utilize their staff to help create great content and images of new books and recommendations.
During his Saturday lunch keynote, Patterson focused on the importance of helping kids discover the joy of reading for pleasure, while skirting around the on-going tensions in the Hachette-Amazon negotiations. He suggested his slogan “We Read in Our House” should hang over the door of every bookstore. “Booksellers and their stores are so important in their communities. That’s why I made the donations, and continue to make donations. You’re essential.”
Booksellers like Janet Geddis, Abbey and Shane Gotwalls, and Terra Elan McVoy noted the festive atmosphere on the showroom floor Saturday and Sunday. Shane Gottwalls commented on the increase in foot traffic from years past, while Geddis noted the increase in book styles and genres represented. Some of the most talked about books included Rick Bragg’s Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, Geronimo T. Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville, Gayle Forman’s I Was Here, and Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds, among others.
Also buzzed about was SIBA’s announcement of its plans to team up with She Reads Book Club and add a reader appreciation element to next year’s show. "We are really delighted to partner with SIBA to create a new open-to-the-public event as part of their yearly show," said She Reads co-founder, Ariel Lawhon (The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress). "It's such a wonderful opportunity to bring readers, booksellers, and authors together and we feel that focusing on those relationships will greatly benefit all parties."
The most poignant moment of the show came Friday night, as SIBA hosted a wake to celebrate the life of bookseller Matt Bibb, who had worked at the show for more than a decade. Friends joined Jamie Fiocco of Flyleaf Books, Frazer Dobson of Park Road Books, and Matt’s mother Ann Bibb Ruble, to toast and remember Bibb who died since the last show. “Having Matt Bibb's mom, Anne, at the show was a gift to us all. Both delighted to have her and devastated over the reason,” Jewell told PW. “The Bibb drink, the wake, and crowning our first annual BIBB Independent Bookstore Best of 2015 to Malaprops Bookstore & Cafe in Asheville, NC all went a long way in our healing.”
For a closer look at children's booksellers at SIBA, see SIBA Talks Up the Importance of Children's Books.