Wrapping up the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association fall trade show, which ran from Sept. 18-20 in Tacoma, exhibitors reported strong orders and newly forged connections. Publishers appreciated PNBA’s effort to celebrate companies from massive to midsize to micro. Of some 80 authors signing or table-hopping, half came from the Big Five and the rest represented independent presses.
IPG rep Julia Callahan set up new accounts and rebooted dormant ones at the show. Callahan offered discounts and deals for PNBA attendees and said IPG’s 2021 hiring of an in-house field sales team had improved the ease of communication with booksellers. Jim Dassise, western region rep with Arcadia Publishing, also expanded his network. Arcadia, which focuses on place-based topics in series like Wicked cities, Spooky Stories, and the Hello! board books, offered a 50% discount and free freight, and promoted an educational middle-grade history of World War II enlistees and stateside solidarity, The Canteen.
A British Columbia contingent—including Greystone Books, Tidewater Press, Michelle Halket of Vancouver-based Central Avenue Publishing, and Jen Cameron of Orca Book Publishers (touting Indigenous author Monique Gray Smith’s picture book in English, French, and Plains Cree, I Hope)—got acquainted with booksellers to the south. Angela Engel of The Collective Book Studio praised PNBA’s “local vibe” and warm welcome for lifestyle blogger Lauren Thomas, serving The Modern Hippie Table, and Bend, Ore., artist Isaac Peterson, signing his picture book Gray Fox in the Moonlight.
Many companies’ specialized titles fly below the algorithmic radar. Propeller Books, whose Northwest Collection is dedicated to regional, historic reprints, recommended The Undaunted, a 1936 novel by transgender author and physician Alan Hart. Lone Pine Publishing, a Canadian company with a U.S. arm in Tukwila, Wash., provided the meticulously researched Pacific Salmon Field Guide. Basalt Books, a Washington State University Press imprint, touted Global Nomad, a travelogue/memoir by wheelchair-using Corvallis, Ore., author Tom Haig.
Trade paper versus hardcover formats were on the minds of several publishers. Portland, Ore.’s Tin House plans a hardcover edition of Elizabeth Brooks’s The House in the Orchard, yet intends to publish more trade paperbacks, says Nanci McCloskey, associate publisher and director of marketing and sales. McCloskey said paperback originals facilitate reprinting and sell well. At Blackstone Publishing, western regional rep Bryan Green said dual hardcover/paperback editions continue to be available, depending on bookstore preferences.
Mountaineers Books publisher Tom Helleberg and sales and marketing director Darryl Booker said paperback originals, like climber Jeff Smoot’s All and Nothing: Inside Free Soloing, keep price points accessible and ensure portability during a reader’s wilderness adventures. Exceptions include artist Molly Hashimoto’s gift book Trees of the West, and Lynda Mapes’s Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home (co-published by Mountaineers imprint Braided River and the Seattle Times), which on Sept. 13 won the Washington State Book Award for nonfiction.
Booker notices bricks-and-mortar accounts “normalizing,” with splits evening out between bookstore and online requests for Mountaineers Books. Another exhibitor wondered whether changes at Amazon and Barnes & Noble mean opportunity for both independent presses and bookstores, since hardcovers, debuts, and hand-sold backlist favorites benefit from indie enthusiasm.