Spirits were high at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance’s 40th anniversary Discovery Show at the Hilton Raleigh North Midtown this past weekend. Not only was the number of registered attendees for the trade show up 25% over last year, said Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction and SIBA board president, but all indications point to 2015 being a strong year for sales.
At the industry breakfast and annual meeting on Friday, Hendrix asked booksellers to stand up if their sales have been better so far this year over 2014. Around two-thirds of those in the room stood up for the informal survey. “They seem very positive going into the holiday season,” said Wanda Jewell, SIBA’s executive director.
SIBA itself is also in solid fiscal shape. The organization has a reserve fund of $90,000 and its core membership is at 128, Hendrix said, compared to 89 last year. She attributed the gain to the success of Independent Bookstore Day, which requires participating booksellers to join their regional trade organizations. “This reminded people that they needed to re-up their membership,” she said.
Following the breakfast, SIBA dedicated a new library at the hotel in honor of Reba and Dave Williams, founders of the Reba & Dave Williams Foundation for Literature and the Arts, and “the best friends that Southern literature could ever have,” said Hendrix. The foundation celebrated SIBA’s 40th anniversary by presenting the organization with a $40,000 grant that funded booksellers’ trips to this year’s trade show.
Friday also featured educational opportunities for booksellers, including a seminar on IngramSpark as a resource for bookstores to help writers in their communities get published and connect with readers. Baker & Taylor presented a workshop on gift buying, while a financial session featuring George Gibson from Bloomsbury USA discussed the economics of publishing. Since many newer booksellers come to the regional trade shows, this “nuts and bolts education” is important, Hendrix said.
ABA CEO OrenTeicher said, “These folks are working really hard and I think it’s clear that because of this kind of programming, booksellers are better educated, and better able to make their business work and be more successful. That’s evidenced by the vibrancy and success of stores.”
The show also welcomed a number of authors for panels and readings, including Rick Bragg (My Southern Journey, Time Inc.), Augusten Burroughs (Lust and Wonder, St. Martin’s Press), and Padgett Powell (Cries for Help, Various: Stories, Catapult).
The Shoe Burnin’ Show took the stage Friday night fusing literature and music with a unique theatrical experience. The trade show also introduced Trio, a traveling exhibit that brings together musicians, artists and writers. The exhibit will tour the South over the next year, culminating at the 2016 discovery show in Savannah, Georgia.
All events were well attended. Tampa author Jeff Strand (The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, Sourcebooks) called his participation in SIBA's author-signing event--First 180 Day-- “glorious chaos” – in a good way. "Not that it was disorganized; it was, in fact, perfectly planned,” he said. “But it was packed with authors giving out free advance reading copies of their forthcoming books--up to six months before they're available to the public--so it was a high-energy, high-enthusiasm event. These things make it hard to go back to traditional book signings.”