Following the February decision by organizers to cancel BookExpo Canada, the Canadian Booksellers Association didn’t have much time to come up with an alternate event to coincide with its annual general meeting in Toronto in June, which usually took place just before BEC. But according to CBA executive director Susan Dayus, by keeping its summer conference relatively small and not trying to do too much too fast, organizers believe the June 20—21 event will provide a foundation for a program that can grow in the years to come.

At press time, about 80 booksellers had registered for the two-day conference at the Radisson Admiral Hotel on Toronto’s waterfront, Dayus said. That’s smaller than past years’ attendance, but she said, “You can’t compare it to other years,” when booksellers were also coming for BEC. “People came for different reasons,” she noted. The conference will include professional development seminars, a “speed-dating”—style lunch for sales reps to present books to small groups of booksellers (an idea borrowed from the ABA Winter Institute) and the CBA’s Libris Awards.

Most of the large multinational publishers—Random House of Canada, McClelland & Stewart, HarperCollins Canada and Simon & Schuster—won’t be there. Only Penguin Canada will be participating. The publishers in attendance will be mostly from midsize and smaller companies, but Dayus said, “The closer we got to the event the more publisher interest there was. Some publishers wanted to take tables or wanted to get involved in the speed-dating, but we’d already sold out, so that’s a good thing, and this year, it’s the starting point for something new.”

And she means new. When Dayus talked about the summer conference’s potential for growth, she said she isn’t thinking of anything like a trade show again. “That whole thing is gone for Canada. Forget everything you’ve seen at BookExpo. It’s not that at all,” she said, describing publisher tables spread out throughout an atrium of the hotel. “It is much more intimate, and there’ll be more of a chance to talk to those people who do have their tables,” she said. Dayus added that the CBA would like to develop for the future something “that has an opportunity for more involvement from the publishers’ side and higher registration from the booksellers.”

The registration fees won’t cover the costs for the event entirely, but, Dayus said, “With the publishers and speed-dating and the sponsorship [from publishers] that we’ve been very lucky to receive, we’re not going to be in a loss situation.”

Topics for the educational sessions were chosen after surveying booksellers for ideas and feedback, and include publisher e-catalogues, how to sell and market remainders, tips on displays and practical suggestions for making such tools as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and podcasts work for bookstores.