2019 BookExpo Brings Hundreds of Indie Booksellers to New York City

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From May 29 to 31, more than 1,000 indie booksellers from across the country descended on New York City for the 2019 BookExpo trade show. In between educational sessions, author signings, and networking opportunities designed exclusively for American Booksellers Association members, booksellers roamed the floor to discover new offerings and catch up with colleagues.

Festivities kicked off on Tuesday, May 28, at the Hotel New Yorker, where Penguin Random House staffers shared nightcaps with booksellers and other BookExpo attendees.

On Wednesday morning, May 29, booksellers headed to publishing houses around New York City for “Meet the Editor,” a behind-the-scenes look at the philosophy and process of book editing, and to “BookExpo’s Leadership Roundtable: Storytelling in 2020 and Beyond,” a panel moderated by New York magazine Features Director Genevieve Smith that featured Sourcebooks Publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah, Hachette Audio VP and Associate Publisher Kim Sayle, and author Jacqueline Woodson.

Following Meet the Editor, Michael Barnard of Rakestraw Books in Danville, California, commented on the value of such intimate meetings with publishers. “I think that it’s important for us to know each other,” he said of his meeting at Macmillan. “The more understanding we have of the process, the more appreciation we have for what we’re doing. We’re all on the same side and we should know each other.”

This was the first BookExpo for Kalyn Beasley, a bookseller at Legends Bookstore in Cody, Wyoming. Beasley told Bookselling This Week that his Meet the Editor experience at Bloomsbury Publishing’s Manhattan office was “illuminating and fascinating,” especially since he’s never had the chance to meet with publishers before.

“This was one of the things at BookExpo I was looking forward to the most because this is the center of it all, the center of the book world,” said Beasley, who got to take home a copy of Eve Ensler’s newest, The Apology. “I wanted to see what a publisher office looked like. It’s been great so far.”

The ABA Member Lounge, located among the non-book offerings in the UnBound section of the trade show floor, was the place for booksellers to relax, have a snack, pick up galleys, and meet with ABA staff and fellow booksellers. This year, in addition to IndieCommerce one-on-ones, the lounge featured roundtable discussions led by ABA Board members as well as discussions for users of various point-of-sale systems.

Numerous industry partners were also present in the lounge, including Chosen Payments, We Need Diverse Books, Shelf Awareness, the American Writers Museum, Hummingbird Digital Media, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, Libro.fm, Batch, and the Northern California, Southern California, and Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Associations, in addition to ABA’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Wednesday afternoon’s Publicists Speed Dating brought 79 publicists from 30 houses together with more than 150 booksellers, who had the opportunity to promote their stores and learn about what publicists are looking for when planning author tours.

The annual Children’s Book Art Silent Auction capped off Wednesday’s events; more than 100 illustrators donated artwork to be auctioned off, and proceeds benefited the American Booksellers for Free Expression and Every Child a Reader. This year’s program honored Ursula Nordstrom, publisher and editor-in-chief of children’s books at Harper & Row from 1940–1973 whose initial stable of authors included Margaret Wise Brown, Arnold Lobel, and Maurice Sendak.

Following Thursday morning’s Adult Book & Author Breakfast, authors Malcolm Gladwell, Karin Slaughter, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Marjorie Liu made their way to the ABA Member Lounge to sign books for indie booksellers.

Throughout the day, booksellers also attended ABA’s live Marketing Meetup, which featured three panelists — Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia; Alex Houston of Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books in Chicago, Illinois; and Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia — discussing strategies for carrying digital marketing campaigns across multiple platforms. Later, the session “The Power of Retail: Making Books, Authors and Building Community,” a panel moderated by NPR’s Lynn Neary, featured ABA CEO Oren Teicher, Barnes and Noble Chief Merchandising Officer and Executive Vice President Tim Mantel, Penguin Random House U.S. CEO Madeline McIntosh, and Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah.

At “Booksellers Present Indies Introduce Authors,” booksellers who served on the Summer/Fall 2019 Indies Introduce selection committees appeared alongside many of the authors whose works they chose as the best debuts of the upcoming season. Each participating author read a short passage from their book and answered a question posed by a panelist.

ABA’s Town Hall and Annual Membership Meeting were held on Thursday afternoon. The Membership Meeting included the formal announcement of ABA’s election results, reports from outgoing ABA President Robert Sindelar and CEO Oren Teicher, a membership and financial update, and the opportunity for members to bring old and/or new business to the attention of the Board of Directors. See BTW’s report on the Annual Membership Meeting to learn more.

The Membership Meeting was preceded by ABA’s Town Hall meeting, where booksellers shared their thoughts and concerns about a range of issues, including minimum wage challenges, healthcare options, and publisher relationships. 

Prior to the Annual Membership Meeting and Town Hall, ABA’s latest Consolidated Financial StatementsGovernance Review Committee Report, and tax form 990 were made available to members with a username and password in the Governance section of BookWeb.

This year, the revamped Indies Choice Book Awards and E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards took place on the Choice Stage on the trade show floor. At the start of the awards ceremony, Publishers Weekly Editorial Director Jim Milliot introduced the 2019 PW Bookstore of the Year winners, Hilary and Mike Gustafson of Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and PW Sales Rep of the Year Cindy Heidemann. See BTW’s full report on the awards ceremony.

The Happy Hour Author Signings held later in the afternoon in the ABA Member Lounge featured a number of Indies Introduce and Indies Choice Book Award winners, among others: Adam Rippon, Akilah Hughes, Alyssa Milano, Cadwell Turnbull, Candace Bushnell, David Yoon, De’Shawn Charles Winslow, Elin Hilderbrand, Eva Chen, Jacqueline Woodson, Jennifer Weiner, Jenny Slate, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Jonathan Van Ness, Julie Murphy, Lisa Taddeo, Madeline Miller, Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, Margaret Renkl, Nic Stone, Philippa Gregory, Rajani LaRocca, Regina Porter, Ryan T. Higgins, Sarah J. Maas, and Shannon Pufahl. Thursday evening closed with an appearance by United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Friday morning began with the Children’s Book & Author Breakfast and an exclusive autographing session in the ABA Member Lounge with Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, Tomi Adeyemi, Eoin Colfer, and Da Chen. During the morning’s Editors’ Speed Dating, booksellers met with groups of editors to talk about new and upcoming titles.

In the early afternoon, members of the ABC Children’s Group at ABA and friends of the Children’s Book Council enjoyed a lively tea with a dozen children’s book authors and illustrators, who pitched their new projects during the ABC/CBC Speed Dating Lunch With Children’s Book Authors. Authors featured included Elisha Cooper, Ashley Elston, Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal, Pat Mora, Brittney Morris, Zachariah OHora and Bob Shea, Maulik Pancholy, Morgan Parker, Jen Wang, and David Yoon.

Check out the rest of today’s issue of Bookselling This Week for more reports from BookExpo, and watch upcoming issues for additional coverage of the event.