It’s fall trade show season, and all the regional bookseller associations have been working hard to help booksellers and exhibitors make the best use of their trade show time. While 2022’s excitement came from meeting in person after pandemic separation, 2023’s focus is on adapting to a changing bookselling ecosystem.

Everyone has an agenda when it comes to the regionals, and the organizations hope to meet everyone’s expectations. Store owners and staff are eager to get up to speed on technologies and platforms such as Batch and, discover titles from independent publishers, and gather with friends they haven’t seen in months. Many first-timers have joined association rolls, and new or aspiring owner-managers want to diversify their skill sets while making connections with more experienced booksellers. Publisher sales reps are honing their pitches and preparing to set up new accounts. And everyone is curious to meet the authors and get an early look at their forthcoming releases.

Though each gathering highlights regional vendors and specialties, bookstores nationwide share common business practices and concerns too. At every trade show, the American Booksellers Association will run a risk-mitigation session titled “This Is a Fire Drill: Preparing for and Avoiding Crises.” The presentation will troubleshoot cybersecurity issues, weather events, protests, break-ins, and other stressors that undermine retail operations.

New Voices and in-person locations

The fall regionals started with New Voices New Rooms, the joint conference of the New Atlantic Independent Boooksellers Association and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, held in Arlington, Va., August 7–10. NVNR started from necessity as a virtual event in 2020 and 2021, and experimented with a hybrid format in 2022. This first in-person meeting drew close to 300 booksellers, including 33 new store owners, and programming included a keynote from Julia Fabris McBride of the Kansas Leadership Center.

Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association alternates between Oregon and Washington for its Fall Tradeshow, and this year’s gathering convenes in Portland. “We get good turnout in Portland,” says executive director Brian Juenemann, who calls the Columbia Riverfront host site “a nice all-in-one facility that can cater to show needs from the exhibits to the education to the author parties.”

Juenemann says PNBA’s exhibition space is “super full” and estimates that bookseller attendance is 90% of prepandemic levels. PNBA now boasts 285 overall member entities, including 149 bookstores, along with industry affiliates including publishers, distributors, libraries, and authors.

California Independent Bookstore Association’s Fall Fest converges on South San Francisco Conference Center, next to the San Francisco International Airport, to maximize convenience and member participation. “The last time we were there was 2017,” says co–executive director Kristin Rasmussen. “It’s easy access: driving, flying, public transportation. And it’s a site that can hold everything we need to do, which is very rare up here.”

The organization invited “authors across all genres,” Rasmussen notes, “and we have packed these two days with talent.” Practical bookstore matters are on the docket too, with sessions developed by the CALIBA education committee. Among the roundtable discussions is a session on Edelweiss tools and skills, which co–executive director Ann Seaton calls “politically important, because that’s where the publishers see what’s happening in any bookstore—it’s a great way to show the publishers what we’re actually selling.”

Jam-packed schedules and surprise guests

New England Independent Booksellers Association will celebrate its 50th anniversary when it returns to Providence, R.I., in October (see “NEIBA at 50,” p. 54). Executive director Beth Ineson says that “to honor the anniversary, we’re switching up the schedule a bit and holding a big party,” in addition to hosting the New England Book Awards, unveiling the New England Children’s Book Advisory Council’s list of diversity-focused Windows and Mirrors books for young readers, and bringing in “surprise guests.”

Ineson says she loves Providence’s “perfect mix of space, affordability, transportation access, and great restaurants. We have so few affordable options in the region given the size of our exhibit space, so we try to strike the right balance.”

As it has for many years, Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association will convene in a Denver hotel for its annual conference, drawing booksellers from 14 states across the West and Southwest. This year’s three-day gathering is jam-packed with education panels, networking opportunities, author presentations, and of course, Quiz Bowl. New this year, an Edelweiss intensive will take place the day before the conference officially kicks off at a local brewpub.

According to executive director Heather Duncan, FallCon has always taken place in Denver because it is so accessible from all points, whether people are driving there or flying into Denver International Airport, which is a major hub for U.S. airlines. She added that “for many years, the majority of MPIBA members were in Colorado, and many in the Denver metro area.”

As the number of Texas booksellers grew, however, MPIBA responded by adding SpringCon, which is held in the Lone Star State. Texas accounts for 33% of MPIBA’s total 252 bookstore members, while Colorado accounts for 25% of MPIBA bookstore membership.

The fall trade show season will wrap up with the Heartland Fall Forum, Great Lakes and Midwest Independent Booksellers Associations’ annual mash-up. The two organizations are taking full advantage of this year’s Detroit location. The gathering will kick off with the Heartland Booksellers Awards ceremony at the conference hotel, hosted by the irrepressible Isaac Fitzgerald, before moving to Third Man Records, where a conversation between musician Jack White of the White Stripes and author and music critic Hanif Abdurraqib will take place. Drummer, journalist, and Third Man Records label executive Ben Blackwell, poet Caroline Randall Williams, and Pulitzer Prize finalist Adrian Matejka will also take the stage that evening.

“The genesis for this event began almost a year ago when I set up a private tour of Third Man Records for the GLIBA board,” says GLIBA executive director Larry Law. “It gained traction during GLIBA’s spring forum when we started brainstorming what would be the ultimate Detroit experience for our stores. Jack White in conversation with Hanif Abdurraqib has us reeling, but we are also just as excited to be together again.”

Read more from our Fall Regionals 2023 feature:

Fall Regionals 2023: Programming Highlights
This year’s gatherings provide opportunities for booksellers to rub shoulders with authors and strategize about challenges facing the book world.

Fall Regionals 2023: NEIBA at 50
Sailing into a new decade, New England’s indie organization glances back and charts its course.

Fall Regionals 2023: Binc Expands Its Mission
It’s been a busy year for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which is rolling out a series of new programs designed to diversify the industry.

Fall Regionals 2023: Expands Its Reach
It's been more than three years since the launch of online retailer, and the online retailer is eager to remove Amazon’s stranglehold on online sales.

Fall Regionals 2023: Booksellers Predict The Big Books of Fall 2023
Every fall season, bookseller enthusiasm builds for certain subjects, and novels—notably high-stakes historical fiction and immersive work in translation—are extra hot for 2023.