Like the independent bookstores they represent, many of which have seen their financial fortunes improve over the past few years, the country’s regional bookseller associations and their fall trade shows are showing renewed strength. “We’ve been pretty Steady Eddie for the last few years,” says Brian Juenemann, who was named executive director of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA) earlier this year. “For every store we’re seeing close, we’re seeing others open. The industry is bouncing back and supporting indies.” Some regions are adding members. Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association (MPIBA) has 12 new bookstore members; the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association (MIBA) added eight in the past year.
Booksellers are enjoying the effects of the rebound in print-book sales and the shop-local movement, and many have experienced the sales increases that American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher spoke about at BookExpo America in May. The channel, he said, was up over 5% for the first four months of the year, relative to the same period last year—and that was before the release of the year’s biggest book to date, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts 1 and 2.
Publishers’ commitment to the regionals remains strong. “We are excited by how the shows continue to innovate,” says Ruth Liebmann, v-p, account marketing at PRH. “Penguin Random House sponsors the educational programming at the regional shows because we believe that innovation and education help to keep our indie partners thriving and profitable.” The Hachette Book Group also has not wavered in its support of the events. “[Regional shows] still remain a valuable and consistent venue to get the word out about a book,” says Karen Torres, HBG v-p and director of field sales and account marketing. “At HBG we believe that regional shows continue to be a place of discovery of new books and authors and are still an opportunity to reconnect with established bestselling books and authors.”
At a time when BEA is continuing to remake itself by adding a consumer event to a traditional trade show, and Winter Institute and Children’s Institute are trying to fill the need for large-scale bookseller education and activism, the fall regionals are tracking a middle course that satisfies the distinct needs of their bookselling communities.
For some shows that means increased emphasis on the show floor. Steve Fischer, the executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA), says that the fewer books there are at BEA, the more the exhibit day itself matters, adding that exhibits are particularly important for frontline booksellers and booksellers who don’t have sales reps visit their stores. Carrie Obry, executive director of MIBA, agrees. “People are craving the [trade show] experience at BEA and not getting it,” she says. To satisfy that hunger, the Heartland Fall Forum—a joint effort of MIBA and Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association (GLIBA)—is breaking up its trade show floor time from one day to two days and building in more exhibit time overall.
But it’s not just booksellers who are looking to spend more time on the show floor; so are sales reps at small and midsize presses. MPIBA, which has long offered publishers the chance to exhibit in the afternoon followed by an entire day, has had no push-back to relatively long hours. “That’s what our exhibitors said they want; it works for us,” says MPIBA executive director Laura Ayrey Burnett. This year PNBA, which makes the second exhibit day optional, had to shuffle its floor plan to accommodate the number of exhibitors who wanted two days of exhibit time.
Other regional trade shows have pared down exhibits, as Winter Institute has done by relying on a galley room to show off forthcoming titles. Southern California Independent Booksellers association (SCIBA), which has one of the shortest fall shows (one full day and one partial day), experimented last year with keeping half of the trade show floor open all day and found that it didn’t make a difference for booksellers. This year, executive director Andrea Vuleta says, SCIBA will open the floor for just a few hours. The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) prides itself on running what executive director Eileen Dengler calls a “tight” conference on a single theme, which this year is “Expanding Frontiers.” She did a study and found that a day of talking about books does drive traffic on the exhibit floor. Five hours of exhibit time works best.
Though some shows began referring to themselves as discovery shows in 2014, authors continue to be key. The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) will have as many as 140 authors this year, just about one per bookseller. In part that’s because booksellers value the chance to interact with authors in person, not just to learn more about the books but to schedule events for their stores. At Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA), Calvin Crosby is planning an author-heavy show for his first trade show as executive director. By making some shifts in the schedule, including replacing a dinner with a reception, Crosby said that he has been able to add 30 more authors.
One change that MPIBA’s Burnett has observed in recent years is publishers’ emphasis on winter and spring titles at the fall events. She estimates that as many as 70% of the submissions she received for authors at the show are for spring releases. “My interpretation is [publishers] are really looking at BEA for fall releases,” Burnett says. Her show and others have added events to accommodate that shift. PNBA, for example, will close with an author showcase titled Hold On, I’m Coming, where booksellers can meet writers of books that Juenemann sees as 2017 hand-selling picks.
If some regionals are in effect filling in for BEA with stronger trade show floors, they’re also incorporating lessons learned from ABA’s Winter Institute and Children’s Institute as they plan their days of education. At the Heartland Fall Forum, that means an event titled Leadership Institute Workshop and a panel for authors on how to work with indies, both similar to offerings at Winter Institute in Denver last winter. In addition, Heartland and NAIBA will offer sessions on graphic novels, which has been one of the hottest book categories in the last two years. The two shows will also hold bookstore tours. Heartland will combine one of its tours with an education session at Magers & Quinn on purchasing used books and inventory management.
ABA will have a presence at each of the shows again this year. Stores were invited to choose between a workshop on the new localism, similar to one presented at Winter Institute and BEA, and one on ABACUS, a yearly ABA membership survey that provides financial benchmarks. “I feel like ABACUS is key,” says SCIBA’s Vuleta, who would like to see the region’s newer bookstores in particular take advantage of the opportunity to participate and to learn more about how their stores measure up.
Although there are several big issues on the horizon—such as rising minimum wage and rent—most of this year’s fall shows are sidestepping them in favor of more general bookseller topics. SIBA continues to try to improve its consumer component. Last year SIBA partnered with SheReads to introduce an afternoon of consumer events. The closing author event of the trade show, the Moveable Feast of Authors luncheon, doubled as the opening event for the public. “We learned a lot. Everybody who participated said it would be a mistake not to do it again,” says SIBA executive director Wanda Jewell, who thinks she’s gotten the right mix for this year’s gathering (which is titled #Read Savannah). She’s encouraged after selling out the lunch more than a month before the show.
Regional Trade Show Listings and Highlights
This year's fall book shows are packed with authors, education, and lots of opportunities for booksellers to compare notes. Below are highlights for all eight shows by date, from mid-September through late October.
Discovery Show (Sept. 16–18)
Hilton Savannah Desoto in Savannah, Ga.
● The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance show gets a jump start on Thursday, September 15, at a beach party at Mary Kay Andrew's historic Tybee Island beach house, with appetizers and cocktails from Andrew's Beach Party Cookbook (St. Martin's, summer 2017).
● Every evening there are opportunities to hear writers, including a late-night event with seven authors: the Shoe Burnin' Show on Friday after the SIBA supper. On Saturday night stand-up comedians Trae Crowder, Drew Morgan, and Corey Ryan Forrester, authors of The Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin' Dixie Outta the Dark (Atria), prove that it's possible to be both liberal and a "redneck."
● Many featured titles at the show are due out in 2017. On Friday evening, 28 authors with new books landing in the first half of the new year will be on hand, including Tom Angleberger (Inspector Flytrap in the Goat Who Chewed Too Much, Amulet), A.G. Howard, (RoseBlood, Amulet), and Jackson Pearce (Pip Barlett's Guide to Unicorn Training, Scholastic Press). Entertainment will be provided by the Difficulties, who are billed as an "anti-meta, neo-beat garage gospel trio." The group frequently performs in the back room of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, N.C.
● On the show's last day, SIBA presents the Breakfast Buffet of Books, featuring a mix of adult and kids' authors, including Jane Alison (Nine Island, Catapult) and Brendan Wenzel (They All Saw a Cat, Chronicle).
Fall Conference (Sept. 20–22)
Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence
● The New England Independent Booksellers Association conference opens with a keynote presentation by bestselling author Zadie Smith (Swing Time, Penguin Press), in conversation with novelist Christopher Castellani, artistic director of Grub Street, and closes with a keynote speech by Authors United founder Douglas Preston (Lost City of the Monkey God, Grand Central).
● Workshops include Selling More Nonfiction (there's no reason this category shouldn't generate more buzz), What Reps See! (on best practices, gleaned from store visits around the region), and working with self-published authors.
● For the first time, NEIBA is offering an open forum for schmoozing on the last day of the show. A few tables will be set aside where booksellers and publishers can discuss specific topics.
● Many authors will appear at the show, including 23 writers at the author cocktail reception, among them Jo Knowles (Still a Work in Progress, Candlewick), Leo Landry (What's Up, Chuck?, Charlesbridge), Pam Jenoff (The Orphan's Tale, Mira), Okey Ndibe (Never Look an American in the Eye, Soho), and Nina Sankovitch (The Lowells of Massachusetts, St. Martin's).
● Andrea Beaty (Ada Twist, Scientist, Abrams), Grace Lin (When the Sea Turned to Silver, Little Brown), and Raina Telgemeier (Ghosts, Scholastic) will speak at the children's author and illustrator breakfast.
Tradeshow (Sept. 30–Oct. 2)
Hotel Murano in Tacoma, Wash.
● The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association show kicks off with the event Home Brewed Happy Hour, which celebrates the publication of Complete IPA (Sterling) and features 10 local authors and five local IPAs.
● Dinner at the Kid's Table returns for the second year (the first year's event was sold out). This time the speakers include Jay Asher (What Light, Razorbill), Carson Ellis (Du Iz Tak?, Candlewick), Brandon Mull (Fablehaven Book of Imagination, Shadow Mountain), and David Shannon (Duck on a Tractor, Blue Sky).
● The Sunday book-and-author breakfast features one of PNBA's own: former Alaskan bookseller Eowyn Ivey (The Bright Edge of the World, Little, Brown). Another writer regarded as a "treasure of the Northwest," Pete Fromm (The Names of the Stars, St. Martin's), will speak at Saturday's breakfast.
● There are several educational tracks for booksellers, covering topics such as selling used books and social media, as well as sessions geared specifically to librarians and authors, including Helping Readers Find Their Next Good Read, and Creative Author Events to Grow Your Audience.
Heartland Fall Forum (Oct. 5–7)
The Depot Renaissance in Minneapolis, Minn.
● This year's show, a collaboration between the Great Lakes and Midwest Independent Booksellers Associations, kicks off with Welcome to the Mini-Apple, a reception with at least 10 Twin Cities publishers serving as hosts. Among the featured guests are former bookseller Jay Peterson and Wild Rumpus owner Collette Morgan, who are the editors of Sky Blue Water (Univ. of Minnesota), and Benjamin Percy (Thrill Me, Graywolf).
● The Big Buzz lunch brings together food, booze (via a cash bar), and booksellers pitching their top adult and kids titles, as well as sidelines.
● Heartland's signature education session is back: Ideas That Work, which provides an opportunity for booksellers to share and learn bookselling tips.
● More than 100 authors will be at the show, including 25 at the closing reception alone. Among them: Nikolas Butler (The Hearts of Men, Ecco, 2017), A.G. Howard (RoseBlood, Amulet, 2017), and Greer Macalister (Girl in Disguise, Sourcebooks).
● Stay until Oct. 8 and take advantage of the Twin Cities Area Bookstore Tour. Booksellers have the option of touring five stores—Birch Bark, Moon Palace Books, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Dream Haven, and Wild Rumpus—or visiting three and enjoying an off-site educational session at Magers & Quinn on buying and selling used and discount inventory.
Fall Discovery Show (Oct. 6–8)
Renaissance Denver Hotel
in Denver, Colo.
● With a dozen new bookseller members, Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association will kick off its show with a meet and greet for first-time booksellers and exhibitors, followed by a backlist book swap as a way to keep the conversation going.
● Meals and books are a favorite combination, starting with Thursday morning's children's author and illustrator breakfast with David Shannon (Duck on a Tractor, Blue Sky), S.J. Kincaid (The Diabolic, S&S), and Erin Stead (The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, with Michelle Cuevas, Dial).
● Thursday afternoon's gala reception gives booksellers a first look at the trade show floor and is followed by a full day of exhibits on Friday.
● The author banquet on Friday night features T.C. Boyle (The Terranuats, Ecco), Anne Lamott (Hallelujah Anyway, Riverhead), and Maria Semple (Today Will Be Different, Little, Brown).
Fall Conference (Oct. 15–17)
Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Md.
● The show's theme, Expanding Frontiers, is meant to reflect sessions that address adding more sidelines, other ways to create new business, and how to make the store experience pleasurable for special-needs customers.
● NAIBA is one of several regionals where booksellers can take advantage of the ABA's 101-level workshop, the ABA Principles of Bookstore Finance, before the show starts. Booksellers need to register separately for the session, which covers the fundamentals of budgeting, cash flow forecasting, and financial-statement analysis.
● The Saturday preview supper showcases five authors, including Emily Fridlund (History of Wolves, Atlantic Monthly), Adele Griffin (Fire Island, Algonquin), and James Howe (Big Bob, Little Bob, Candlewick). It is followed by cocktails and a backlist book swap.
● Breakfast at NAIBA is worth getting up for, especially to hear Sunday's four highly regarded writers: Laurie Halse Anderson (Ashes, Atheneum/Dlouhy), Hannah Tinti (The Twelve Bullets of Samuel Hawley, Dial, 2017), Susan Perabo (The Fall of Lucy Bellow, S&S, 2017), and Patrick McDonnell (Tek, Little, Brown).
● At the awards banquet, Taylor Branch, best known for his landmark trilogy of the civil rights era, America in the King Years, will receive NAIBA's Legacy Award.
Fall Trade Show (Oct. 21–22)
The Garland Hotel in North Hollywood, Calif.
● The Southern California Independent Booksellers Association may have the shortest show, which goes from Friday afternoon through Saturday evening, but it definitely packs a wallop, starting with the children's Saturday breakfast, featuring Sabaa Tahir (A Torch Against the Night, Razorbill), David Shannon (Duck on a Tractor, Blue Sky), and Jewell Parker Rhodes (Towers Falling, Little, Brown).
● The adult awards luncheon features Authors United founder Douglas Preston (Lost City of the Monkey God, Grand Central) and Cheech Marin (Cheech Is Not My Real Name, Grand Central, 2017), half of the comedy team Cheech and Chong.
● The closing reception, to be held under the stars, features Tosca Lee (The Progeny, Howard), Sonya Sones (Saving Red, HarperTeen), Bradford Tatum (Only the Dead Know Burbank, Harper Perennial), and Kevin Smokler (Brat Pack America, Rare Bird).
● And SCIBA educational sessions include a panel on school visits, titled Successful Partnerships: Schools, Bookstores, and Authors.
Fall Discovery Show (Oct. 27–28)
South San Francisco Conference Center in San Francisco
● Julissa Arce (My (Underground) American Dream, Center Street) will give the opening keynote on Thursday morning and talk about her life as an undocumented worker who became a Wall Street executive. She is cofounder and chairman of the Ascend Educational Fund, a college scholarship and mentorship program that assists immigrant students.
● This year's show features authors and booksellers in conversation with one another, starting Thursday with Grace Bonney (In the Company of Women, Artisan), Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage, Casey Coonerty-Protti of Bookshop Santa Cruz, and Christie Olsen Day of Gallery Bookshop. Luisa Smith at Book Passage will talk with her father, Martin Cruz Smith (The Girl from Venice, S&S), on Friday.
● Other standout events include Friday's Adult Author Brunch with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Writings on the Wall, Time), Anne Lamott (Hallelujah Anyway, Riverhead), Maria Semple (Today Will Be Different, Little, Brown), and Rebecca Solnit (Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas, Univ. of California).
● There are many opportunities to meet children's authors, including a Saturday afternoon reception with more than 30 authors, followed by a children's author dinner with keynote speakers Tom Lichtenheld (Groovy Joe: Ice Cream & Dinosaurs, Scholastic), Adam Gidwitz (The Inquisitors' Tale, Dutton), Megan McDonald (Judy Moody and the Bucketlist, Candlewick), and Melissa de la Cruz (Something in Between, Harlequin Teen).