The word most frequently used to describe this year’s fall regional bookseller trade shows is energetic. The regionals took place over a six-week period, beginning with the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance’s Discovery Show in Savannah, Ga., in mid-September and continuing through October with the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association’s gathering in San Francisco late last month.
All eight shows benefitted from the continued growth of the indie bookstore channel, which brought in more new bookstore owners and younger frontline booksellers to the meetings. NCIBA and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association got an additional boost from new leadership: NCIBA executive director Calvin Crosby and PNBA’s Brian Juenemann led their first shows.
Even with new blood at the associations and sales gains at the stores, attendance rose only slightly at some shows and dipped at others. The Heartland Fall Forum in Minneapolis, a joint venture of the Great Lakes and the Midwest Independent Booksellers Associations for the fifth year in a row, was the only show to experience a double-digit dip in attendance, likely caused by the fact that Winter Institute will be held in the Twin Cities in January.
One of the main draws for booksellers at the shows continues to be the opportunity to meet a wide range of authors, including big names such as Zadie Smith, who gave the keynote speech at the New England Independent Booksellers Association, and Martin Cruz Smith, in conversation with his daughter, bookseller Luisa Smith, at NCIBA. This year no single book emerged as the big book of the holiday season. But one new children’s book author and illustrator was a clear bookseller favorite: Brendan Wenzel, for his debut picture book, They All Saw a Cat (Chronicle).
Like BookExpo, which has been in transition for the past few years, the fall regionals could be changing. Just before its show, SIBA announced that it will move its annual gathering to the spring in 2018 and will begin holding the show in Atlanta. SIBA had originally planed to partner with the Great American Bargain Book Show. Following GABBS’s surprise announcement last month that it will close, SIBA set aside its annual spring day of education for booksellers to discuss whether to keep the trade show in the fall, move it to the spring, or possibly rotate it between the two seasons.
The subject of a different timing for the shows has yet to be broached among the other regional associations. The fall trade show tradition has been a part of the bookselling landscape for the past four decades.