Indie Booksellers Flock to New York City for a Reimagined BookExpo

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More than a thousand indie bookstore members of the American Booksellers Association traveled to New York City this week to attend BookExpo 2018, which this year offered new and exciting events and networking opportunities for independent booksellers.

Booksellers joined staff from Penguin Random House at the Hotel New Yorker for a kickoff party and nightcaps the evening of Tuesday, May 29. On Wednesday morning, May 30, 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 first-ever grand-opening keynote, featuring Barnes & Noble Chairman Len Riggio.

In his introduction of Riggio, ABA CEO Oren Teicher noted, “The simple fact is that our business is stronger and American readers benefit when there is a vibrant and healthy network of bricks-and-mortar bookshops all across the country. The data are irrefutable: American consumers are far more likely to discover books in a physical place. Obviously, the Internet has its place, but nothing — and I mean nothing — beats the experience of browsing in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.”

“Today, we stand together in common cause to promote and support bricks-and-mortar bookstores,” said Teicher. “I’ve been quoted as saying that it’s in the long-term interest of the overall book business that Barnes & Noble not just survive but grow and prosper. I am unalterably convinced that is true.” (Watch next week’s issue of Bookselling This Week for full coverage of Riggio’s keynote.)

At noon on Wednesday, the place to be was ABA’s Celebration of Bookselling and Author Awards Lunch. The event featured the presentation of the 2018 Indies Choice Book Awards and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards, as well as a special recognition of author James Patterson for once again offering his Holiday Bonus Program for Booksellers.

Jim Milliot, the editorial director of Publishers Weekly, also took the stage to present the PW Bookstore of the Year and PW Sales Rep of the Year awards, to Boulder Book Store and Abraham Associates’ John Mesjak, respectively.

“We need publishers to continue to publish and send authors who can give people information in this time of darkness. We are going to need the ABA and each other to find our way forward,” said Boulder Book Store founder David Bolduc in accepting the award. He also encouraged the audience of booksellers to attend the ABA Town Hall meeting the following day, which he referred to as “one of the most important meetings at the convention” where “we can discuss what we can do as booksellers to change some part of our world around us.”

Read more about the Celebration of Bookselling and Author Awards Lunch and see photos from the event in today’s issue of Bookselling This Week.

Following the celebration, many of the participating authors stopped in the ABA Member Lounge & Galley Room for the first of three autographing events exclusively for ABA member booksellers.

The lounge and galley room, which was located on the trade show floor, was a welcome place for booksellers to relax, have a snack, pick up galleys (including, for the first time this year, titles written by booksellers), and meet with their colleagues from across the country.

Information on ABA programs and services from affiliated business partners, including LIBRIS,, Shelf Awareness, the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation, Chosen Payments, Industry Insights, and W.G. Ellerkamp, was also available in the lounge, and ABA staff held one-on-one meetings with booksellers regarding IndieCommerce, advocacy issues, education, and more.

This year’s ABA programming at BookExpo included two Publicists Speed Dating sessions, the first on Wednesday afternoon and the second on Friday morning. At each, registered ABA member bookstore owners, managers, and event coordinators had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with different publicists to promote their stores and to discover what publicists look for when planning author tours.

The Silent Art Auction to Benefit ABFE and Every Child a Reader, featuring the Children’s & Teen Choice Book Awards, capped off a packed Wednesday. Following the announcement of this year’s award winners by children’s book creators Selina Alko and Sean Qualls, booksellers, publishers, authors, and other industry professionals in attendance had the chance to bid on an array of children’s book art, including several works created to honor beloved children’s book author and illustrator Ashley Bryan.

On Thursday and Friday, June 1 and 2, the trade show floor opened for a full day of business following the Adult Book and Author Breakfast and the Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, respectively. After both events, several of the featured authors autographed for booksellers in the ABA Member Lounge & Galley Room.

The show floor also featured a new, interactive exhibit called the Vital Bookstore. The exhibit offered hourly docent-led tours through the display, which was created by Franklin Fixtures in collaboration with Baker & Taylor, to facilitate small-group exploration of physical merchandising strategies and concepts for cafés, children’s areas, traditional book spaces, and modern general merchandise areas. In addition, booksellers had the opportunity to take part in a number of small-group discussions on topics such as point-of-sale systems, mixed merchandising, buying for margins, disaster preparedness, leveraging e-books and audiobooks, and more.

ABA education sessions, held all throughout the event, looked at topics such as “Data-Driven Bookselling: Using Analytics to Work Better and Smarter,” “A Discussion on Diversity and Inclusion Tactics for Booksellers,” “For Authors: Working Successfully with Independent Bookstores,” “eCommerce Marketing Tips and Tactics,” “NPD Featured Talk: BookScan for Booksellers,” and “How Non-Buyers Can Use Edelweiss+.” (Watch for reports on ABA’s education sessions at BookExpo in upcoming editions of Bookselling This Week.)

On Thursday morning, booksellers who served on the Summer/Fall Indies Introduce selection committees appeared on the Javits Center’s Downtown Stage 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. Booksellers can learn more about the Indies Introduce program and sign up for the Summer/Fall season on BookWeb.

ABA’s Town Hall and the 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 from ABA 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, in addition to a special announcement about the rollout of a new payment and invoicing system for booksellers called Batch. 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 industry diversity, financing options for booksellers seeking to open or purchase a store, ABA’s new code of conduct, and spreading the indie message.

Prior to the Annual Membership Meeting and Town Hall, ABA’s Consolidated Financial Statements (2017 and 2016) and Form 990 were made available to ABA members with a BookWeb username and password in the Governance section of

Thursday closed with “An Evening With Bernie Sanders,” a special appearance by the former presidential candidate and current senator from Vermont who talked about his new book, Where We Go From Here (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press), which will be released after the midterm elections in November.

Friday morning began with the Children’s Book & Author Breakfast and an exclusive autographing session in the ABA Member Lounge and round two of Publicists Speed Dating, in addition to the third consecutive day of In-Booth Editors’ Hours and the first-ever In-Booth Publicists Meet-Ups, both coordinated by BookExpo to deliver new value to attendees as part of a reimagining of the event.

At lunchtime, members of the ABC Children’s Group at ABA and friends of the Children’s Book Council enjoyed a lively lunch with more than 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.

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.