Like their publishing peers, most booksellers contact PW It’s great that nearly all of the fall regional conferences and trade shows will be held in person, some for the first time since 2019. said Matt Norcross, co-owner of McLean and Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan. “Regional has always been essential and something we have relied on, but after the in-person hiatus, in creating the book The business community has become more critical in terms of gatherings. “
That said, virtual programming remains an important option for booksellers like Praveen Madan, CEO of Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, Calif., who will skip the inaugural in-person CALIBA due to the ongoing pandemic , and did not dispatch employees. Justin Souther, senior buyer and manager of the Malaprop Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC, cannot attend SIBA’s live show in New Orleans because the bookstore will be selling at a festival that week , which is one of the reasons his region, SIBA and NAIBA chose to host the virtual joint fall trade show New Voices New Rooms earlier this month. In-person programming is also planned for both associations.
Even as more events move to in-person settings, American Booksellers Association CEO Alison Hill noted that virtual meetings, webinars, and panel discussions “are especially exciting because we are able to reach people who can’t attend in person. Booksellers of the Conference. The new industry calendar might look different without BookExpo, but everyone—booksellers, publishers, authors, regions, and ABA—is moving forward and optimizing what we must get to An opportunity to be together. These events are more meaningful and impactful than ever.”
Internet without screen
Face-to-face communication is almost as important as the show itself, especially at a time when many booksellers are suffering from Zoom fatigue. “I really miss the face-to-face contact with NEIBA member booksellers,” said Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books in Millerton, New York and Rhinebeck, “they’re the best bunch of people. The educational programs are always top-notch, But what I’m most excited about is the real networking and friendship. I’m also planning to bring two or three crew members.”
Jamie Fiocco, owner and general manager of Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Flyleaf Books, is using the fall exhibit to fill a void in ReedPop’s decision to exit in 2021 after canceling BookExpo and BookCon in 2020. “Without BookExpo,” Fiocco said, “I miss connecting with publishers, editors and booksellers across the country. However, regional books are usually much cheaper than a trip to New York, so I can bring in more staff, And introduce independent book culture to new employees.” Fiocco says networking at booksellers meetings is critical to the success of independent bookstores like hers, which is why she tries to use every opportunity to involve herself and her staff one.
Mike Wysock, a bookstall manager at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Illinois, said he missed the opportunity to connect with booksellers outside the neighborhood when the Heartland exhibit was virtual. By contrast, South Bend, Indiana-based Brain Lair founder Kathy Burnette looks forward to connecting with booksellers whose stores are within driving distance. “I love the opportunity to chat with people about what aspects of their store are doing well and what they’re excited about,” she said. “Mentally, this kicks off the holiday shopping season for me – they have challenges similar to what my store faces in terms of weather and shopper mindset.”
Connection and serendipity are why Sara Hines, co-owner and buyer of Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth, Massachusetts, plans to attend this year’s in-person NEIBA conference. “I expect people,” she said, “and unexpected conversations.”
Author events and the opportunity to learn about new and upcoming books through representative selections and exhibitions remain attractive. “It’s great to come back with a lot of ARCs to read and think about,” said Jenny Cole, owner of Page 2 Books in Burien, Wash., who has participated in the PNBA every year since purchasing the store in 2013. “It’s also an opportunity to meet with sales reps, as they can provide a lot of information in a short amount of time. We’re a small store, so I don’t have much time to meet with them.”
Pamela Klinger-Horn, special events coordinator at Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, Minnesota, said: “Seeing the authors live was a huge help when I was deciding which authors to show on stage. Doing well on the page is the same as being on stage. It’s an entirely different skill to excel at. Human interaction is irreplaceable.” For her, there was also no opportunity to meet face-to-face with publishers and email contacts. To maintain these personal connections, she and Mary O’Malley of Skylark Books in Columbia, Missouri, started their own in-person gatherings during Covid (see “Booksellers Find Contact,” p. 32).
“The Children’s Institute and the Winter Institute are invaluable hands-on experiences, but I still think NEIBA is the main thing,” said Willard Williams, founder and co-owner of Toadstool Bookstore in Nashua and Peterborough, NH Said, “I always felt as if we got what we needed at NEIBA: educational seminars and the opportunity to meet with publishers and sales reps. And more intimate.” In terms of time, like most booksellers, he was in the fall Books for fall have been ordered ahead of the show, but the exhibits are still valued. “It’s great to see what we order,” he explained, “and what we might miss that might not look good on a page or screen.”
Likewise, Brain Lair’s Burnette says, “I’m mostly looking for small presses that might not be at a big show. If I can see something that catches my eye, that’s even better.” Others, like Flyleaf Fiocco of Oblong and Hermans of Oblong, specialize in finding gift exhibits at regional fairs so they can add new side businesses.
However, even if the regionals return to in-person programming, they still need to address criticism from booksellers, such as from Eighth Cousins Hines, that the regionals have not caught up with children’s books at a time when children’s books are increasingly important to store profits. Step up. “What I really want,” Hines said, “is an emphasis on children’s books. It’s an ongoing conversation. The importance of the marketplace is recognized by a lot of people. We need to recognize the importance of developing the next generation of readers.”
Charles Hannah, who founded Third Eye Books in Portland, Ore. with Michelle Lewis, sells Afro-centric books, accessories and gifts in 2019, he hopes to see to more diversity. When he attended his first trade show last year, he was one of a handful of black booksellers. “I feel neglected and disappointed by the lack of diversity,” Hannah said, “I don’t see anything about racism or Black Lives Matter, even though we’ve been selling tons of books on those topics. Say, it’s a missed opportunity.” He also wants to see more attention to nationally-acclaimed and local black authors featured in his bookstore.
Back to the main function.
A version of this article appeared in the August 29, 2022 issue Publishers Weekly Under the heading: Booksellers about the future of the region