Not every thing is bigger in Texas. As anticipated, the Mid-South Independent Booksellers Association show, held September 4—7 in Austin, Tex., was more modest in size and attendance than the previous year's conference in New Orleans. Nevertheless, the small regional made big leaps this year, introducing a new book award, its first Christmas catalogue and a new logo.
The catalogue is being created by Jeremy Ellis, marketing director of Austin's own BookPeople. Ellis told PW, "The catalogue will dubbed a winter catalogue, instead of a Christmas catalogue, in order to give it longevity beyond the holiday season and capture some of those post-Christmas shoppers." He reported that the layout will also incorporate graphics and photography in a way that, he hopes, will make it stand out from the "pale offerings by the chain booksellers." In addition, the catalogue will likely display the association's new logo, which features a sun above a distant mountainscape crowned with a spray of stars.
The first Mid-South Regional Book Award was given to Tim Gautereaux for his novel The Clearing (Knopf). The author was not in attendance, but the prize was graciously received by Random House Group's Ruth Liebman at the show's Saturday night author reception and book signing.
Keeping Austin Weird
In one of the best attended sessions of the show, BookPeople owner Steve Bercu (wearing a pair of colorful Grateful Dead socks) offered a primer on the "Keep Austin Weird" project, which was responsible in part for the city's withdrawal of financial incentives offered to Borders Books & Music to build a superstore downtown, just blocks away from BookPeople. Data collected by Austin's Civic Economics group of researchers concluded that every $100 spent in a chain store is "the rough equivalent of taking more than $30 out of the local economy," said Bercu. A new report by the group, dealing with the economic impact of shopping at all chain stores—not just chain bookstores—instead of locally owned businesses is being prepared for release in early November.
Bercu also said that one of the most effective means of promoting the "Keep Austin Weird" campaign has been the distribution of 100,000 free bumper stickers using the motto. He estimated that "nearly one in seven Austinites has a bumper sticker on their car or somewhere in their possession. Many people have gone one step further and cut up the stickers, rearranged the letters and pasted their own messages on the backs of their cars," he said, adding that the stickers are becoming 21st-century equivalents of "Kilroy Was Here," and are turning up all over the world, including in Iraq on the back of a Humvee.
Speaking of bumper stickers, Austin author and former Dallas Morning News columnist Spike Gillespie was on hand to promote her new collection of essays, Surrender (But Don't Give Yourself Away): Old Cars, Found Hope, and Other Cheap Tricks (Univ. of Texas Press). The cover shows the back of her car and its display of bumper stickers, sans an anti-Bush sticker, which she said the publisher airbrushed out. Gillespie distributed tiny reproductions of the sticker to attach to the front of the book to render the cover "authentic."
Befitting the city of Austin, well known for its music scene, authors attending this year's conference appeared to be especially musical. Both novelist Clyde Edgerton and children's author Keith Graves played guitar and sang, while writer and self-proclaimed punk rocker Neal Pollack signed at the gala, hidden behind deeply shaded eyeglasses, providing a poseur-celebrity factor. The real celebrities showed up in the person of a pair of retired NFL stars, Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters, co-authors of Tales from the Dallas Cowboys (Sports Publishing), who drew an especially large crowd in response to an announcement about their signing in the Austin-American Statesman.
Mary Gay Shipley, owner of That Bookstore in Blytheville, Ark., who has missed several recent MSIBA shows, said she was glad to be back. "I like this show because it's not as crowded, and the children's activities are spectacular. I like having all the autographings at the same time. Best of all, I like the big discounts on books."
At the annual membership meeting, David Cockcroft of Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Ark., became president of MSIBA, replacing Tamra Dore of Katy Budget Books in Katy, Tex. Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tex., took over as v-p from Debbie McClure of the Abilene Bookstore in Abilene, Tex.