Hotel California a Hit With Booksellers & Publishers

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For this year's BookExpo America, BEA management, together with ABA, reserved the overwhelming majority of the Radisson Wilshire Plaza's rooms at a great rate, thereby making the "Hotel California" (as it was dubbed) the exclusive hotel for independent booksellers attending the Los Angeles convention. And, much as it was with the eponymous Eagles' song, the Hotel California was a smash hit.

Booksellers who stayed at the Radisson and spoke with BTW had only positive things to say about their experience, most notably the fact that it put their peers in one central location. "It was great -- a great idea," said Barbara Weiser of Amazon Bookstore Cooperative in Minneapolis. Noted Valerie Lewis of Hicklebee's in San Jose, California, "I thought it was brilliant." And Dale Szczeblowski of Concord Bookshop in Concord, New Hampshire, raved, "It was fabulous, one of the best things that ABA did at BEA."

Attendees who stayed at the hotel said an important part of any BookExpo America experience is the chance to talk with other booksellers. Having most of the attending independent booksellers at the same hotel made it very convenient to meet and greet their bookselling brethren. "One of the reasons to go to the convention is the informal talking," said Weiser. "There is a bookseller in town that I have been meaning to talk to but I never got around to it, and then I saw him at the hotel…. Everyone just seemed to love it."

Szczeblowski echoed Weiser's sentiments. "In many ways, the regional associations and ABA try to maximize peer-to-peer contact and a great opportunity was provided by having us in one location."

Lewis made special mention of the nightly receptions, each sponsored by a different publisher. She said it was nice to have a place to go to each night. "I would say, I'll only go upstairs [to the reception] for just a second, and I'd stay for an hour," she said.

"In L.A., everything is so spread out, it was nice to throw your stuff down in your room and go have a drink by the pool," said Szczeblowski. He also said that the ABA welcome desk at the Radisson was extremely convenient for attendees. "The ABA concierge desk … had all the materials you needed. They had badge holders, so you didn't have to go deal with that at the convention center. And the publishers knew you were there. The [publishers'] pillow drops of galleys were all welcome," he noted.

It wasn't just the booksellers who appreciated the ARC pillow drops -- publishers did, too. On Wednesday night, Rodale put a copy of Not Fade Away by Peter Barton and Larry Shames in each bookseller's room at the hotel. Amy Rhodes, vice president and publisher of trade books for Rodale, said, "We were incredibly delighted. We want to go down as the first in history [to do a pillow drop]…. It gave a great big launch to a book we're trying to get the word out on."

Rodale also sponsored the Wednesday night poolside reception at the hotel. "Until 9:00 p.m., we didn't know if anyone would show, but there ended up being easily a hundred booksellers there. We felt like Cinderella at the ball," she said.

Random House and AOL Time Warner Book Group sponsored the pillow drop and reception on Thursday and Friday nights, respectively, and on Saturday the pillow drop was made by Penguin and the reception sponsored by Grove/Atlantic.

Hicklebee's Lewis pointed out that the Hotel California also cut down on expenses, even aside from the discounted room rate. "When we stay at the same place, you have people to go with to places, and people to come back with, and that allows you to share expenses," she explained. "We brought nine people [to BEA], and we didn't all want to do the same thing," but everyone always seemed to find another bookseller going their way.

All who talked to BTW expressed the hope that ABA's and BEA's plans to recreate the "Hotel California" at next year's convention in Chicago come to fruition. "I definitely encourage them to do it from now on and every bookseller to take advantage of it," Szczeblowski said. --David Grogan