This year’s Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association trade show, held at the Renaissance Denver Hotel in the Mile-High City's Stapleton area on Oct. 9-11, drew 171 booksellers from a 12-state region that includes both Wyoming, the nation’s most sparsely-populated state, and Texas, its second-most densely populated state.
This year’s show, as always, included a full day of presentations from publishers’ reps, with literary fiction being front and center. While some booksellers talked up fall releases like Pale Harvest by Braden Hepner (Torrey House, Sept.) and Station Eleven (Knopf, Sept.) by Emily St. John Mandel, others were getting excited about 2015 titles.
Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover's cafe manager and a book blogger, raved about Barefoot Dogs (Scribner, March 2015), a debut short story collection by Antonio Ruiz-Camacho.
Valerie Koehler of Houston's Blue Willow Bookshop expressed excitement about Christopher Scotton’s debut novel, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth (Grand Central, Jan.). “This is the book; it’s awesome,” she said, noting that it has powerful themes about identity and “the ravaging” of the environment.
Descent (Algonquin, Jan. 2015), Tim Johnston's debut adult novel, also got booksellers buzzing. Tattered Cover’s Langer said she was unable to put down the “character-driven thriller" set in the Rockies, and that the book is "great for all readers.” She predicted that the title will be a "big seller" at her store.
When not discussing upcoming titles, booksellers were able to browse the exhibit hall, which featured offerings from 122 vendors. There, attendees noted that this show, unlike other regionals, retains a special importance for many of them. With many rural and/or small bookstores in the region, the MPIBA show offers some booksellers their sole chance to meet with reps and other publishing professionals.
When talk shifted to business, many booksellers reported positive trends. Susie Wilmer, of Old Firehouse Books in Ft. Collins, Co., said her sales are up 20% for the year. Wilmer ordered 61,000 copies of the 2014 MPIBA winter catalog this year, explaining that last year, she had 50,000 copies inserted into five northern Colorado newspapers that serve communities without indie bookstores. She’s expanding this year into Windsor, Colo., another community without an indie; the town boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in the state. “When that catalog goes out, people will be coming to the store, waving it around,” she predicted.
Arvin Ramgoolan, of Townie Books in Crested Butte, Co., said his sales have been up 25%, each year, since the store opened in 2010.
And Andrea Avantaggio, of Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Co., said her sales for the year are up 6%, with summer sales up 7%. “The battle cry for the summer has been, ‘I’m on vacation and I need a real book,’” she said.
In July, Denver’s Tattered Cover opened a 1,000-square-foot store in the newly-renovated Union Station; the store marks one of 13 new MPIBA bookstores that opened this past year. “We’re in a happy place; we’re pleased with store traffic,” said lead buyer Cathy Langer.
Booksellers outside of Colorado also reported positive news. Jeremy Ellis, general manager of Houston's Brazos Books, said the 42-year-old bookselling icon has “rounded the corner from being in dire straits, to profitability.” Vicki Law Burger, of Casper, Wyo.’s Wind City Books, said the store has “steadily grown” since it opened in 2007. Burger added that the store has seen a “huge increase” in online sales since it revamped its website.
For a closer look at children's booksellers at MPIBA, see MPIBA 2014: Big Helpings of Children's Books with Authors.