Live From BEA -- Day 2

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Friday, June 4 -- Day 2 of BookExpo America -- was the occasion of two joyous celebrations of the spirit of independent booksellers -- the Book Sense Book and Author Lunch and ABA's Celebration of Bookselling, where the 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year Award winners were announced. It was also opening day of the trade show floor and a day for ABA to take care of business at its Town Hall and Annual Membership meetings.

And the Winners Are…

At Friday night's Celebration of Bookselling, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (Doubleday) won the Book Sense Book of the Year Award as best adult fiction title. The award was accepted by Bill Thomas, editor-in-chief at Doubleday.

The winner for adult nonfiction was Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi (Random House). Tom Perry, Random House director of publicity, accepted the award on Nafisi's behalf.

Book Sense Book of the Year winner Sue Monk Kidd.

Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees (Penguin) won the paperback award, and she told booksellers, "I wish I could come to each of your stores and thank you in person for the way that you have supported my book with so much creativity.… I couldn't have done it without you."

In the children's category, the award for illustrated book went to How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon (Harcourt). The award was accepted by Lori Benton, vice president and publisher, children's books division of Harcourt. Eragon: The Inheritance, Book I by Christopher Paolini (Knopf) won in the children's literature category. Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Books for Children accepted the award for Paolini.

The eighth annual Celebration of Bookselling was sponsored by The Atlantic Monthly, and the finalists and winners received reading-related gifts from Book Sense marketing partner, Levenger.

The Celebration has grown to become a gathering that renews and showcases the links of collegiality both among booksellers and between booksellers and publishers. Always a convivial evening, this year it was also an extremely moving one, as the event was the venue for the presentation of the Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year Award to A. David Schwartz of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops. Schwartz, gravely ill with cancer, was unable to attend the Celebration, but 80 members of the store's staff had come from Milwaukee by bus and waited together near the stage of the McCormick Grand Ballroom while Mary McCarthy, general manager of the Schwartz Bookshops, accepted the award on his behalf as the room rose in a standing ovation.

Jane Pauley at ABA's Celebration of Bookselling.

The evening's Book Sense of the Year Awards were presented by Jane Pauley, whose forthcoming book, Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, will be published by Random House. Pauley was introduced by ABA President Mitchell Kaplan, the host of this year's Celebration. "We learn from reading each other's stories," said Pauley. "My reading always used to come from airport bookstores. After this convention all that is going to change."

Prior to the announcement of the winners, Kaplan welcomed the attendees, noting one of the special aspects of this year's celebration: the fifth birthday of Book Sense. "Because of Book Sense, independent booksellers are once again being recognized as a vital way of connecting great books and readers."

ABA recognized the service of outgoing ABA President Ann Christophersen, co-owner of Chicago's Women & Children First, and Board of Directors member John Bennett of Bennett Books in Wyckoff, New Jersey. Christophersen said, "This has been the best possible experience for me. I feel such a kinship with all of you. Thanks for six good years."

PW Sales Rep of the Year went to Jason Gobble, Penguin Midwestern sales rep. Julie Norcross of McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan, was presented the Charles S. Haslam Award for excellence in bookselling.

Booksellers who attended one of ABA's recent Booksellers Forums and those who voted for the 2004 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards were automatically entered into a drawing to win a grand prize of five nights hotel accommodations and admission to BEA for the next five years or one of four first-place prizes. The grand prize winner of the drawing, which was held at the Celebration, is Joseph Marsh of Chaucer's Books in Santa Barbara, California. First-place prize winners were: Jen James of Curious George Goes to Wordsworth in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who won an A&E gift basket; Tim Bryson of Locust Books in Westminster, Maryland, who won a gift basket from The History Channel; Janell Lili of Aunties Bookstore in Spokane, Washington, who won a framed, classic New Yorker cover; and Stephanie A. Geyer of Village Bookstore in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, who won a five-year subscription to The Atlantic Monthly.

Book Sense Book and Author Lunch

One of the favorites of the day was the fourth annual Book Sense Book and Author Lunch (previously called the Book Sense 76 Lunch), where over 400 booksellers, authors, and publishing professionals joined in a celebration of books and the independent booksellers who handsell them. As authors and booksellers chatted and ate, Chuck Robinson from Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, welcomed the audience. "This year is an especially auspicious occasion -- the fifth birthday of the Book Sense Program," he noted. Robinson then introduced David Carey, vice president and publisher of The New Yorker, the sponsor of the event.

Booksellers, publishers, and authors at the Book Sense Book and Author Lunch.

More than 40 authors whose works were Book Sense Picks, as well as some of the finalists for this year's Book Sense Book of the Year Awards, were introduced to the appreciative crowd. Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees (Viking/Penguin), told the crowd, "I'm very honored to be here and to be a finalist. I know who I owe my success to -- a lot of people, but at the top of the list is independent booksellers. It was clear from the beginning how hard they worked to handsell my book."

Jennifer Haigh gave booksellers her heartfelt gratitude for their support of her novel Mrs. Kimble (Morrow): "Whatever success Mrs. Kimble has had has everything to do with independent booksellers. To all of you who've gotten behind the book and who put it into the hands of [customers], thank you."

Afterward, carrying out ARCs and copies of The New Yorker, booksellers reported an eminently enjoyable luncheon. Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston told BTW, "It was wonderful…. We had Mark Teague at our table. We love him. We've had him at our store twice."

Cecile Cave-Fehsenfeld of Schuler Books & Music, which has locations in the Grand Rapids and Lansing, Michigan area, said, "It was great fun. I sat with Meg Cabot [All-American Girl, HarperTrophy]. The thing that struck me most and I was so pleased about was how much the authors appreciated [the booksellers]. It's a great chance to meet and talk and realize we're all doing this together. It feels reinvigorating."

ABA Town Hall Meeting

Outgoing ABA President Ann Christophersen and Incoming President Mitch Kaplan at the Town Hall meeting.

The Town Hall meeting covered a number of topics during an hour of spirited give and take, and the central focus of the meeting was on the question of whether to report aggregate sales of independent bookstores to publishers. Other issues discussed included the pending sale of ABA's headquarters and booksellers' concerns regarding the rising costs associated with the receipt of damaged books. Outgoing ABA President Ann Christophersen of Women & Children First in Chicago and incoming president Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida, chaired the informal meeting, designed to allow booksellers to ask questions and share views on any association-related topic.

Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) Executive Director Hut Landon brought up the subject of letting BookScan -- which many booksellers use to report to the Book Sense Bestseller List -- send aggregate sales data to publishers. "You should support it for yourselves…. It is something we all can do," Landon said. "It helps us all, both individually and as a group."

Domnitz agreed with Landon and explained that "publishers need hard data…. Independent booksellers have been getting the short end of the stick. You are very good at selling a certain type of book, but we have a problem: We don't tell anyone, and publishers base things on facts and figures. We have mountains of data, but it's your data … so we don't give out your numbers." He added that it is his belief that booksellers should let publishers know what is selling at independent bookstores. "The time has come," he said.

Though he stressed that items discussed at the Town Hall meeting have no binding effect, Domnitz asked booksellers for a show of hands "just to get a sense" of what they thought on the matter. With few exceptions, the room overwhelmingly agreed with his assessment of the importance of reporting aggregate data and that it warranted serious consideration.

Greg Topalian, vice president and show director for BEA, and Tina Jordan, the show's public relations director/special events director, opened the hour-long meeting. Topalian noted that this year's show had had a strong start. "All the ABA functions have been jam-packed," he said, noting that 1,200 people had attended the Friday Children's Book and Author Breakfast. "Everything has been very positive."

Following Topalian's remarks, Christophersen opened the floor to the audience. Bob Sommer of Changing Hands in Tempe, Arizona, asked what the plans are for the Tarrytown property. "ABA has made a deal to sell the property, and we're scheduled to close on June 15," Christophersen said, and she added that specific details regarding the sale cannot be disclosed until then, as ABA has signed a standard nondisclosure clause. She did stress that, as part of the deal, "ABA offices will remain where they are now for two years, so we can be thorough and careful" in evaluating the association's needs in the future.

Nancy Olson of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina, reported that Quail Ridge was facing "a terrible problem with shipping damages" and a show of hands in the room made clear that she was not alone. Christophersen and Domnitz both noted that ABA maintains ongoing communications with publishers to help resolve these types of issues. "The important thing is that people send [ABA] the specifics about the problem," said Domnitz, who explained that ABA will refer these problems to its Industry Relations consultant, David Walker. Booksellers can contact ABA by sending an e-mail to Kristen Gilligan at Kristen@bookweb.org.

ABA Annual Membership Meeting

Immediately following the Town Hall Meeting was ABA's Annual Membership Meeting. Booksellers heard a report from Board members and ABA CEO Domnitz on the association's implementation of the strategic plan over the last 12 months.

The first item on the agenda was a report from the Nominating Committee chair, Board member Neal Coonerty of Bookshop Santa Cruz (California), who announced the 2004 election results: Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Florida, was ratified as ABA president; Suzanne Staubach of UConn Co-op in Storrs, Connecticut, was ratified as the new vice president/secretary; and Carla Jimenez of Inkwood Books in Tampa, Florida; Cathy Langer of Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver; and Linda Ramsdell of The Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, Vermont, were elected to the Board.

In her president's report, Christophersen took the opportunity to say good-bye and to look back on her years as both an ABA Board member and as president. "I decided to give a six-year report -- my length of term on the Board," she said. "I have seen remarkable development at ABA. I take no credit for it … but I bear close witness to it. What I witnessed was the birth of Book Sense. When it was introduced as an idea out of NCIBA, it was very exciting. It sounded great! Bring a group of independent booksellers together nationally…. And now we're here to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Book Sense." Following her report, she received a standing ovation from appreciative booksellers.

Kaplan gave the vice president's report, and thanked Christophersen for her "incredible leadership." He noted that, though there had been a drop in membership, ABA is working to increase the number of new members, including efforts with the regional associations. He also noted that this year's "bookseller school had 84 prospective booksellers [in attendance]" and that was far greater than in past years. "We are going to work hard to reverse the trend," he said.

In his CEO's report, Domnitz reviewed the Strategic Plan Implementation for 2003 - 2004, but first, on behalf of ABA staff, thanked Christophersen for her service as Board member and president.

In his report, Domnitz detailed the association's finances and announced that this year ABA will have a net surplus of close to $400,000. He also mentioned that this figure did not include the sale of the Tarrytown property. "I believe the Board made a great decision when they decided to buy the property," he said, "and I believe they made a great decision when they decided to sell the property."

To view the Annual Membership Meeting presentation, click here. (Please note that this is a PDF file and requires the free Adobe Acrobat Reader which can be downloaded from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html.)

BookSense.com and Book Sense Gift Card Users Groups Meet

There was lively dialogue and much give and take from attendees and ABA staff at both the BookSense.com Users Group and the Book Sense Gift Card Users Group meetings, held Friday morning.

Len Vlahos, BookSense.com director, discussed recent improvements and planned enhancements to BookSense.com. He also described a new inventory upload price reduction and strongly encouraged BookSense.com participants to give it a try. The functionality, which allows booksellers to upload their inventory, or, more specifically, upload their on-hand quantities, was priced at $100 per month. Vlahos explained that the price had been dropped to $20 per month.

"The stores [using the upload feature] seem to think it's worthwhile, and, at $20 per month, I recommend that you give it a try," Vlahos stressed.

Other topics of discussion included how BookSense.com is fixing performance problems and will be upgrading to new servers sometime in August; improvements to the search engine, revamping the events tool to make it user-friendlier, and the addition of a local content section, among other things. The BookSense.com users in attendance asked a number of questions and made suggestions about ways in which the site could be enhanced in the future.

Following the BookSense.com Users Group was the Book Sense Gift Card Users Group meeting, moderated by ABA Marketing Director Jill Perlstein and Givex Chief Financial Officer Maurizio DiVito. Perlstein opened the discussion with a number of gift card stats, and noted that, from October 2003 through May 31, 2004, over 42,000 Book Sense Gift Cards had been activated for more than $1 million in sales, which prompted cheers from the many in attendance.

Other topics included the best way to process gift cards in the store and recycling gift cards to help save money.

Ann Christophersen asked attendees if they might share tips for marketing the cards. One attendee noted that the cards were placed all over the store; another said that, among other places, gift cards were placed in the store's bathroom.

Since moving to gift cards, "our gift card sales have quadrupled in the last couple of months," said Meredith Warner of Changing Hands Book Store in Tempe, Arizona.

The Children's Book & Author Breakfast

A crowd of 1,200 turned out for the Children's Book & Author Breakfast featuring Jamie Lee Curtis (It's Hard to Be Five: Learning How to Work My Control Panel, Joanna Cotler), Ursula K. Le Guin (Gifts, Harcourt Children's Books), and Jack Gantos (Hole in My Life, FSG Books for Young Readers). Curtis, describing herself as "a devoted believer in the power of the word … the power of art," told the audience that she was an underachiever whose unhappy childhood led her to the realization that "it's hard to be little" -- the basis for her work as a children's author.

Le Guin debunked three assumptions that are often made about fantasy books: the main characters must be white; they live in the Middle Ages; and they battle good and evil. She especially took exception to the assumption that the characters needed to be white for a book to sell, and asked publishers to "please consider that what sells and what doesn't can be a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Gantos described how, after a rough childhood, he wound up serving time in prison where he began "to turn my life around with reading and writing." He suggested that booksellers consider shelving Hole in My Life, which will be published as a paperback in the fall, in different sections of the store beyond that of young-adult. Gantos concluded with an anecdote to illustrate that "a good book will give guys [with a troubled past] a helping hand."

The breakfast -- sponsored by the Children's Booksellers and Publishers Committee, which is composed of representatives from ABA, the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC), and the Children's Book Council (CBC) -- also included presentations to the winners of the 2004 Lucile Micheels Pannell Awards. The awards were presented by Eileen Hanning, the Women's National Book Association (WNBA) Pannell committee chair, to Suzanne Staubach, manager of the General Books Division of the UConn Co-op in Storrs, Connecticut, the winner in the general bookstore category; and in the children's specialty category to Valerie Lewis and Monica Holmes, owners of Hicklebee's Children's Books in San Jose, California.

The stores were recognized for their creativity, responsiveness to community needs, passion, and understanding of children's books and young readers. --Reported by Dan Cullen, David Grogan, Rosemary Hawkins, and Karen Schechner; Photography by Z.S. Teicher